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bettablue
August 22nd, 2014, 12:59 AM
I've been a member of VCF for just over four years. My main reason for joining was to find a great IBM 5150 computer, and upgrade it as far as I could. I've done that, and have also amassed a pretty nice vintage computer collection that includes, 2 - IBM 5150's, an IBM 5160 XT, several single board computers, from TRS-80 Model 1 and 4, and Color Computer Model 1, among others. For the most part, I've been playing around with my IBM 5150's, and making them do more than they were initially intended.

However, I have really been interested in looking at and working with some S-100 systems. The thing is, although I am getting pretty good with the computers in my collection, I have absolutely no idea where to begin. The concept of having each and everything on their own expansion slots isn't new to me, but working at the level that S-100 systems is. As such, I am a complete idiot if I pretend to know anything at all relating to the S-100 hardware build architecture, and how to program these systems.

So for a total newbie, what would you consider as a good starting computer. Are there any "New" systems out there for purchase, or will I have to buy a vintage system. I know these can be quite expensive too, so please factor that into a completely new build.

What are some of the best resources are there for a complete newbie, like myself? What am I looking at as far as cost, for a very basic computer that I can add things to, like memory, keyboard interfaces, main system boards etc.?

Of course, any and all info you can provide will be of great assistance.

Thanks in advance.

smp
August 22nd, 2014, 02:40 AM
A great repository of information about the S-100 boards and systems from the past, as well as a source for newly designed S-100 boards using more modern components is: www.s100computers.com.

John Monahan is a member here, too, and he is an extremely helpful fellow. Go to the site, sign up for the forum there and ask questions there, too.

Good luck to you...

smp

kyeakel
August 22nd, 2014, 03:45 AM
I have found that I enjoy the challenge of s-100 computers and decided to concentrate my efforts on them. I started with an empty s-100 chassis and power supply, and bought boards from N8VEM S-100. These are mainly designed by John Monahan, and built by the purchaser. John took down his forum some time ago, but his website is critical to the build and debug of these boards.
I also have many s-100 systems and anything that I have bought in working condition has cost north of $1000. I mostly buy s-100 circuit boards, but have to debug and repair them. So, skills and tools are a necessity.
If you wanted to get a feel for toggle switch programming, I'd suggest Vince Briel's Altair mini clone. This is a nice inexpensive emulated s-100 computer that can be expanded to run cp/m if you desire.
Kipp

bettablue
August 22nd, 2014, 03:45 AM
A great repository of information about the S-100 boards and systems from the past, as well as a source for newly designed S-100 boards using more modern components is: www.s100computers.com.

John Monahan is a member here, too, and he is an extremely helpful fellow. Go to the site, sign up for the forum there and ask questions there, too.

Good luck to you...

smp

Thanks for the quick response.

According to the site, they no longer host their own forums, and have recommended users go to several other sites, one of which is VCF. I added the site to my favorites though, because there is invaluable info there that I can almost be assured, doesn't exist anywhere else. Still, I will keep my eyes open in these forums, and start looking at purchasing an S100 box, and planar to get started. From what I've read, it looks as though most S100 users have also built their own power supplies.

Are there any S100 boxes ,and PSU's that you can recommend as a decent starter? Or are all S100 computers built/rebuilt from older machines? Looking at our not so friendly friends E-Bay; I've seen basically, just cases go for anywhere from $800.00 to $2,500.00 or more depending on the brand. Is that what to expect, or are there any new alternatives that would be cheaper?

tkc8800
August 22nd, 2014, 04:01 AM
My interest in retro computers started with the Altair, I knew very little about them when I actually purchased one. I probably should have done a little more research before buying it, because I underestimated the difficulty in getting those machines to work compared to later retro machines. However, several years later and hundreds of hours spent reading and researching, I'm really glad I got involved in them. I second the recommendation for s100computers.com, it's the best site out there for s100 board reference and manuals. They do sell pcb's for new s100 boards but they are aimed at engineers who can build them. If you're a non-engineer like me, I'd suggest buying an existing system. As you mention some can be expensive and components are harder and harder to get. All depends on which one you want.

KC9UDX
August 22nd, 2014, 04:15 AM
If you wanted to get a feel for toggle switch programming, I'd suggest Vince Briel's Altair mini clone. This is a nice inexpensive emulated s-100 computer that can be expanded to run cp/m if you desire.

True, but of course there's no S-100. It's too bad, it would be a really nice machine if it did. As such, it's just a nice machine.

Frank S
August 22nd, 2014, 04:17 AM
...Are there any S100 boxes ,and PSU's that you can recommend as a decent starter? ...
If you don't need some toggle switches on the front, The CompuPro enclosure and PS are rock solid and have enough slots for expansion, is IEEE-696 compatible and is active terminated.
Unfortunately (for countries with 230/240V) the PS is only made for 110V/60Hz operation.
The next things you need is (Z80) CPU board, Memory board, ROM boards (if there is no place the Monitor ROM on the CPU board) and a serial I/O board.
From then on, you can buy thousands of different boards that fits your needs and interests. :lookroun:
The boards from John Monahan and others are a good start for S-100 boards, you have to build them by your own and learn more about the board.
Frank

bonedaddy
August 22nd, 2014, 05:08 AM
If you can do through-hole soldering then I recommend John Monahan and Andrew Lynch's boards. Most are $20 each (including the 8-slot active terminated backplane.) You'll have to source the parts yourself too but I think that's part of the fun as well. I think the most expensive parts are the S-100 connectors (though I've tried to purchase in quantity to get the cost down.)

You might end up needing to do some problem determination with them but I think in most cases you'd have to do that with any older system you purchased as well.

Boards available and who to contact are at http://n8vem-sbc.pbworks.com/w/page/35044530/PCB%20Inventory.

The N8VEM-S100 google group mailing list has a lot of helpful people involved there (with many here as well.)

Todd

Disclaimer: I am the contact for some of the boards and have made a bulk purchase of S-100 connectors too but everything is sold "at cost" to benefit our hobby

new_castle_j
August 22nd, 2014, 07:28 AM
Always nice to see some new interest in S-100. If you really want to get started, PM me with your address and I will send you a motherboard with manual. No reason for me to have an extra one setting around. For me, the starting place on populating a system is the floppy controller, if you want to run 5.25 floppies then the controller needs to support that. Next, I researched what disk images were readily available so that I could progress to running CP/M. I did not attempt to roll my own, instead I followed the success of others. The available disk images dictated which console I/O controller I would use. Last step was to find a processor and compatible memory, I went with static memory since it was less complicated. I have a front panel in my system so I was able to do some rudimentary testing along the way.

Don't forget Herb Johnson's site http://www.retrotechnology.com/ , I think he may still have some Versafloppy II controllers for sale.

JDallas
August 30th, 2014, 10:43 AM
...but of course there's no S-100 {in the mini Altair clone}. It's too bad, it would be a really nice machine if it did. As such, it's just a nice machine.
Its kind of difficult to maintain the orginal S100 concept of each board serving a particular function of the system when the electroncis today can pack so much into so little space.

I kidded awhile back in VCF.IRC that the only way to do S100 today would be to do a 1/2 Scale board outline. With 1/4 the pcb area, you could do that card segmentation without losing too much.

What frankly shocks me though is that people are still so interested in building up their own kits. Bravo them... I had my fun doing that 35 years ago. Unfortunately its getting hard and expensive to feed that luxury of socketing and soldering dual inline packages (aka DIPs). If you make the leap to surface mount components with almost perfect automated assembly, you get a better working system but you lose the charm of it being something you built yourself.

Too bad there is no requirement for integrated circuit companies to support through-hole components.

JDallas
August 30th, 2014, 10:54 AM
...I have really been interested in looking at and working with some S-100 systems...The concept of having each and everything on their own expansion slots isn't new to me, but working at the level that S-100 systems is...So for a total newbie, what would you consider as a good starting computer...
You might consider getting a small unit first until you see if it will appeal to you. The easiest way to test that would be to buy a S-100 single-board-computer (SBC) with everything you need including a floppy disk controller. Add a S-100 card cage and power supply big enough for your follow-through needs. I'd expect some time on that will make you want to take the next step.

S-100 has/had the advantage that you can easily enough build your own board by wire-wrapping (tedious, hard to find but easy for the careful sort of person). Around 1978 I bought an AY3-8910 chip from Radio Shack and used its schematics and a few BYTE magazine schematic examples to make my own sound effects board. That was a lot of fun because it could easily do all the sound effects you'd hear at the PONG/PACMAN arcades.

Programming was simple for it too as all you had to do is read the instruction on the chip describing the various registers and write a simple program to output values to them. I did the examples in the manual first and then started experimenting which was very rewarding. It was something cool and easy to do.