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Thread: A new RL02K-DC owner, with no drives to put them in.

  1. #1

    Default A new RL02K-DC owner, with no drives to put them in.

    Well, I think I've finally gone over the deep end. I've been daydreaming of getting a PDP-8 or PDP-11 someday for several years, but the right one hasn't come along at the right time and price yet. Well, today I bought six new-in-box RL02K-DC disk packs on eBay just because they were for sale much cheaper than the prices I've been seeing for dusty old used packs since I've been regularly hunting in the Vintage Computing category. Some of them may become trade fodder for other vintage computing toys, but now I guess I need to start looking for at least one RL02 drive to put them in. And a controller card for the drive. And a computer to put the controller card into. And a hard-copy terminal for the computer. And some software to run on the system. And maybe a nice straitjacket with a DEC logo on the back?

    I don't have a specific PDP-8 or PDP-11 model in my sights yet, but I'm pretty sure that I'll want one with toggle switches on the front panel. Would it be anachronistic to use a machine old enough to have a toggle-switch front panel with a drive that was introduced in 1978? I'm not highly knowledgeable of the DEC world yet. I've logged in to a few VAXen running VMS or BSD in my days, and I've run plenty of tapes through a TU77 back when I had a part time computer operator job in college, but that's about the extent of my hands-on DEC experience.

    Many a year ago, I had a pair of ASR-33 teletypes that I got for free, but I long ago gave them away (also for free, if I recall correctly) to some collectors from Canada who needed them for their PDP-8 restoration. I'd like to get another ASR-33 someday, but so far all of the ones I've seen on eBay have been absurdly expensive and/or listed as pick-up-only and located very far from me.

  2. #2
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    You've just got to be vigilant on Craigslist, and eventually an 11/23 system with an RL02 drive or two will show up. There seem to be a couple each year. There are plenty of us here that can help you get it running. Same is true for your terminal.

    RL02s were used with many machines with lights and switched front panels. I have them on my pdp-8/e. Your problem would be finding the machine with the lights and switches front panel, since they seem to fetch premium $$$ these days (discussed here in other threads....)

    No need for the straitjacket. Welcome to the asylum!

    Lou

  3. #3

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    Thank you for the info and the welcome! In your opinion, what is a reasonable price range for a good RL02 these days? As an RL02 neophyte, is there anything in particular I should look for in an RL02?

    I see one on eBay listed for $495 OBO in Ventura, CA, which is close enough for me to take a vacation day to drive up and pick it up. I don't know that I will make an offer on it, but it's on my watch list for now.

    I downloaded RL02 manuals from Bitsavers, and my quick skimming of them showed me that there's a transport lock over the heads that I should engage before moving an RL02. Is there any other special handling I should know about? Should I expect to need to replace air filters or anything like that?

  4. #4
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    I think $495 is a bit high, especially for a drive in unknown condition. Even if it worked, that is a lot of money (I am a cheap ham.) Other's opinions on value would be better than mine.... Earlier in the summer there were some free RL drives near San Fransisco (if I remember right.) As I mentioned, you have to check Craigslist regularly.

    If you close the little door that blocks head movement, that's sufficient (but very important!). As for the filter, it depends on how filthy the environment was that the drive was operated in. I have not had to change the filters on any of my RL drives, but they came from clean university / office environments to begin with. You can visually inspect them and then decide.

    Lou

  5. #5

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    I would offer less than $495 if I decide to pursue that drive, for sure. If I need to replace air filters, are they hard to find?

    Let's say that I find a drive with a pack still in it, the heads aren't retracted, and I'm unable to power it before moving it. Would it be hard to manually retract the heads? Would such a drive be something to automatically walk away from unless I have new heads already on the shelf? I have not encountered such a drive, but I'm just imagining what I might encounter when looking at a long neglected drive.

    I don't normally look at Craigslist, but I'll see if I can figure out how to set up some automatic searches. I think I've done that before using an RSS feed.

  6. #6
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    I believe the filters are still available. That was discussed here in an earlier thread. I think Jack found some at a decent price.

    As for the drive condition you described where the heads weren't retracted, well, that would be very bad. The pack is trashed and the heads may have a serious problem. It is possible that the oxide might be able to be cleaned out of the heads and they might be usable again. I would not pay anything for a drive in that condition, but if it was offered for free, it would at least make a good parts unit.

    Lou



    Quote Originally Posted by NF6X View Post
    If I need to replace air filters, are they hard to find?

    Let's say that I find a drive with a pack still in it, the heads aren't retracted, and I'm unable to power it before moving it. Would it be hard to manually retract the heads? Would such a drive be something to automatically walk away from unless I have new heads already on the shelf? I have not encountered such a drive, but I'm just imagining what I might encounter when looking at a long neglected drive.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by NF6X View Post
    I bought six new-in-box RL02K-DC disk packs on eBay
    Guy Sotomayor has about a dozen RL02 drives he'd like to sell. You'd have to pick them up in Santa Clara, CA though

  8. #8

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    Sadly, picking them up in Santa Clara would be a deal-breaker for me at this time.

  9. #9

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    I have one of these, do you know what the capacity is? Mine came from a PDP-11 or a VAX 11-780

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by wb5rue View Post
    I have one of these, do you know what the capacity is? Mine came from a PDP-11 or a VAX 11-780
    RL01: 5 Mbytes
    RL02: 10 Mbytes

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