A Somewhat Rare Local Commodore Find

I woke up to an email notice of a local estate sale, already open, with a “Commodore computer.”  That usually means a C64 and the Clowns cartridge, but the photos revealed an item of quite another level.  I couldn’t make it until the afternoon, and anything rare/ebayable is usually gone minutes after opening, but luck was with me today.  We have:

– Commodore B128-80 computer, in-box
– Commodore 8050 IEEE floppy drive, in-box
– Commodore 4023 LQ dot-matrix printer, in-box
– CA (Computer Associates) monochrome display.  This is an odd one; I thought they only made power strips and mainframe tape racks and such.

No manuals for anything.  They were either lost somewhere in the house or these items were purchased non-retail with no docs.

The B128 is fairly rare in the US but was blown out at a discount in the late 80s by the famous Protecto Computer Direct in Barrington, IL.  I’m betting that’s where this one came from – in fact it could be the very “computer/drive/monitor/printer bundle” they advertised.  It was just like Protecto to sub in a cheap 3rd-party monitor like this one.

So the original owner got a bargain.  And as soon the old man discovered there was zero software for it, back in the box it went.

Update: I guess this is indeed the “Protecto Special.”  This reddit user found the same combo, albeit with a different no-name display.

Sun-1 Board Inventory

Thanks to some very helpful people who have encountered these beasts before, I have learned much about the Sun-1 era chassis I wrote about in the last post.  And yet, there is much to be learned.  I will be posting all I know when I think I have learned all there is to know.  In the meantime, I have inventoried the Multibus cards in the chassis and have charted them here and uploaded detailed photos here.

Most of the part numbers check out against other Sun-1 and Sun-2 examples found online.  The Xylogics board looks a little different than the ones I found but it may just be an earlier revision (it is marked as “Rev A.”)  The 3COM Multibus Ethernet board is marked only “Assy 0111-01” but, comparing it to the examples found, should be a 3C400.

While the CPU board is definitely a Sun-2, I don’t know which specific board it is, other than its part number of 270-1007-04 (also known as 500-1007-05.)  It is probably an upgrade from an original Sun-1 CPU board but it is possible that the machine was configured as a -2 (making it a 150U, in Sun terms) at the factory.  However the number plate calls the model “RM-CC” (Rack Mount Card Cage,) not 150 or 150U.  It has an early serial number, so it is possible that the naming paradigm wasn’t established at that point.  No one knows for sure what went on back then.

The last card, in slot 15, I am unable to positively identify.  It is an early Sun monochrome card but I can find no part number on it or match it to any photos of the other Sun mono cards of that time.

Operation: Defrag

It’s time to get the house in order. There’s the basement, the garage, the office, the office closet. I want to stack like with like – a shelf of Kaypros, a shelf of DEC stuff, a shelf (or three) for Commodore. I’m not sure, short of inventorying everything (not going to happen until it’s organized) and mapping it all out in Visio first, if this plan will work. So I will employ a more haphazard algorithm, one common to many human endeavors: I’ll just start doing it, hope for the best and make it up as I go.

What can I store safely out in the garage? It will be subject to some great temperature swings (it probably doesn’t get more than a couple degrees off the house heat) but it’s mainly dry. I’ve had terminals, desktops, routers, etc out there for couple years with no visible damage. I guess the easy answer is “the cheap stuff.” So I’ll be moving the SOL-20, etc inside…

Pictures when it’s all done? Sure. But it will never be done!

New Acquisition: Pravetz 82

I’ve been looking for one of these for about a year now. I’ve got a contact (umm, eBay seller) in Bulgaria who qualifies as about 20% of the classiccmp scene over there. First he sent me a Pravetz 8M, a dual CPU machine that I exhibited at VCF-MW this year. But this is the beast I was after: the first of the Pravetz line, their clone of the Apple //+.

The build quality is definitely a step behind the 8M. The plastic is odd: flexible yet brittle and with a weird texture (which I tried to show in the pics.) The system ROMs are real Soviet chips, which I did not find in the 8M (I have yet to photograph that one in detail.) The PSU is downright scary and the input current is not switchable. The 8M’s PSU appears to be a clone of the ones Apple used. This one is definitely home-grown. I have a voltage converter from Fry’s which should do the job.

At VCF I used Apple-branded drives and an Apple Disk ][ controller in the 8M. This time I have real Bulgarian disk controllers (he was kind enough to send two this time to make up for the lack of one last time) and floppy drives. The drives don’t seem to have been made under the Pravetz label. Instead they are marked with the “Kocho Tsvetarov” name, which appears to be some sort of electronics factory.

Here’s a whole gallery of pics I took last night. And here’s an interesting document: a US Gov (financed, at least) report on Eastern Bloc tech circa 1984. I found it when googling the name on the back of the floppy drives I got with the Pravetz 82. I OCR’d it and rehosted it in case it goes away.

SA600 Update

Back on Monday I attacked the front door panel to the SA600 rack with some cleaner, some CLR and some naval jelly. Amazing stuff! I don’t think I’ll even repaint it now (since I’ll never get the color matched right.) Have a look at the before-and-after.

Next is getting that rear cable manager and side panels on.

A Random Project

I’m keeping a gmail task list of projects I could be/should be working on, but the usual “decision paralysis” sets in once it grows larger than five or so items (I think it’s up to about 20 now.) So I just chose one at random and spent a bit of time on it tonight: re-assembling the DEC SA600 rack I picked up last weekend in Madison, WI. It came with two RA90 (SDI interface, 1.2gb – in 1989!) drives, which weigh about 50-60lbs each, and judging from the blank plates in the front panel, it probably held six at one time. It came from UWM, so who knows what data might lurk on those platters…

I bent the panel mounts getting the rack in and out of the truck but I’ve got them more-or-less straight now. I put a side panel on and she’s looking pretty sweet. The major job that needs doing now is addressing the rust on the bottom third of the front panel. A trip to Home Depot is in my future, and a purchase of harsh steel-wool and some Rust-o-leum primer. Then I have to figure out how to match that distinctive DEC beige so I can re-paint the panel. I’d settle for a near-match if it weren’t for the painted logo on the panel – if I fail to mask that perfectly (and I will,) I’ll have a section of original paint around it that will be an obvious mismatch to the repainted sections.

Quite a bit of work for something I’ll likely end up giving away, or worse 🙁

Kick Start This Thing

I’d like to start posting here again. I’m thinking about blogging some tech projects. I’m surrounded my infinite things to work on, so it might provide some focus and motivation, not to mention some entertainment, to record my work. Now, what to do first………

Meanwhile, VCF-MW was a blast. I learned a few things about organizing a show and just how much stuff I can’t do at the same time. I gained a lot of ideas about how to fine-tune things for next year. I’ve been collecting attendees’ photo galleries on the main page:


There’s some really great stuff there. Check them all out.

Hacked a VoIP Router

Picked up a Linksys WRTP54G at Goodwill tonight for $20. It was in the box and even in plastic, but had clearly been used before. It had a WEP key configured for wireless. It’s also missing the antenna, but I don’t plan to use it for wireless anyway.

Unlike the Vonage box I got a few months ago and tried fruitlessly to open up, I actually found a procedure that worked for this device. Here it is for future reference:


Been a While

I guess in this age of Facebook and Twitter the ol' blog has been all but abandoned.  Here's an update from my new Motorola Droid smartphone.  Let's hope this helps keep Moto's boat afloat!