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Thread: DECwriter III

  1. #1
    Join Date
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    Default DECwriter III

    I first saw this thing at my university. I haggled the IT desk and the folks over at the warehouse about it. In the past they would of just given it away (which is how I got a bunch of my other stuff) but now they had to follow e-waste regulations. For this however I pleaded and it went up on BCauction. Up until the $65 mark I was in a bidding war against some schmuck who by looking at their purchase history was a reseller.
    Go get bent. This terminal needed a real home.
    Anyways after taxes it cost me $70. I picked it up from the loading dock before my university classes started and immediately got to work on it when I got home.
    I was asked by two separate people at different stop lights "what are you doing with the DEC terminal?"


    Originally when I saw the unit and plugged it in the front panel was giving me constantly changing and nonsensical front panel indications. The unit could also not be put in local mode and the lubricant on the carriage had gummed up tot he point it was pretty much jammed. The ribbon at least looked salvageable. Now that it was back at the house I had the chance to tear it down and give it a VERY badly needed dusting.



    A better look at the main logic board.
    The carriage freed up with a bit of WD40.

    Now that I had completely cleaned the thing I looked at the scary linear power supply. I suspected that the caps needed reforming but my only variac is rated for up to 1A only. Chinesium....

    Admitting defeat on the power supply for now I reassembled the whole system and plugged it in. This time the front panel was completely lit.

    Odd. I wonder what changed. I started poking about to see if I could mess with it more. Eventually I found that if you tripped the paper switch and had the lid switch pressed the terminal would work! Awesome!


    Okay, so now the thing completely works. The ribbon still fades in and out but I've seen several way to reink them. I might try it after another full windthrough. For now I need to finish my other project.
    On the left side there is a knockout for some other option. DEC puts a cheat sheet for the setup options here but I'll peel that off and hide it somewhere else. My final goal is to install a paper tape reader.

    It's a serial device so I'll just tap it into the serial port on the underside of the terminal. Flipping a switch enables or disables it. In the far future I might add another switch and a motor so that it will feed the tape through on its own. The key component there is I find a small enough DC motor. The whole point for the reader is that unless I ever owned one I would no longer need an ASR33 unless for some reason I needed to punch a tape.

    Also, what the hell was with the numpads always losing their keycaps. Now I have a VT100 and this with missing caps on the numpad.
    = Excellent space heater

  2. #2
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    Default

    Fantastic, I'm so envious of all the great stuff you have access to in the US and Canada, and so relatively cheap too. I would love to find one here in Oz. I used to use the DECwriter III's and Teletype ASR43's at Uni, editing CS assignments in EDIT/EDT line mode, a memory that evokes a wry grin for me.
    Can I suggest you don't peel the label or drill holes through it to mount your tape reader - just use foam double sided tape, of which the residue can be removed by some future computer archaeologist (if isopropyl alcohol hasn't been banned by then )

  3. #3
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    Amazingly I have two of those blanking plates. A week ago I was poking around a closed landfill and I found another cover with a broken tab on it. I was planning on using that one for the mounting and putting the good one in the logic board compartment so it could be reverted back in the future.

    Speaking of the ASR43, I have one here already but one of the keyboard encoders need debugging as a third of my keyboard is dead. I kind of gave up trying to actively use it because the paper tape/punch unit available for it is so hard to find. Just about any paper tape device with a serial port is in huge demand still.
    = Excellent space heater

  4. #4

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    What's that keyboard hanging out behind the DECwriter?
    Computers: Amiga 1200, DEC VAXStation 4000/60, DEC MicroPDP-11/73
    Synthesizers: Roland JX-10/SH-09/HS-80/MT-32/D-50, Yamaha DX7-II/V50/TX7/TG33/FB-01, Korg MS-20 Mini/ARP Odyssey/DW-8000/M1, Ensoniq SQ-80, E-mu Emax HD/Proteus-2, Casio CZ-5000, Moog Satellite, Sequential Circuits Prophet-600
    "'Legacy code' often differs from its suggested alternative by actually working and scaling." - Bjarne Stroustrup

  5. #5
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    Emax 1000 with a missing floppy drive.
    = Excellent space heater

  6. #6

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    Sweet
    Computers: Amiga 1200, DEC VAXStation 4000/60, DEC MicroPDP-11/73
    Synthesizers: Roland JX-10/SH-09/HS-80/MT-32/D-50, Yamaha DX7-II/V50/TX7/TG33/FB-01, Korg MS-20 Mini/ARP Odyssey/DW-8000/M1, Ensoniq SQ-80, E-mu Emax HD/Proteus-2, Casio CZ-5000, Moog Satellite, Sequential Circuits Prophet-600
    "'Legacy code' often differs from its suggested alternative by actually working and scaling." - Bjarne Stroustrup

  7. #7
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    You can still buy new ribbons for these. I got one for my DecWriter earlier this year. Forget where, but it was no effort to find a number of suppliers of these ribbons. Easy to install as well.
    b
    @ BillDeg:
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