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Unique S-100 computer (Z-80/Vector Graphic/Micropolis)

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    #46
    Originally posted by deramp5113 View Post
    Yeah, I'd go with the 200ns part as well.
    20200302_161312.jpg

    Got the new 2114's, first thing I did was tested them. Right out of the tube 1 works and one didn't. Only needed 1 though, so I threw it in and after a few flips of the power switch and I'm now getting a clean monitor screen! Any commands you recommend (for diagnostics, etc) while in the VG monitor? I'm going to have to read up on it. Also am finding a number of the keys on the keyboard are not responding it all (system makes a soft beep on each key press). I'm guessing I may need to replace some of the switches?

    So, I guess onto the next issue.. I have no way to boot any software. When I found this, it was with a Micropolis dual 1053-II disk drive. However, I have no disks and the bigger problem is there was no FDC board in the computer. How would you recommend proceeding? Disks would be cool and all, but I wouldn't be opposed to using a GoTek either..

    Comment


      #47
      If there's no FDC board you'll need to find one... and then write a boot ROM which knows how to boot from it. And then port CP/M to it. Which is, ahem, a great learning experience but maybe not what you're looking for.

      I don't know much about S100 machines, but original FDC cards are painfully expensive. I know of at least one modern DIY alternative which uses IDE/Compact Flash cards instead of actual disk drives: http://s100computers.com/My%20System...IDE%20Card.htm ...but you'll need to build it yourself.

      I don't know if there's a newer SD based card available. It's possible your machine has a user port with enough GPIO pins that you could use to bitbang an SD card with --- it'd be slow but fairly easy. You'd still need to blow an EPROM, though.

      Comment


        #48
        Easiest way to get CP/M up would be to use a Vector Graphic FDC card and try to find someone with a spare 8" floppy with a copy of V.G.'s CP/M installed. That way you'd be running a complete V.G. board set and CP/M ASAP. I believe V.G. also made a dual FDC/HDD board. The V.G. board set info, history and some manuals can be found on the S-100 computers web site: http://s100computers.com/Hardware%20...%20History.htm

        Your keyboard might need some keytops pulled and the switches cleaned up. The original photo showed a lot of crud on your keys.
        Crazy old guy with a basement full of Pentium 1 laptops and parts

        Comment


          #49
          20200303_080734.jpg20200303_080652.jpg

          Thanks guys.. I should have mentioned that when I found it, it was with this disk drive - Micropolis 1053-II which takes hard-sectored 5 1/4" floppies. However, I've read these are hard to come by, too? Still, I'd need the FDC for it.

          Thanks for the tip on cleaning the switches - will give that a shot.

          Comment


            #50
            Originally posted by nullvalue View Post
            [ATTACH=CONFIG]59493[/ATTACH]Any commands you recommend (for diagnostics, etc) while in the VG monitor?
            Here's a link to a manual for the VG monitor. It's a pretty full featured monitor. You'll find the memory test command useful for testing the rest of the RAM in your system.
            https://deramp.com/downloads/vector_...itor%204.1.pdf


            I am finding a number of the keys on the keyboard are not responding it all (system makes a soft beep on each key press). I'm guessing I may need to replace some of the switches?
            Your keyboard has a large number of keys that are not on the standard keyboard that the VG monitor expects. If the system is beeping for the keypress, it sounds like the switch itself is working. Then again, VG used the capacitive Keytronics keyboard in their FlashWriter based computers and terminals, so if this is also a Keytronics keyboard, I can guarantee you'll have foam switch pads to replace. See the "Keyboard" section on this page for more information https://deramp.com/vector_graphic.html.

            So, I guess onto the next issue.. I have no way to boot any software. When I found this, it was with a Micropolis dual 1053-II disk drive. However, I have no disks and the bigger problem is there was no FDC board in the computer. How would you recommend proceeding? Disks would be cool and all, but I wouldn't be opposed to using a GoTek either..
            See "Floppy Drives" towards the bottom of this page https://deramp.com/vector_graphic.html. You have the Micropolis drives mentioned there. They will work with the Micropolis controller or the Tandon controller mentioned there. I see the Micropolis controller on eBay fairly often. I may also have a spare to sell, I'll have to look. The Vintage Computer Museum guy on eBay has three it looks like: https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vector-Grap...cAAOSw84xdbR7M

            There are a large collection of Micropolis floppy disk images ready to write at the link below. These include both VG branded CP/M, Lifeboat CP/M, and MDOS (Micropolis's disk operating system). Utilities are there to write a new floppy using a serial transfer from your PC to the VG system. This can be done even on a cold machine with no bootable floppy. See
            https://deramp.com/downloads/vector_graphic/software/ for disk images and disk transfer utilities. You'll want to choose from the "56K" configurations as that is how your system appears to be configured (see ReadMe.pdf here: https://deramp.com/downloads/vector_...%20controller/)

            The Micropolis controller uses 16 hard sector disks. These disk can still be found. I can get you a box of ten if you need.

            The Micropolis drives can be hard to restore, especially if the hub bearings are bad. The bearings are difficult to remove without breaking the plastic that holds them in place. I'd remove the belts and work some WD-40 into the hub bearings and hub clamp bearings and see if you can eventually get them to spin freely. If not, they may not be worth trying to restore. Also, the complex door/eject mechanism will need cleaning and a lot of fresh grease.

            As an alternative, you can also use a couple of 96tpi half-height drives like the Teac 55-GFR's that are still readily available and reliable. You won't be able to interchange media with someone using the 100tpi Micropolis drive, but you can interchange media between your drives.

            Mike

            Comment


              #51
              20200303_090729.jpg

              Yes the keyboard is a Key Tronic. I haven't quite figured out how to open the keyboard section of the case yet..

              I've run a partial memory test and got no errors. I'm going to get the expansion board in there and run a full test.

              Haven't opened the disk drive yet or plugged in - so I'm not sure what that situation looks like yet. Thank you & yes if you have a spare please PM & let me know what you'd want for the FDC & box of floppies. Thanks for all this great info! lots to research..

              Comment


                #52
                Unless I missed mention of it Mike is being modest; there's a Virtual Sector Generator available that lets you use the much more common soft sector disks.

                On a related topic, although Chuck seem to like them I haven't been too happy with the Micropolis drives either so, as in Mike's suggestion to use 55-GFRs, I tried replacing my Micropolis drives with more common Panasonic 5 1/4 1.2M HD drives. Works fine reading and writing, but for some reason it won't boot from them. Could it be related to the fact that the boot track is read by the monitor whereas subsequent reads are by the OS? Any thoughts?

                I haven't tried checking/tuning the timing adjustments on the FDC; any thoughts on that?

                TIA

                Comment


                  #53
                  I recall the hard sector controllers are finicky with newer disks drives for which the index pulse outputs are generated by a smart LSI chip. The most important thing is that jumper E2 must be installed to ensure sector pulses are not turned off while the drive is seeking.

                  Itís always a good thing to properly adjust the three pots on those boards. Itís fairly straight forward from what I recall.

                  Mike

                  Comment


                    #54
                    Originally posted by nullvalue View Post
                    I had previously installed the 22uf cap (#49) and it has not made a difference. I currently have it disconnected.
                    #13 talks about adding a 390pf cap on the Z80 to fix MWRITE issues. This is not installed. Think it's worth bothering with?
                    MZ-0018 describes my problem exactly and talks about replacing the crystal. However it looks like I have one of the unaffected model crystals. Should I try replacing it anyway? It also mentions installing that 22uF cap which didn't help.
                    Update on the garbled text power-on screen. I added the 390pf cap and reattached the 22uf cap and the system acts MUCH better. Goes right to the monitor most of the time on the first power-on now, if not the second.. before I'd have to flip the switch 10-20 times before it'd finally get to the monitor.

                    Comment


                      #55
                      What does the keyboard plug into inside the main rack? Is it one of the parallel ports or maybe a serial port?
                      Crazy old guy with a basement full of Pentium 1 laptops and parts

                      Comment


                        #56
                        Originally posted by DeltaDon View Post
                        What does the keyboard plug into inside the main rack? Is it one of the parallel ports or maybe a serial port?
                        20200304_093303.jpg

                        It is parallel. The keyboard plugs into this little board (pictured) that sits in the bottom of the case. Then from there, it plugs into the Flashwriter II board.

                        Comment


                          #57
                          Interesting, they're using the EPROM to translate the output of their custom keyboard to values that the VG monitor and software expect. You'll want to dump that EPROM so you have its content archived.

                          I did something similar to connect a keypad in an SD systems computer to a VG FlashWriter, but it was a simple connection re-wiring - no translation of codes or EPROM required.

                          Picture2 012.jpg

                          Comment


                            #58
                            Originally posted by deramp5113 View Post
                            Interesting, they're using the EPROM to translate the output of their custom keyboard to values that the VG monitor and software expect. You'll want to dump that EPROM so you have its content archived.
                            I thought it was odd, too. The keyboard is dated 1975 so it was already a bit old when this computer was built (1979 or 1980).

                            That EPROM is another 2708. What kind of equipment would I need to dump it? I've already discovered the TL866 doesn't support the 2708.

                            Comment


                              #59
                              Originally posted by nullvalue View Post
                              That EPROM is another 2708. What kind of equipment would I need to dump it? I've already discovered the TL866 doesn't support the 2708.
                              How about one of the ten unused 2708 sockets on your PROM/RAM board

                              Mike

                              Comment


                                #60
                                Originally posted by deramp5113 View Post
                                I recall the hard sector controllers are finicky with newer disks drives for which the index pulse outputs are generated by a smart LSI chip. The most important thing is that jumper E2 must be installed to ensure sector pulses are not turned off while the drive is seeking.

                                It’s always a good thing to properly adjust the three pots on those boards. It’s fairly straight forward from what I recall.

                                Mike
                                Will do; thanks for the tips!

                                Comment

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