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Data General Nova 1200

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    Data General Nova 1200

    dgnova.jpg

    I finally joined the minicomputer club with a Data General Nova 1200, populated with a CPU board, 4x 8KW core memory boards (for a full 32KW on board), and a CompuScan OEM I/O board.
    20190722_153549.jpg

    The guts of the front panel exposed, showing C&K switches and fancy incandescent bulbs.
    bare panel logic.jpg

    It's a beautiful machine. I've spent a little time inspecting it, and I'm slowing going through it to clean up the general funk that has built up.
    20190722_232821.jpg

    The chassis without the top cover:
    20190722_232828.jpg

    A closeup of the CPU board:
    cpu board.jpg

    So, here's my rough game plan for this machine:
    • Cleaning out the general dust and grime
    • Inspecting things like wires, capacitors, resistors for damage
    • Doing a simple test of the power supply by bringing it up slowly with a variac to reform the caps. No boards or front panel will be installed at that time, just dummy load bulbs on the various power rails. Don't want to blow up anything.
    • Repairing a damaged socket on the I/O board
    • Power on test of each of the boards (counting the front panel as a board) individually

    After that? I'm not entirely sure where to go. This will be a learning experience, and it will mostly likely take a long time. Not only will I be juggling it with other projects, I don't want to rush in and do anything stupid that would damage this piece of history. That being said, I look forward to toggling on that front panel.
    Current projects: The Cactus 6502 front panel homebrew computer , repairing a DG Nova 1200 (it works!), upgrading an OSI Challenger 4P, fixing a Hero 1 robot, monkeying with VIC-20s, reverse-engineering a Decitek paper tape reader/punch, among other things...

    #2
    Very very nice!

    I've been trying to get a DG Nova for years.

    Comment


      #3
      Ooh, jealous
      Computers: Amiga 1200, DEC VAXStation 4000/60, DEC MicroPDP-11/73
      Synthesizers: Roland JX-10/SH-09/MT-32/D-50, Yamaha DX7-II/V50/TX7/TG33/FB-01, Korg MS-20 Mini/ARP Odyssey/DW-8000/X5DR, Ensoniq SQ-80, E-mu Proteus/2, Moog Satellite, Oberheim SEM
      "'Legacy code' often differs from its suggested alternative by actually working and scaling." - Bjarne Stroustrup

      Comment


        #4
        I have a couple videos up on YouTube on my Rolm 1602 that’s a military version of the Nova, how to enter stuff and the like. Take a look at:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XvUpfUj7pzA
        Lot of good Nova stuff out there like the basic debugger. The Holy Grail for me is getting the paper tape version of Nova Basic, been working on that for over five years now but not much progress. Was told that when you bought a Nova the paper tape version of Basic came with it.
        Good Luck.
        Qbus

        Comment


          #5
          Nice! Was this from that typesetting business? I got a Nova clone and a TTY from that guy. Unfortunately, mine didn't come with the IO board, so I'll have to find one... somewhere.
          Current favorites: IBM 5160 (EGA+Hercules+PGC, 8 floppy drives, XT-IDE), DCC D-116 (Nova 1200 clone), ASR 33 Teletype, PDP-8/I (lots of issues, restoration underway)
          Wishlist: IBM 5161 (expansion chassis), Diablo 31/RK02/RK05 or equivalent, Data General equipment, and the meaning of life.

          Comment


            #6
            Anything DG-related, my source is Bruce Ray at Wild Hare Computer Systems. I haven't heard from him in a couple of months, so I hope he's still around.

            http://www.wild-hare.com/
            Last edited by Chuck(G); July 28, 2019, 09:59 AM.
            Reach me: vcfblackhole _at_ protonmail dot com.

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by Nevets01 View Post
              Nice! Was this from that typesetting business? I got a Nova clone and a TTY from that guy. Unfortunately, mine didn't come with the IO board, so I'll have to find one... somewhere.
              Yep, I went and picked up what was left. There were spares for some of the Computer Automation stuff, maybe we can dig you up an I/O board.
              Check out The Glitch Works | My Retro Projects | Vintage Computer Services | Glitch Works Tindie Store -- Vintage Computer Kits and More

              Comment


                #8
                Originally posted by glitch View Post
                Yep, I went and picked up what was left. There were spares for some of the Computer Automation stuff, maybe we can dig you up an I/O board.
                Typesetting + Computer Automation is probably the "Naked Mini", used in the Linotron 202 phototypesetter.

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by Terry Kennedy View Post
                  Typesetting + Computer Automation is probably the "Naked Mini", used in the Linotron 202 phototypesetter.
                  Some of those 202s, yeah, and others. Seems CA and DG stuff was super popular in typesetting, this is not the first DG Nova stuff I've come across from typesetters!
                  Check out The Glitch Works | My Retro Projects | Vintage Computer Services | Glitch Works Tindie Store -- Vintage Computer Kits and More

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by glitch View Post
                    Some of those 202s, yeah, and others. Seems CA and DG stuff was super popular in typesetting, this is not the first DG Nova stuff I've come across from typesetters!
                    I worked at Expertype NY / Computer Composition International (the former was a type shop that had the first 202 in NYC and one of the first overall and the latter was a DG Nova-based company that sold the system that Expertype and others used).

                    Trivia you might find interesting - the first 202s had a dumb design decision (many, actually, but this was the most annoying one) where if it didn't like the commands sent to it, it would act like a mule and start kicking (either locking up and refusing to do anything, or spewing loads and loads of roll film with gibberish on it - one of my favorites hung on my office wall and said - in a number of fonts - "Font le oops"). The only way to know what happened was to open the front door and look at the 16 error LEDs on one of the cards. I designed a remote display using a Radio Shack clock project case and 4 of the HP 5082 self-decoding hexadecimal displays, connected via a cable to the aformentioned logic board. If you find one that has white wire-wrap-style wires going to the LEDs on the board and coming out on a DB25 with a zinc chromate-yellow metal shell, that's one of mine. I saw a lot more 202s with those displays than I ever built, so either someone was copying me and selling them, it was a "great minds think alike" thing, or Mergenthaler decided to add it themselves. These greatly increased productivity (and decreased the amount of spoiled film from opening the doors and jostling the film receiver cassette).

                    Also, if you've ever seen a transparent green plastic box a little taller than a business card, with a business card from Jack Powers and a TTS paper tape with a demo of what CCI could do for owners of a 202, that was me as well. IIRC, we sent out a copy of the "ANPA Fonts" diskette with it so everyone would have a copy of the necessary fonts - font licenses were originally keyed to individual machines and later extended to all machines at a customer, but the ANPA Fonts were the original demo fonts and were not machine-locked.

                    Later on I went on to found a company, Pro-Comp, that sold front-ends to the Nova so customers could do input and editing on a much less expensive system. Our typical offering was a multi-user system with 4 Ann Arbor Ambassador terminals running MP/M and Wordstar. It had a dedicated interface to the Nova that looked like another tape reader for fast transfers. Fisher Composition was one of our first customers and their entry operators said they liked it much more than the official custom ADM-2 terminal. Some of the books entered on my system were "The Islamic Bomb" (Weissman/Krosny, 1981); "License Renewed" (Gardner, 1981) and "2010:Odyssey Two" (Clarke, 1982). These were all "first US edition" books for major publishers. Note that despite the afterword in 2010 stating that it was "transmitted electronically directly to the printer" it went to the publisher who printed it out on dot-matrix paper and marked up the copy. Fisher got the sheets of copy and it was re-keyed on one of my systems at Fisher's Arkville, NY location.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally posted by Nevets01 View Post
                      Nice! Was this from that typesetting business? I got a Nova clone and a TTY from that guy. Unfortunately, mine didn't come with the IO board, so I'll have to find one... somewhere.
                      Nevets01, this is all very exciting to me. So, what caused you to ask if it was from a typesetting business, and might have come from a phototypesetter?

                      I've only recently come to learn about DG Novas in these things...There's a nice DG Nova in this Singer Photomix 8400, which is now part of my collection:
                      https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Htb...ew?usp=sharing

                      Notice no front face control panel in this one. Was yours (or Commodore Z's) extracted from such a machine? And if so, how did it come with such a beautiful front face?

                      And I'm curious, has anyone else preserved one or more of these [gargantuan and VERY heavy!!!] phototypesetter machines in their entirety, as opposed stripping out the DG Nova and scrapping the rest?
                      Last edited by firebirdta84; November 14, 2020, 10:48 PM. Reason: add specificity

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by Qbus View Post
                        ...The Holy Grail for me is getting the paper tape version of Nova Basic, been working on that for over five years now but not much progress. Was told that when you bought a Nova the paper tape version of Basic came with it.
                        Qbus
                        Qbus, I assume that you're looking for a vintage 50-year-old tape with Nova Basic on it. But in the meantime, what would you think about Nova Basic being punched new/today on a paper tape for you?

                        I don't think that I have the capability to do this yet, but if it would be meaningful to you, I'll keep it in mind with my Nova restoration and build project list for the next year or so...

                        Best,
                        AJ

                        Comment


                          #13
                          That would be great, in the playroom I have facilities for reading, punching or copying paper tape. So just about any source will work within reason. Also have facilities for reading, writing and editing ROMS so I am just about state of the art for 1970
                          Paper tape has a unique advantage being it can with care last forever, floppy drives are fairly durable but beyond a point the drives themselves are getting harder to find. A lot of the old first generation MFM and IDE hard drives are still around and work but that’s just the ones that were for some reason put aside and never left on for years on end and somehow the old disk packs in things like the RL and RK drives chug on, can’t say as much for a lot of the modern stuff.
                          But paper tape is so simple, no media to decompose or magnetic elements to weaken or special heads to read can see that lasting forever. The only limitation is it’s not practical for large files.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by firebirdta84 View Post
                            Nevets01, this is all very exciting to me. So, what caused you to ask if it was from a typesetting business, and might have come from a phototypesetter?

                            I've only recently come to learn about DG Novas in these things...There's a nice DG Nova in this Singer Photomix 8400, which is now part of my collection:
                            https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Htb...ew?usp=sharing

                            Notice no front face control panel in this one. Was yours (or Commodore Z's) extracted from such a machine? And if so, how did it come with such a beautiful front face?

                            And I'm curious, has anyone else preserved one or more of these [gargantuan and VERY heavy!!!] phototypesetter machines in their entirety, as opposed stripping out the DG Nova and scrapping the rest?
                            So I follow up on a lead from this very forum about a typesetter's warehouse that had closed down, and the owner was trying to sell some of the contents.
                            When I got there, there were two DG Novae, and a Digital Computer Controls D-116. I ended up with the D-116, since he wanted a great deal more than I could afford for the 'genuine' Novae, as well as an ASR-33 teletype and some other odds and ends.
                            As it turns out, just a couple days after I left, Glitch came and bought the entire contents of the warehouse (and believe me, it was a LOT) for a large sum of money. And Z bought his Nova off of him. The fact that he posted about a fairly obscure computer shortly after three of them had sold led me to (correctly) suspect that they had come from the same source.
                            All three machines were freestanding, not in a rack or any other enclosure, when I got there. If they had been extracted, I have no way of knowing for sure or for certain.
                            Now on to speculation.
                            If you look closely at the I/O board that Z got with his Nova, you may notice a rather snazzy logo for a company called "CompuScan". A large nameplate from the same company is present on my Teletype. A couple hours of googling led me to the conclusion that CompuScan was a company what developed early OCR systems.
                            Speculation: Z's Nova (and my Teletype, attached to it) was attached to some form of early OCR scanner at some point in its life.
                            I can't say whether it was still there or not, I only had a few hours to look around, and I was considerably less savvy at that point. You would probably want to ask Glitch. If anyone has/had it, it would likely be him.
                            Current favorites: IBM 5160 (EGA+Hercules+PGC, 8 floppy drives, XT-IDE), DCC D-116 (Nova 1200 clone), ASR 33 Teletype, PDP-8/I (lots of issues, restoration underway)
                            Wishlist: IBM 5161 (expansion chassis), Diablo 31/RK02/RK05 or equivalent, Data General equipment, and the meaning of life.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              So far, all my work with Rolm Military system lets me assume that they are basically repackaged Data General NOVA systems. The instruction set is the same, devices like paper tape readers and terminals are all the same addresses and instruction set and so on. The issue is now on the latest Rolm system that I just picked up has a Real Time Clock card, anyone have any idea what the address was that they used for the RTC option? Or how it was set? It has no battery so going to assume that once you turned on the system you loaded a current date and time and went on from there. Would also be a question if it keeps the date along with the time if its Y2K compliant? Not that it matters being I just want to use the clock function.

                              Comment

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