PDA

View Full Version : Molecular Computers board



Old Computers
April 23rd, 2013, 06:46 AM
A while back I started a thread (http://www.vintage-computer.com/vcforum/showthread.php?32921-Single-Board-Computers&highlight=single+board+computer) regarding a couple of single board computers. One of them has a brand name of Molecular computers, but I could find no information about it at all. I was browsing Ebay today and I found this: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Molecular-Computer-Z80-APX-Board-/271181781301?pt=US_Vintage_Computing_Parts_Accesso ries&hash=item3f23b19935

Do you think this could have anything to do with my unidentified SBC? I remember in the old thread Molecular Computers was determined to be a different company than Molecular Computer, but the model numbering convention is very similar between the listing's board and my own (compare my picture with the listing's picture). Based on this point it seems likely they could be related somehow.

TX_Dj
April 23rd, 2013, 07:27 AM
This might help:
Molecular 32 Ad (http://books.google.com/books?id=EjAEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PT1&lpg=PT1&dq=molecular+computer+multiuser&source=bl&ots=O3xnDCuDrk&sig=j4sz8s7sRxwRoWW6fictBzZpm9c&hl=en&sa=X&ei=WKd2UZfVGqHg2gWInICwBA&ved=0CDsQ6AEwAA)
Molecular 64 Ad (http://books.google.com/books?id=_y8EAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA16&lpg=PA16&dq=molecular+computer+multiuser&source=bl&ots=_3eCnpJRwd&sig=soD_GJtoVDSkvX1GYNC1hklnmAY&hl=en&sa=X&ei=WKd2UZfVGqHg2gWInICwBA&ved=0CEEQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=molecular%20computer%20multiuser&f=false)
Another 32 ad (http://books.google.com/books?id=NDAEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PT1&lpg=PT1&dq=molecular+computer+multiuser&source=bl&ots=EyrK-92WSd&sig=oKZKWyOdFfnJQcYPmKE5KBGCpvI&hl=en&sa=X&ei=WKd2UZfVGqHg2gWInICwBA&ved=0CEUQ6AEwBQ)

Seems you may have your hands on some really early Supermicro hardware, though I don't know if "The Supermicro Company" is related to what we know today as Supermicro.

Very cool, it'd be great to see one of those systems complete and operational!

Chuck(G)
April 23rd, 2013, 07:41 AM
No, I attended the Molecular Chapter 7 bankruptcy auction in about 1985. It was held on North First St. in San Jose.

Basically, their idea (and of a couple other companies) was a one-CPU card per user, with a master CPU servicing them. The idea was that each user had the same computing power as the last one and users were protected from one another. Of course I/O would be degraded somewhat, but most multiuser setups tended to be CPU-bound anyway. And, by 1980, Z80 CPU chips themselves were cheap, although the US-Japan DRAM trade war was having a very serious effect on companies such as Molecular.

TX_Dj
April 23rd, 2013, 07:47 AM
How unfortunate. Chuck, do you know of any surviving systems?

Chuck(G)
April 23rd, 2013, 08:01 AM
Not that I know of, but then I don't track the stuff. Molecular bought Durango around 1983 and I have a couple of Durango systems--I never figured that one out (different customer bases)--unless Molecular was after the MCBA business application license.

Old Computers
April 23rd, 2013, 09:26 AM
That would be cool if that board was from one of those systems. Unfortunately from those ads I cannot tell if my board is from one of those systems.

Al Kossow
April 23rd, 2013, 10:18 AM
How unfortunate. Chuck, do you know of any surviving systems?

http://www.computerhistory.org/collections/accession/102722627
http://www.computerhistory.org/collections/accession/102711790
http://www.computerhistory.org/collections/accession/102721217

There may be a complete system that CHM hasn't cataloged yet.

I also have one in storage.

Al Kossow
April 23rd, 2013, 10:19 AM
http://www.computerhistory.org/collections/accession/102722627
http://www.computerhistory.org/collections/accession/102711790
http://www.computerhistory.org/collections/accession/102721217

There may be a complete system that CHM hasn't cataloged yet.

I also have one in storage.


http://bitsavers.org/pdf/mollecularComputer

Old Computers
April 23rd, 2013, 10:45 AM
Al thanks for the link to the documents.

I noticed that that system has a file processor board and an application board. FPX is the designation on the board I own, and APX is the designation of the board on ebay. FPX could possibly stand for File processor. I also looked at the block diagram on page 4-5 of this document http://bitsavers.trailing-edge.com/pdf/molecularComputer/Molecular_Hardware_Maintenance_Dec82.pdf and there are connectors in the same places as that description. The power connectors also match very closely to the description. What do you guys think? I have the picture of my board in the other thread if you want to compare the two.

Edit: I was reading the manual some more and I discovered a parts layout diagram of the system which appears to match my board as well. It would be really great if I could find or make the rest of the partsfor a complete and/or operational system.

Old Computers
April 24th, 2013, 11:59 AM
I went ahead and purchased the board. I hope that I can figure out how to build a backpane for the application processor boards. It would be cool to work with this system.

Old Computers
April 25th, 2013, 04:31 AM
Another update. The seller I purchased this from was the seller of the other board I have. Unfortunately he said that those boards were the only parts left of that computer system, and that it had been dismantled earlier. He did say that the model was something like model 16 or 30. That information will definitely help me re-create the system. Would anybody happen to have images of the operating system for this computer?

Old Computers
April 27th, 2013, 04:37 PM
The board arrived in the mail today. Now I just need to figure out how to set up the system to see if it functions.

Al Kossow
June 1st, 2013, 06:48 PM
FPX is the designation on the board I own

Do you have a way to dump the firmware on the boards that you have?

I added some floppy images, and a couple more manual scans to bitsavers today

http://bitsavers.org/bits/Molecular
http://bitsavers.org/pdf/molecularComputer

Old Computers
June 2nd, 2013, 12:40 PM
At the moment I have no way to dump the firmware. I do eventually plan on finding a good eprom burner though.


Thanks for adding the stuff to bitsavers. I am hoping that with the information and the boot disks I can scrape together a working system with the FPX and the APX boards that I have.

Brutus Argendeli
January 3rd, 2014, 02:42 PM
For what its worth, I have a complete Molecular Micro server that was used in a San Jose video store back in the 80's. Last time it was turned on it supported three serial terminals, each with their own barcode readers (pen-type, appears to be a keyboard wedge device). I'll take it out of storage (it is sleeping next to my Microvax 3100) and post some pictures tonight. If I ever power it on, it will be via a variac...

Update:
And here is the URL for the pictures (Molecular Computer Series 9)
http://www.disastours.com/mm/

ebaugh
May 7th, 2014, 11:37 AM
For what its worth, I have a complete Molecular Micro server that was used in a San Jose video store back in the 80's. Last time it was turned on it supported three serial terminals, each with their own barcode readers (pen-type, appears to be a keyboard wedge device). I'll take it out of storage (it is sleeping next to my Microvax 3100) and post some pictures tonight. If I ever power it on, it will be via a variac...

Update:
And here is the URL for the pictures (Molecular Computer Series 9)
http://www.disastours.com/mm/

A complete system is available on Craigs List : http://atlanta.craigslist.org/sat/sys/4427042208.html

z-ddt
September 17th, 2015, 07:00 PM
dont know if anyone is interested but I was Employee # 6 at Molecular computer. I Wire wrapped the prototypes and was one of the main tecks in the R&D lab. email me if you need help understanding what you have or how to make it all work. I have most od the documents needed for trouble shooting.

rotaspec
September 18th, 2015, 12:40 AM
dont know if anyone is interested but I was Employee # 6 at Molecular computer. I Wire wrapped the prototypes and was one of the main tecks in the R&D lab. email me if you need help understanding what you have or how to make it all work. I have most od the documents needed for trouble shooting.

Hi. I am new here, but a long time uP fan.
I am very interested in any info you might have on the Molecular Z80 APB board.
I have the Supermicro manual that deals with the APX and FP boards, but they are somewhat different to the one I have acquired.
Schematics would be great, memory map even better.

Thanks in advance,
Gary (New Zealand)

Al Kossow
September 18th, 2015, 06:06 AM
Hi. I am new here, but a long time uP fan.
I am very interested in any info you might have on the Molecular Z80 APB board.
I have the Supermicro manual that deals with the APX and FP boards, but they are somewhat different to the one I have acquired.
Schematics would be great, memory map even better.

Thanks in advance,
Gary (New Zealand)

yes, schematics would be nice

I have one with a tape drive and priam disk at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View.
I really need to dump the contents of the disk from that system.

MicrocomputerSolutions
November 5th, 2015, 01:57 AM
I worked for a Systems House located in Culver City, CA for a time back in 1983, that was selling Molecular Computers. I looked at them as an advanced concept of an S-100 system. A network in a box with each User having their own processor, and and a Supervisor Processor to overwatch the entire operation.

I remember having to wait for computers to be scheduled for delivery, and how unreliable the individual processor boards were. When coupled with the Wyse 50 terminals that we were selling with them, it's a wonder that the computers ran at all. I think we were seeing 50% failure rates during the first year on the Wyse 50 terminals, and 20%-30% failures on the Molecular Processor boards.

I didn't follow what happened to Molecular after I left the Systems House, and it doesn't surprise me that they BK'ed based on the performance of their hardware. I opened my own computer business in 1983 as a part-time business (expanding to full-time in 1984), and I never even considered selling Molecular. Personally, having installed 2-3 Molecular multiuser systems in 1983, I would not waste my time trying to resurrect one.

Do you want to try building up a multiuser system that features separate processors for each user? Build up a Compupro/Viasyn 8/16 S-100 System. You get your choice of Main System Processors, and can install Z-80H 8-bit and 80186 16-bit slave processors for your users (or they can work off the Main Processor). The CDOS Operating System is stable, and the hardware is totally reliable.