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Thread: HP 1000/A900, with 7937 HDD

  1. #1
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    Default HP 1000/A900, with 7937 HDD

    I recently acquired two of each - when they were launched in 1982, the feds had a list of 16 countries that they could be sold to. Anywhere else and it was The Inquisition. I must start by giving credit to the HP Computer Museum. It has good write ups, excellent "Cliff's Notes" on testing and a comprehensive archive of documentation. That last turned out to be very important, as I shall relate.

    It all came in an HP 19" rack. Space is tight and I've learned the folly of placing racks in my storage container, which is on the other side of town from my workshop and has no power. So, I deemed it best to remove the boxes from the rack on site.

    The computers were not a problem. The front panels didn't want to pop off easily, but a little judicious leverage with a padded screwdriver and off they came. Four screws and they slid right out and were easily lifted onto some wheeled Metro shelving. This was looking easy - except I was wrong.

    Turning my attention to the first of the HDDs, I removed screws and slid it out on its rails (it had been fitted using the 19" adapter kit). I then started looking for the little buttons, levers or whatever to disengage part of the rail from the rest - but couldn't find them. So, I brought a ridiculously powerful LED light into play, as an aide to my old eyes. Still nothing.

    In desperation, I turned to the HP Computer Museum site and downloaded the Installation and Operation Manual, to my phone. I had already looked at it, at home, to look for anything about locking heads for transit. The good news is that, not only were the heads already locked for transit but whomever retired the drives put a little post-it note on each reading "heads locked". So, I can be reasonably confident that the heads have been locked since it was last powered down.

    The bad news was that I failed to read the rest of the manual. It turns out that the slides for the rails don't separate. Instead, HP sold a special crane, that clamped to the top of the rack. To install a drive you first installed the adapter kit, then installed the rails. then you used the crane to winch up the drive, fully extended the rails, carefully winched the drive down and, when it was lined up, screwed the rails to the drive. Reverse the process to remove.

    I didn't have the special crane, of course. Fortunately, the place that I was getting them from had an abundance of wheeled transports and lumber. With some carts, some 2x4s, some 4x4s and, in one case, some very robust cardboard, with a bit of fettling, I was able to place suitable wheeled platforms under each of the drives, enabling me to remove the screws fastening them to the rails and slide them out without them dropping and suffering impact shock. But, man, those things were heavy!

    As things stand, the computers are on the back seat of my truck and the drives are still on site. I'll get them next week. The computers have all of the base cards, plus some I/O (HPIB, Serial, one of them has an Ethernet card) so seeing whether they pass a self test shouldn't be too onerous. But it might take a while. I've been wanting to get back to my pdp11/34, which will need space to work in. And much of that space is occupied by other projects (like a PET and an IBM 5110 that really should have first call on my attention). So, I may have to move backwards, in order to move forwards.

    I will try to post some photos, though, as and when I can.
    Last edited by roberttx; February 2nd, 2018 at 07:05 PM.

  2. #2
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    I have two HP 1000 A900 boxes myself. I acquired them in bits and pieces, not as completely configured systems.

    I don't have any HPIB interface tape drives. Eventually I'll get around to trying to install RTE-A from an HPDrive emulated tape drive. There should be complete installation tape images on:

    www.bitsavers.org/bits/HP/HP_1000_software_collection/

    I have some 12005 async boards, 12009 HPIB boards, 12040 async mux boards, a couple of 12076 Ethernet boards, and even a couple of 12016 SCSI boards.

    I have a couple of 3MB boards, an 8MB board, and a 3rd party 4MB board that looks like it can be upgraded to an 8MB board but don't have any documentation for that board. I only have one single memory board frontplane connector (12222-60001) and one two memory board frontplane (12222-60002) which limits the memory configuration options. If anyone has a source of A900 12222-6000x memory frontplane connectors I'd like to know.

    I can power up to the VCP console and run self tests on both boxes. That is a far as I have ever gotten with them so far.

  3. #3
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    I think that both of mine have 3 board frontplanes, but I'll double check later.

    It's going to be a while before I get to playing with them, but I figure it can't hurt to make a start on figuring out the procedure.

    I guess the first step is to document the locations of all the boards, then attempt powering it up with a minimal board set. If it passes the self test, reinstall the boards one at a time and try again. Once I'm back to the current configuration, I'll need to get into it, somehow. I think that both have serial boards and one also has ethernet. In terms of cabling, I got one edge connector to HPIB, one edge connector to AUI, marked ethernet and one edge connector to an 8 port serial breakout box, along with some plain old HPIB cables. All of them had been disconnected, so I have no idea what the original cabling setup looked like.

    It seems likely that, if the serial boards are mux ones, access will be via the breakout box with a terminal emulator. I foresee some trial and error there. If I can get past that, It may be time to look at the hard drives. It seems that the first step there is to unlock the heads, power it on and see what happens with the self test. If it passes, connect it via HPIB and power on the drive first, then the computer. I'll have to do some reading to see what comes after that.

    I don't know which computer was connected to which drive, so it might be a good idea to try each drive that I test with both, in case a bootstrap loader does anything interesting. It will be easier to swap the computers, which are much lighter than the drives. I have no idea how to address the ethernet board.

    I'll try to get some photos, this morning, when I unload my truck. It's going to be a long time before I do anything with the drives, at least. Due to their size and weight I'm going to need space and a very robust cart. That will mean clearing the decks of all the other projects that are in the way.

    I had been thinking of abandoning the rack, but now I think I might save it. There's space in my storage container and I can always abandon it later, if necessary.

  4. #4
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    For years I worked at a Chemical Manufacturing plant in their Quality Control Lab doing chemical analysis. HP was always big in Engineering and analytical systems.

    We had an HP1000\A600 for a good while.

    The system ran on RTE-1000 which is very Unix like. The application it ran was a data acquisition and reporting system called LAS (Laboratory Automation System).

  5. #5
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    Here's a few pics. The two A900s have consecutive serial #s and have the same boards in the same order, with the exception of the LAN board, which only the top machine has. From the right, they are:

    HP IB, Sequencer, Data Path, Cache Control, Memory Controller, Memory 3MB, Memory 3MB, HP IB, ISO I/O (or 1SO I/O, I couldn't make it out), 8 Chan Mux, HP IB, LAN.

    The faceplates are in decent shape and the breakout box is an HP 28658-60005 RS-232C Panel.

    a900a.jpg

    a900b.jpg

    a900c.jpg

    a900d.jpg

    a900e.jpg

  6. #6
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    Nice! What terminal are you going to use?

  7. #7
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    Thanks! Probably just a terminal emulator to start with. I have an HP 2393A, but no keyboard or monitor and I think it's one that doesn't play nice with regular monitors.

    As part of my pdp11/34 project, I plan on putting a terminal emulator on some flavor of pi and incorporating it in one of those 1U keyboard and LCD monitor deals. I have around three of them, so might end up making another for the HP, if I end up keeping the rack. Or, the HP might end up going in the rack with the DEC, who knows?

    I'm not looking forward to moving the 7937 hard drives, though! I might need to get some help...

  8. #8
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    There are keyed pins on the connectors of the four board set that makes up the CPU. The pins are half circles and are rotated differently between each board so they should only mate with the correct backplane slot. They also go into the slots from right to left in their board number sequence:

    12201 Sequencer Card
    12202 Data Path Card
    12203 Cache Control Card
    12204 Memory Controller Card

    The first I/O card needs to go in the rightmost slot next to the 12201 Sequencer Card. The only exception is if the optional 12205 Control Store Card is present. If the 12005 Control Store Card is present it needs to be installed next to the 12201 Sequencer Card and connected to it by a 12205-60002 frontplane connector.

    Good thing you have the 28658-63005 RS-232C MUX Panel Cable and the 28658-60005 RS-232C Panel for the 12040 async mux board, and also a 12076-63002 Ethernet Stub cable for the 12076 Ethernet board. The cables are usually more difficult to find and can be more expensive than the boards.

    Do you have two 12040 async mux board, cable, and panel sets? If you only have one then you either need another one of those for the console for the second system, or a 12005 async board.

    Either a 12005 async board or a 12040 async mux board can be used for the VCP console interface. If the 12005 U1 Switch 1 is open the 12005 will not operate as the VCP interface. If the 12005 U1 Switch 1 is closed the 12005 will operate as the VCP interface. If the 12040 U1 Switch 1 is open Port 0 of the 12040 will not operate as the VCP interface. If the 12040 U1 Switch 1 is closed Port 0 of the 12040 will operate as the VCP interface.

    There were several revisions of the 12040 async mux board layout and firmware versions. I have boards with these firmware versions as labeled on the 12040 board EPROM stickers:
    5180-1970 12040B
    5180-7228 12040C
    5180-7268 12040D, Revision 5.02
    The last version I see listed in the manual is 5180-7300 or 5181-8663 (same firmware, different EPROM vendor) 12040D, Revision 5.20.

    There were also several revisions of the VCP firmware, which is located in EPROMs on the 12203 Cache Control Card. I have these firmware versions as labeled on the 12203 board EPROM stickers:
    12203-80009 / 12203-80010 Revision 4004
    5180-4271 / 5180-4272 Revision 4020
    5181-8680 / 5181-8681 Revision 4025

    I don't know if anyone has bothered to archive images of the different versions of the firmware EPROMs. If no one has already done that it would be nice to do so. What firmware versions do you have on you 12040 and 12203 boards?

    If you haven't already found these manuals you need to grab copies of them to start with. These might also be on the hpmuseum.net site as well.
    www.bitsavers.org/pdf/hp/1000/RTE-A/A-Series_CE_Handbook.pdf
    www.bitsavers.org/pdf/hp/1000/A-series/02139-90001_A900ref_Oct86.pdf
    www.bitsavers.org/pdf/hp/1000/A-series/02139-90003_A900_ERD_Apr86.pdf
    www.bitsavers.org/pdf/hp/1000/A-series/02196-90002_1000_26_27_29_Inst_May85.pdf

    There is also some interesting information buried in these documents:
    www.bitsavers.org/pdf/hp/communicator/1000/5955-3257_Mar-1984.pdf
    www.bitsavers.org/pdf/hp/communicator/1000/5961-6201_Dec-1992.pdf

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by roberttx View Post
    Thanks! Probably just a terminal emulator to start with. I have an HP 2393A, but no keyboard or monitor and I think it's one that doesn't play nice with regular monitors.
    You might want to try the QCTerm 700/92 Emulator. I haven't gotten around to trying that myself yet.

    www.hpmuseum.net/display_item.php?sw=585

    I have the color version of the HP 2393A, the HP 2397A. I forget if I was able to get any of the LCD or CRT displays I have to work with it. I was able to get an Epiphan VGA2USB LR configured to sync with it for video capture. (Actual capture is better than the compressed version here).

    SelfTest.jpg

    For future reference, this is the video timing I worked out for the HP 2397A

    Code:
    Oscillator frequency:       35.19MHz
    Pixel clock frequency:      23.46MHz (Oscillator frequency / 1.5) / 0.426uS
    
    Horizontal Resolution:      640 pixels / 27.2805us
    Horizontal Front Porch:     82 pixels / 3.495us
    Horizontal Sync Pulse:      72 pixels / 3.069uS
    Horizontal Back Porch:      126 pixels / 5.371us
    Horizontal Total:           920 pixels / 39.216us / 25.5KHz
    
    Vertical Resolution:        400 lines / 15.686mS
    Vertical Front Porch:       3 lines / mS
    Vertical Sync Pulse:        3 lines / mS
    Vertical Back Porch:        19 lines / mS
    Vertical Total:             425 lines / 16.667ms / 60Hz
    Last edited by gslick; February 3rd, 2018 at 01:27 PM.

  10. #10
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    I used to use Reflection by Walker,Richer & Quinn for terminal emulation. It's on the HPMuseum website.

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