Today I was contacted by the son of the VP of technology at Digital Techniques Inc. He saw photos of the TouchCom from VCF 8 and contacted me.
He sent a brief description to me of the system and how it was used. The company was purchased by TouchCom which was later purchased by large security firm in 2008.
Thanks for posting those photos to the web otherwise he never would have seen it.
Here is the email.
Hi Ben: some more info based off notes from talking with my father
this evening (who was very amused to hear someone had come across an
old DTI system!) There might be a little bit of 'telephone' here, so
please don't take anything too authoritatively.
It's an NEC 8080-2 computer, and you're right, it was designed to be
highly modular. He said the presence of a hard drive means it was
probably a content creation system, which is not surprising given
where it came from, and the name rung a bell with him, but he said
it's been so long he really doesn't remember what the deal was with
them. The terminals, which didn't generally have drives, had dozens of
different applications (he ballparked 50-60, and said they were all
over the place, including banks and whatnot.) It wasn't until I hung
up the phone that I wondered to myself how a system with no drive does
a memory dump - maybe it was to floppy.
The power supply uses a ferroresonant transformer for reliability, and
it had a lead-acid battery backup built-in. On power failure, it
would perform a sort of suspend-to-disk; on power-on, there's a
bootloader in ROM that looks in the right spot for checksummed data.
If it can't find it, it sits waiting for a phone call, he said. He
*thinks* it's a 300 baud modem, but it might be 1200.
He was curious if it powered up; I said I didn't know, you hadn't
mentioned it. I suppose if you're feeling brave see what happens,
though I would suggest first checking on the battery which almost
certainly needs replacement, going over the boards with a fine-tooth
comb (I'm guessing any electrolytic caps are probably long since dried
out, right?), and trying to get whatever's on that MFM (I presume it's
an MFM, I didn't think to ask) drive backed up.
I saw some amusing suggestions online for coaxing MFM drives to work,
like twisting the drive back and forth when powering on. And
loosening/tightening case screws...heh.
I also didn't think to ask what would happen if you called it and it
answered; maybe it just sits there waiting for a transfer, or maybe
you get a menu of sorts. You should dump the ROMs....
I might toss together a blog posting about this - please keep us
posted, and if you get a list of questions together, I can definitely
ask (I have a couple of questions of my own.) Also: dti became
Touchcom when it merged with a company owned by Patrick de Cavaignac.
Touchcom was just recently (relatively speaking) bought by G4S.
Anyway, my father said he'd been surprised at the number of Touchcom
people who were still with the company, and I think some of them dated
back to DTI as well. So, there might be some people at Touchcom who
would still know things about this brick.