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Re: anyone seen this old computer?

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  • s100doctor
    ... The front panel looks like any number of minicomputer or microcomputer binary front panels. I kind of agree with your analysis: it s something more often
    Message 1 of 14 , Jul 30, 2013
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      --- In midatlanticretro@yahoogroups.com, Andrew Molloy <awmolloy@...> wrote:
      >
      > I found this old computer at a surplus electronics place. It has a
      > Altair-like front switch panel. The date codes inside make me think it
      > might be from 1986, although it screams 1970s.
      >
      > I looked at the boards and didn't see a processor chip. Maybe that
      > particular board is missing?
      >
      > The style of the front panel is somewhat similar to the PCM-12 shown
      > in Nadeau's Collectible Microcomputers book.
      >
      > https://picasaweb.google.com/116301133577350947031/ComputerProductsInc?authuser=0&feat=directlink
      >
      > Andy
      >

      The front panel looks like any number of minicomputer or microcomputer "binary" front panels. I kind of agree with your analysis: it's something more often done in the 1970's, but the chips are dated 1983, 1984.

      My guess is that it's some kind of debugging or development tool, produced as a small product line by that company on the nameplate. They may have produced it for several years through the early 80's, hence the date of the chips. The PC boards look professional, the fact the backplane is hand-wired does not make it "homebrew". It's not Multibus.

      All kinds of companies produced small run products of this sort into the 1980's: before microprocessors this was the only way to make small and specialized control systems or debugging tools for them. This one was not built for control, it was built to test and debug; as far as the pictures show. It would take chip-level reverse engineering to see if it's complete enough to "run", and to see if it happens to "support" some microprocessor. It might be 8080/Z80 like, might not - more work needed.

      herb johnson
      retrotechnology.com
    • DougCrawford
      Those boards are a work of art. Look at those layouts!
      Message 2 of 14 , Jul 30, 2013
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        Those boards are a work of art. Look at those layouts!

        --- In midatlanticretro@yahoogroups.com, B Degnan <billdeg@...> wrote:
        >
        > Andrew
        > Looks like a homebrew multibus system built for a specific engi engineering purpose
        > Bill
        >
        > --
        > Sent from my PDP 8/e.
        >
      • Dave McGuire
        Yes, gorgeous. Those are hand-taped boards designed by someone who cared. Earlier DEC boards look very much the same, in particular Omnibus and very early
        Message 3 of 14 , Jul 30, 2013
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          Yes, gorgeous. Those are hand-taped boards designed by someone who
          cared. Earlier DEC boards look very much the same, in particular
          Omnibus and very early Unibus boards.

          -Dave

          On 07/30/2013 02:43 PM, DougCrawford wrote:
          > Those boards are a work of art. Look at those layouts!
          >
          > --- In midatlanticretro@yahoogroups.com, B Degnan <billdeg@...> wrote:
          >>
          >> Andrew
          >> Looks like a homebrew multibus system built for a specific engi engineering purpose
          >> Bill
          >>
          >> --
          >> Sent from my PDP 8/e.
          >>
          >
          >
          >
          >
          > ------------------------------------
          >
          > Yahoo! Groups Links
          >
          >
          >


          --
          Dave McGuire, AK4HZ
          New Kensington, PA
        • Mike
          here is something that may help, a bit. http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/1988-01-14/business/8801030785_1_tcs-system-tcs-product-schneider
          Message 4 of 14 , Jul 30, 2013
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            here is something that may help, a bit.


            http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/1988-01-14/business/8801030785_1_tcs-system-tcs-product-schneider

            http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/1988-03-09/business/8801150376_1_financial-problems-edward-schneider-power

            I guess it was a market failure.

            Here is another interesting link that may yield a contact, if you are interested in pursuing it.

            http://www.linkedin.com/in/chuckgregory

            Regards,
            Mike W.

            --- In midatlanticretro@yahoogroups.com, Andrew Molloy <awmolloy@...> wrote:
            >
            > I found this old computer at a surplus electronics place. It has a
            > Altair-like front switch panel. The date codes inside make me think it
            > might be from 1986, although it screams 1970s.
            >
            > I looked at the boards and didn't see a processor chip. Maybe that
            > particular board is missing?
            >
            > The style of the front panel is somewhat similar to the PCM-12 shown
            > in Nadeau's Collectible Microcomputers book.
            >
            > https://picasaweb.google.com/116301133577350947031/ComputerProductsInc?authuser=0&feat=directlink
            >
            > Andy
            >
          • Mike
            Though the artwork on those boards is very carefully done, the design must date back to the early 70 s - all 74XX logic with no later versions. One of the
            Message 5 of 14 , Jul 31, 2013
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              Though the artwork on those boards is very carefully done, the design must date back to the early 70's - all 74XX logic with no later versions. One of the boards is largely 7438 dual input NAND gates with open collector outputs. It doesn't get any more basic than that. No solder mask, no silk screen, no chip locators. Someone must have sold Computer Products an obsolete design that was going nowhere and left them holding the bag.

              Also note the serial number 8616-06 - So I expect that it was the sixth unit built in the 14th week of 1986.

              regards,
              Mike W.

              --- In midatlanticretro@yahoogroups.com, Dave McGuire <Mcguire@...> wrote:
              >
              >
              > Yes, gorgeous. Those are hand-taped boards designed by someone who
              > cared. Earlier DEC boards look very much the same, in particular
              > Omnibus and very early Unibus boards.
              >
              > -Dave
              >
              > On 07/30/2013 02:43 PM, DougCrawford wrote:
              > > Those boards are a work of art. Look at those layouts!
              > >
              > > --- In midatlanticretro@yahoogroups.com, B Degnan <billdeg@> wrote:
              > >>
              > >> Andrew
              > >> Looks like a homebrew multibus system built for a specific engi engineering purpose
              > >> Bill
              > >>
              > >> --
              > >> Sent from my PDP 8/e.
              > >>
              > >
              > >
              > >
              > >
              > > ------------------------------------
              > >
              > > Yahoo! Groups Links
              > >
              > >
              > >
              >
              >
              > --
              > Dave McGuire, AK4HZ
              > New Kensington, PA
              >
            • Jeff Jonas
              ... I was disappointed by the book the art of the engineer because it didn t have things I considered the human touch in machinery, such as decorative spokes
              Message 6 of 14 , Jul 31, 2013
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                > > Those boards are a work of art. Look at those layouts!

                > Yes, gorgeous. Those are hand-taped boards
                > designed by someone who cared.

                I was disappointed by the book "the art of the engineer"
                because it didn't have things
                I considered the human touch in machinery,
                such as decorative spokes inside wheels and gears.
                Even lab equipment had style with decorated panels
                (kinda like border decorations)
                and meters with simple yet elegant pointers
                that were probably inspired by clock hands.

                As to PC board layout, I remember a fellow
                at a drafting table using red/blue for a 2 sided board
                with photo separation for the 2 sides.
                I have a few scraps of "rubylith": a peel-off
                red plastic that was used for PC board design.
                It was cut by hand (X-acto knife, compass with blade)
                or by a plotter with a cutter
                (similar to the hobby/craft decal cutters).

                PC board layout software of the 80s to 90s
                was really horrible and looked it.
                Only horizontal or vertical traces,
                and later 45 degree, but no concept of curves.
                Those PC boards are an eyesore :-(

                Even chip design in the 80s required HUGE color plots
                for manual review.

                -- jeffj
              • Mike
                The first Apple II (1977 release) was done twice, first manually by a sub-contractor that apparently wasn t very good and then done over digitally. I think
                Message 7 of 14 , Jul 31, 2013
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                  The first Apple II (1977 release) was done twice, first manually by a sub-contractor that apparently wasn't very good and then done over digitally. I think I heard that Jobs didn't like the artwork originally provided by the subcontractor. It could have been someone else or a team decision (more likely) to do it over. The do over cost Apple several months of time in digitizing the hand done artwork.

                  I presume the final artwork was printed on a plotter from digital files. Whatever process they used, it supported diagonal lines.

                  regards,
                  Mike W.



                  --- In midatlanticretro@yahoogroups.com, "Jeff Jonas" <jeff_s_jonas@...> wrote:
                  >
                  > > > Those boards are a work of art. Look at those layouts!
                  >
                  > > Yes, gorgeous. Those are hand-taped boards
                  > > designed by someone who cared.
                  >
                  > I was disappointed by the book "the art of the engineer"
                  > because it didn't have things
                  > I considered the human touch in machinery,
                  > such as decorative spokes inside wheels and gears.
                  > Even lab equipment had style with decorated panels
                  > (kinda like border decorations)
                  > and meters with simple yet elegant pointers
                  > that were probably inspired by clock hands.
                  >
                  > As to PC board layout, I remember a fellow
                  > at a drafting table using red/blue for a 2 sided board
                  > with photo separation for the 2 sides.
                  > I have a few scraps of "rubylith": a peel-off
                  > red plastic that was used for PC board design.
                  > It was cut by hand (X-acto knife, compass with blade)
                  > or by a plotter with a cutter
                  > (similar to the hobby/craft decal cutters).
                  >
                  > PC board layout software of the 80s to 90s
                  > was really horrible and looked it.
                  > Only horizontal or vertical traces,
                  > and later 45 degree, but no concept of curves.
                  > Those PC boards are an eyesore :-(
                  >
                  > Even chip design in the 80s required HUGE color plots
                  > for manual review.
                  >
                  > -- jeffj
                  >
                • s100doctor
                  My general impressions are, that this item may not be a computer, but it was something associated with either a computer or a computer-based instrument or
                  Message 8 of 14 , Aug 1, 2013
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                    My general impressions are, that this item may not be a computer, but it was something associated with either a computer or a computer-based instrument or controller. So possibly it's a debugger or tester. It's hard to tell.

                    Given the history of the company based on references posted, it does not appear to me, to be a particularly important product to that company: they had many other products and did not depend on the "market failure" or not of this one product. And it does not look like something "marketed" at all, it's too simple for the 1980's when it was produced.

                    Seems to me, some work with a TTL logic book and ohmmeter, would sort out the overall function and design (without creating a full schematic). Then the owner can decide if it's complete or needs a microprocessor to function at all. It doesn't seem to have "enough" to "be" the computer the front panel suggests.

                    Also: further research about the company or products, may produce some interesting history, associate it with a product of interest, or find someone who knows more about it. My guess is that it's less likely to be something associated with anything particularly noteworthy, but anything is possible.

                    It does represent a kind of design at a point in time - but it's odd that the design is 1970's but the parts are 1980's, so that affects HOW it represents that time and place, to me. If it were 1970's construction, then to me it would have more value.

                    At some point, if it were mine, and it was NOT a noteworthy product: I'd decide whether to adapt it to some microcomputer kind of use or demonstration; to simply have it as a display artifact as it is; or to part it out. Work on it, depends on one's skills. As for parting it out - someone would buy it for more than the parts value for display, so I think many would prefer selling it.

                    There was simply a lot of this kind of digital artifact around, through the 80's and 90's, so most of these things WERE parted out, and in many cases (not all) that was the best use of them. If now, things like this are so "rare" as a result, that they've become valuable - I'd like to hear about that!

                    Herb Johnson
                    retrotechnology.com
                  • Andrew Molloy
                    Thanks guys, for all the comments and the links. I hadn t been able to unearth much of anything up to now. Maybe I will bring it to the next VCF East in the
                    Message 9 of 14 , Aug 3, 2013
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                      Thanks guys, for all the comments and the links. I hadn't been able to unearth much of anything up to now. 

                      Maybe I will bring it to the next VCF East in the spring. I haven't attempted to power it on, and my electronic skills are limited to causing Kaypros and Apple II power supplies to smoke. :) 

                      I'm going to try and contact Chuck Gregory (thanks Mike) and see if he can tell me more about it and the company. Looks like he was there a long time (11 years). If I learn anything interesting I'll post it here.

                      Andy




                      On Thu, Aug 1, 2013 at 3:51 PM, s100doctor <hjohnson@...> wrote:
                       

                      My general impressions are, that this item may not be a computer, but it was something associated with either a computer or a computer-based instrument or controller. So possibly it's a debugger or tester. It's hard to tell.

                      Given the history of the company based on references posted, it does not appear to me, to be a particularly important product to that company: they had many other products and did not depend on the "market failure" or not of this one product. And it does not look like something "marketed" at all, it's too simple for the 1980's when it was produced.

                      Seems to me, some work with a TTL logic book and ohmmeter, would sort out the overall function and design (without creating a full schematic). Then the owner can decide if it's complete or needs a microprocessor to function at all. It doesn't seem to have "enough" to "be" the computer the front panel suggests.

                      Also: further research about the company or products, may produce some interesting history, associate it with a product of interest, or find someone who knows more about it. My guess is that it's less likely to be something associated with anything particularly noteworthy, but anything is possible.

                      It does represent a kind of design at a point in time - but it's odd that the design is 1970's but the parts are 1980's, so that affects HOW it represents that time and place, to me. If it were 1970's construction, then to me it would have more value.

                      At some point, if it were mine, and it was NOT a noteworthy product: I'd decide whether to adapt it to some microcomputer kind of use or demonstration; to simply have it as a display artifact as it is; or to part it out. Work on it, depends on one's skills. As for parting it out - someone would buy it for more than the parts value for display, so I think many would prefer selling it.

                      There was simply a lot of this kind of digital artifact around, through the 80's and 90's, so most of these things WERE parted out, and in many cases (not all) that was the best use of them. If now, things like this are so "rare" as a result, that they've become valuable - I'd like to hear about that!

                      Herb Johnson
                      retrotechnology.com


                    • Andrew Molloy
                      Has anyone got a premium LinkedIn account that might be able to get Chuck Gregory s contact info (http://www.linkedin.com/in/chuckgregory)? A friend told me
                      Message 10 of 14 , Aug 4, 2013
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                        Has anyone got a premium LinkedIn account that might be able to get Chuck Gregory's contact info (http://www.linkedin.com/in/chuckgregory)? A friend told me that is required to send a message.

                        Thanks,
                        Andy


                        On Sun, Aug 4, 2013 at 12:49 AM, Andrew Molloy <awmolloy@...> wrote:
                        Thanks guys, for all the comments and the links. I hadn't been able to unearth much of anything up to now. 

                        Maybe I will bring it to the next VCF East in the spring. I haven't attempted to power it on, and my electronic skills are limited to causing Kaypros and Apple II power supplies to smoke. :) 

                        I'm going to try and contact Chuck Gregory (thanks Mike) and see if he can tell me more about it and the company. Looks like he was there a long time (11 years). If I learn anything interesting I'll post it here.

                        Andy




                        On Thu, Aug 1, 2013 at 3:51 PM, s100doctor <hjohnson@...> wrote:
                         

                        My general impressions are, that this item may not be a computer, but it was something associated with either a computer or a computer-based instrument or controller. So possibly it's a debugger or tester. It's hard to tell.

                        Given the history of the company based on references posted, it does not appear to me, to be a particularly important product to that company: they had many other products and did not depend on the "market failure" or not of this one product. And it does not look like something "marketed" at all, it's too simple for the 1980's when it was produced.

                        Seems to me, some work with a TTL logic book and ohmmeter, would sort out the overall function and design (without creating a full schematic). Then the owner can decide if it's complete or needs a microprocessor to function at all. It doesn't seem to have "enough" to "be" the computer the front panel suggests.

                        Also: further research about the company or products, may produce some interesting history, associate it with a product of interest, or find someone who knows more about it. My guess is that it's less likely to be something associated with anything particularly noteworthy, but anything is possible.

                        It does represent a kind of design at a point in time - but it's odd that the design is 1970's but the parts are 1980's, so that affects HOW it represents that time and place, to me. If it were 1970's construction, then to me it would have more value.

                        At some point, if it were mine, and it was NOT a noteworthy product: I'd decide whether to adapt it to some microcomputer kind of use or demonstration; to simply have it as a display artifact as it is; or to part it out. Work on it, depends on one's skills. As for parting it out - someone would buy it for more than the parts value for display, so I think many would prefer selling it.

                        There was simply a lot of this kind of digital artifact around, through the 80's and 90's, so most of these things WERE parted out, and in many cases (not all) that was the best use of them. If now, things like this are so "rare" as a result, that they've become valuable - I'd like to hear about that!

                        Herb Johnson
                        retrotechnology.com



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