View Full Version : Altos Acquisitons

October 6th, 2006, 09:58 PM
Especially Terry ;)

(1) Altos 8000 series with 8" disk drive
(1) Altos 580 with 5.25" floppy drive, and winchester (size unknown as of yet)
(1) Altos Series 5 5.25" floppy disk, and winchester (size unknown as of yet)

I guess I am glad it wasn't a 586 - I really don't need another Intel x86 machine, and especially one running Xenix - that was teh scourge of the earth!

Just got them out of the truck, after making room, and moving the junk to the front near the garage door.

Vlad - want the PM9500, ya gotta let me know! ;)


Terry Yager
October 7th, 2006, 06:35 AM
Altos' specialty was multi-user systems, so you may have a chance to sink your teeth into some MP/M.


October 7th, 2006, 06:49 AM
Never owned an 8000, but I can tell you about the smaller machines.

The Series 5 configured with 1 floppy and 1 hard drive is a "5-5".
(With 2 floppies, it's a "5-15")
On that and the 580, the console port is marked "JC".
It takes a serial terminal set for 9600 8n1.
Each floppy holds 700K; you'll need HD media.

There's a chance you may have an o/s called OASIS.
It's pretty rare, so you might want to take some time to preserve it
and/or learn it.

And Xenix is still pretty cool, regardless of who put it out. :-)
It was my first multiuser, multitasking system o/s.


October 7th, 2006, 11:58 AM
I always hated Xenix, especially the SCO crap. I think I still have a copy of it somewhere in the garage. I only supported it in the field, mostly for some privately-owned Days Inn hotels in the South Miami / Homestead area.

The hardest work I did, was having to rebuild the one at the Homestead Days Inn after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 - man, the building was toast, and the Xenix box didn;t fair much better. Luckily, I had done a backup 2 weeks earlier, and dd'd the drive out preparing for a hard disk upgrade, and he had put that stuff in a safety deposit box at the bank!!!

Without that, he woulda' been screwed - dumb luck, I guess!

OK - Altos update.

First, can anyone tell me the wiring for the serial ports?
Standard terminal null-modem'd over?

The 580 looks like it was used for a football - I think someone dropped it on it's left rear. Chassis inside is a little bent, but HD spins up.

The Series-5 makes a loud-as-hell spinup noise, but seems to be willing to work. Again, got work on the cabling.

Did these systems boot from floppy then hi the HD? Or boot straight from HD?

Anyone got media for these puppies?
I see Dave Dunfield has Altos 586 media....


October 7th, 2006, 12:43 PM
First, can anyone tell me the wiring for the serial ports?

"The ALTOS connector is wired as a modem with the following RS-232-C connection wiring required.*"

1 Chassis Ground*
2 Transmitted Data
3 Received Data
4 Request-To-Send (optional, requires jumpering)
5 Clear-To-Send
6 N/C
7 Signal Ground
8 +12 V.P.C.
9-19 N/C
20 Data-Terminal-Ready

The minimum cable is apparently 1, 2, 3 and 20.

Did these systems boot from floppy then hi the HD?

March 31st, 2007, 01:02 AM
I just got an Altos 986T, and it sure is slick. Serial host?? I read that Xenix runs on it, how about Unix??

I opened the top cover (it's late, didn't go really into it) and saw that the top rear is all power supply. These things are heavy!! If the PS is bad, is there a way I can use a regular ol PC ps?? Just to lighten it up.

Above, it seems this thing uses serial terminals to communicate. Can a computer be hooked to it using a terminal program? Googling doesn't tell me much but places to get replacement tapes for it and more questions (one from back in 1992, unanswered).

Before I power it up I have to blow it out real good. it looks like it was stored on Tattooine.


April 5th, 2007, 10:02 PM
About this Altos, it has a bunch of serial ports on the back of it. I haven't had a chance to mess with it yet (tomorrow hopefully). What does it *do*? Is it a serial server? Can I use this to connect my machines that have only a serial port to connect out with???


April 6th, 2007, 07:19 AM
Nathan, you probably need scroll up and re-read the messages in this thread. That info should also apply to your machine, assuming it's like other Altos systems.

I seriously doubt it's a terminal server. If it runs Xenix, it's a computer and the serial ports are for terminals. Of course, you'll need at least one serial terminal (or a PC) and the proper cable, wired to the console port (JC?) before you can see and boot messages or communicate with it. Your terminal or comm software should be set for 9600,8n1.


nige the hippy
April 6th, 2007, 07:47 AM
Console is on "port 1" that's the bottom left if you're looking at the back. and you may have to frig around with the TX & RX, DTR-DSR & RTS-CTS lines with a breakout box when connecting it to the pc if you don't get activity. Hardware / or no handshaking in hyperterminal.

My recently acquired 986 works perfectly (thanks David!), but the 586 has a stuck hard disk. I had to re insert a few chips on the terminal, and I'm going to have to hack the administrator password to get into xenix.

Really must get the machine with the 5.25" drive networked up. to write disk images.

nige the hippy
April 8th, 2007, 04:45 AM
The stuck HDD has definitely had a crash, did the gentle turny thing (the heads should all be in a landing zone as it's a voice-coil driven head positioner - definitely a last resort with an un-parked stepper driven positioner) and it felt a little different in places, could have been dirt in the motor, but, spin it up and you get occasional really seriously scary noises, I'd like to get a microphone in there and record it for a bit of sci-fi-horror sound track, but I'd rather see if the drive is saveable before introducing any more aluminium turnings into the mech.

April 8th, 2007, 08:34 AM
Well, now that you've moved the motor spindle, here's what I do for "stuck" drives.

Turn the drive so you can access the motor spindle shaft and put a drop of 3-in-1 oil on the end. Let it sit there for, oh, half an hour and then, still in the same position, hook it up to power and turn it on. If the motor spins up, let it run for another 1/2 hour, then leave it for a few hours and power it up again to make sure it spins up on its own.

If it doesn't spin up initially, give the motor a little push (might require a couple of pushes). When it starts to spin, it MAY produce some horrendous noises. This is normal and, if you hadn't moved in 10, 15 years, you'd make noises too. The noise will subside. Then follow the same directions for the scenario where it spun up on its own.

I recently used this technique on 3 OLD 20 pound MFM drives and it worked flawlessly, took a format, took a 6.22 installation and, testing them after a month of sitting there, they all spun up and booted fine

nige the hippy
April 8th, 2007, 09:09 AM
Nope, did all that, save the oil (actually I ought to do that!), it did quieten down, and after running for an hour I popped it back in the machine. However once in the machine, and sort-of booted up, I tested the file structure and it came back with HEAPS of errors, it also occasionally made the "Portal of Hell Opening" noise. I've access to a clean-room (if I ask nicely) so I think I'm going to pop the lid, and if it has crashed maybe I'll get away with a little "decapitation" and reduce the drive capacity!

Damn, just running to the phone, caught the fuse holder on the 986, another little repair to do on an otherwise perfect machine.:(

April 8th, 2007, 06:34 PM
Yeah, I had that "heaps of errors" thing happen too.
That's how the "let it sit there for 1/2 hour after oil" thing came about.
Seems it takes that long to slide down to the spindle bearings and they might have been moving, but, they sure as hell weren't spinning.
After another drop and half an hour, it closed the Portal and was humming away.
Of course, you could be right and a head or two are rattling around the bottom of the bubble, but, I like to eliminate the obvious first.
It's worth a shot and you'll know in 1/2 hour :)

September 7th, 2007, 12:33 PM
After pausing on the Altos', I got the series 5 (5-5AD I think it is) up and booted last night. Has MP/M II 2.15S0, and boots up fine. I guess over the years, being moved about, 1 jumper fell off, and the power cable to the MFM controller board came loose.

Puppy turned right on, gave the Altos Monitor prompt, then booted from the HD. Looks like it has 192KB RAM, ST-506 5MB hard disk, 1 5.25" floppy.

Thanks to Andy for the TREMENDOUS assistance getting this puppy up and running. Next stop - Altos 580. As mentioned earlier, though, this one looks like it has been drop-kicked for a field goal. May not be so easy.

I guess a console message would be a HUGE victory on the 580!


September 7th, 2007, 01:12 PM
Thanks to Andy for the TREMENDOUS assistance getting this puppy up and running.

Glad to help.

You should probably look inside that 580 to see if the hardware appears to be okay, and all the cables are connected to something, before you apply power.
The top of the case will come off once you've removed a couple of screws holding it to the back plate and a few along the edges of both sides that secure it to the bottom half of the case. (This is from memory; I'm still at work right now).

September 7th, 2007, 04:30 PM
Heh - that one was drop-kicked, remember? :o

You don;t even NEED to remove the screws for the cover to come off:rolleyes:


Terry Yager
September 7th, 2007, 07:35 PM
Closest I can come is a 686, which is currently stored in my friend's mini-storage about 50 miles away. It's a '286 version of the earlier 586 model, but if it's any consolation, it does run CCP/M (aka CCDOS), since I accidently blew away the XENIX that it came with (courtesy of Don Maslin, RIP).


September 7th, 2007, 07:48 PM
Heh - no WONDER the Series 5 and 580 can share the same media...
It's the SAME dang motherboard! Identical! Even the firmware.

Problem is, I get nada from the 580 board...I yanked it, plugged it into the 5's power supply, nothing. Tested the Z80 - Fine. Tested the EPROM just in case...fine.

Hmm...now how to troubleshoot the mobo...been using a flashlight and a magnifying glass to see if there's anything out of the ordinary.

Maybe I should try changing the 1488/1489 on port JC in case the port is blown?

All jumpers are identical, save 1 which the 580 has, 5 doesn't, but applies on the 5, the 5 still boots.

Anything that commonly blew on these things? Almost everything is socketed....