Vintage hardware is big

I started moving some of the computers that are basically ready to go up into my office, since there’s little point in having them all tucked away in the downstairs lab space.


But, the thing is, old computers are big. I am clearly going to face a challenge trying to make the computers visible and individually usable while not at the same time leaving them looking crammed together. And there’s also the minor point that I can’t make my office itself difficult to use. I need to plan this out a bit better. The desk turns out to hold fewer computers than I anticipated.


This is just a start, but even if the iMacs, LC II, eMac, and //e are usable in these positions, I certainly have not solved the problem of not having them look crammed together.

I think my current plan will be to clear out the shelves (by scanning and recycling the non-bound paper, and actually organizing the books), and then put the whole set of 800MHz iMac G4s up there (five in all, but six with another one that I’m expecting to acquire within a couple of months), with the idea of using them in tandem, either as some kind of XGrid, or as a kind of unified display system to display something useful in big fonts (weather map, RSS feeds, IRC chats, twitter feeds, something like that). The G4 Cube setup will probably also go on those shelves, though I’m going to have to re-space them a bit. Not pictured here are a number of file cabinets on the opposite wall, currently supporting a few boring Linux servers with big CRTs, but soon I think to be supporting the G3 iMacs (graphite, ruby, snow, and bondi) and maybe the eMac as well. (I will need to see how it looks, though. The whole point, I think, of the iMac G3s is to be able to see them in profile, since that’s where they’re aesthetically interesting. Just seeing the front of them will not do.)

All of these machines can in principle be either controlled from the modern iMac via teleport or some form of VNC screen sharing. I was planning on leaving at least the G4 Cube in Mac OS 9, and probably one or more of the iMac G3s as well, so I need to find an appropriate remote control solution for those. The monster CRT to the right of the modern iMac will probably go, with the 1GHz iMac G4 in its place, for use in meetings. Behind the modern iMac right now is a big pile of hard drives (four Drobos, two homebrew RAID enclosures, two Seagate FreeAgents), which I’d like to try to reduce the footprint of. This will mainly leave the desktop itself open for the Apples II, since those are not remotely controllable and are too big for the shelves (and not usable atop the file cabinets). But I have a lot of them (the //e shown, but also a IIgs, 1-3 Apple ][+es, a platinum //e, a clone ][+, 1-3 //cs, and possibly a //c+). Even with the desk space reserved for Apples II, they aren’t all going to fit there. Plus, the LC II kind of belongs there as well, being an honorary //e by virtue of its PDS card. Also, I’m not all that keen on putting them all right up to the window (since it is the Apples II that are susceptible to yellowing, although it is not clear that sunlight is the culprit, and this window doesn’t admit all that much sunlight anyway), but I think that’s how it has to happen. Maybe I need to tier them somehow? I also have to get one or more SE/30s in here somewhere, once their capacitors have been attended to, an ImageWriter II in a position that it can be used by the Apples II (as well as over an AppleTalk network), and probably an iMac G5.

There are also some towers and beige boxes (several Yikes! G3s not currently functioning, a MDD G4, a Performa 6116CD, three Power Macintosh beige desktops and a beige Power Macintosh tower). These could all in principle be on the shelves facing sideways, but it’ll be tricky to keep the badge visible and the drives accessible. And I think those will require flatscreen monitors that I have yet to acquire if they’re going to be happy on the shelves.

Given what has turned into more of a space crunch than I had previously managed to comprehend, I think apart from the iMac G4s, I will limit myself to one instance of any given kind of machine in my office, and leave the duplicates out of sight in the lab or at home. I do after all need to use this as an office, though I think I will like being surrounded by this mini Apple museum more than I like the way it’s been for years, where I’ve been surrounded by piles of papers and randomly placed books.

There’s still a ways to go yet.

Press reaction to the QX-10

Here are some scans I just did of a couple of reviews from Microcomputing magazine in 1983 on the Epson QX-10.

Microcomputing 1983apr Microcomputing 1983may

The quintessential computer? Epson’s QX-10 hits the high-end micro market.” Jim Hansen, Microcomputing, April 1983.

Vive la difference! Valdocs: While the Epson QX-10 offers impressive features, it’s the software—particularly the Valdocs operating system—that puts it a step ahead of its competitors.” Jim Hansen, Microcomputing, May 1983.

I have scanned (but not processed) the entire April 1983 issue, and I’ll probably do the same with the May 1983 issue. Maybe I’ll also fix one page on the scan above that got too close to the edge. I don’t have the following issue (which should contained the third installment of the QX-10 review), but I do have a miscellaneous later issue. Scanning these is a bit tedious, so it’ll be slow going, but I intend to scan most of the documents I have at some point.

I a e r t r P i t n

A small batch of color ImageWriter ribbons arrived, which were indeed still wrapped in their plastic, just as the auction had indicated. However, the plastic had holes in various places. So these were not after all the still-sealed ribbons I’d thought they’d be. I picked one and opened it, and it looked nice enough.

Iwii color ribbon

Then tried a print test. The ribbon worked I think, but the printer, not so much.

Iwii color test

Now I think I may need to actually replace the print head, though I’ll need to do a little bit more research on what can cause this. This looks kind of familiar, in a vague sort of way. Maybe I just need to clean it? I’ll see.

Rambling about modern usefulness of vintage machines

So, I’ve been collecting a bunch of vintage machines, mostly because of the nostalgia value, but practically speaking, what good are they? What realistically might ever lead me to turn one of them on? Some of these are just visually appealing (the G3 and G4 iMacs, the G4 Cube), or have very strong nostalgia value (the Apple ][+), but some of the others are sort of interesting but I’d still kind of like to explore the possibility that they can still be actually used for something.

As a sort of prerequisite to that, there are a couple of considerations. One is that if they are going to continue to work, they need to not have dead hard drives, and they will also probably need to connect in some way to the modern machines.

For the most part, I think I will probably run the old machines on the operating system they shipped with, or at least not with the absolute maximum operating system they can support—the newer the OS, the more demanding it will be on the hardware and the slower the experience will wind up being. Which will mostly guarantee that I wouldn’t use them. Plus, at this point, capabilities are not as much an issue as usability—if there’s something that the LC II can’t do because it’s running too old of a system, the next computer over should be able to do whatever it is.

One concern I have about operating these machines in the modern world is that they need to have access to large storage, preferably replaceable large storage. There are a couple of categories of problems to address here. The oldest of my machines, the Apple II series computers, didn’t ship with any permanent large storage, but primarily used 140K floppies. It was possible, however, to buy hard drives for these machines. This was all done with expansion cards, and the earlier operating system (DOS 3.3) was pretty limited anyway in how large a space it could keep in mind at one time, so larger storage had to be split up into “volumes” since the largest disk DOS 3.3 can imagine is 400K. The newer operating system, ProDOS, can see partitions up to 32M, and GS/OS (which I can of course only use on the IIgs) allows up to 2GB partitions. These are of course laughably small data spaces by today’s standards, but of course one doesn’t need a lot of space for the software to run these old machines. So, with respect to “authenticity,” I think it’s fair to say that, since hard drives were made for these machines, introducing a hard drive (or something that works like a hard drive) retains the authentic experience. And, really, I don’t have much nostalgia for constantly swapping floppy disks, having bad sectors crop up, etc.

For these systems, there are a few different modern solutions that involve using Compact Flash cards in newly creating interface boards, and this seems ideal. First of all, CF cards are cheap and they have no moving parts. The only problem I foresee here is that finding CF cards small enough might wind up being a problem in the future. But, even if one were outright given to me, I’m not sure I’d want a true vintage hard drive for these machines. First of all, hard drives just fail. Using a 25-year-old 20MB hard drive is likely to very soon lead to tears. And while it’s working, it’s going to be loud. The CF card solutions, on the other hand, use a medium that’s modern enough that it’s trivial to connect them via a USB CF reader connected to current Macs (or even to the built-in SD reader in my MacBook Pro, though I haven’t yet been able to locate such an adapter). Which solves one of the other big issues with working with the vintage hardware: getting data in and out of them. I plan to eventually put CF drives in all of my Apple II-era machines. I’m eagerly awaiting the second run of the CFFA3000 card, which I will certainly get at least one of. I’ve already ordered a Focus IDE HD + CF controller card, I’m just waiting for it to be built (currently I’m guessing it’ll still be a couple of weeks away). Another option in this realm is the MicroDrive IDE controller, and perhaps I’ll consider getting one of these too, just to compare them. These are not an option for the //cs and //c+, but for my three ][+-type machines, my //e, and my IIgs, one of these storage options will really make it much more likely that I’d actually use them.

One complication in the Apple II area is that many disks were actually copy protected, to make it difficult to just hand around copies to all of your friends. This led to a pretty active cracking scene, and most things were reverse engineered or imaged in various ways that led to copyable versions, although this means that the only way you can run a lot of these programs/games is to use the version with the crack screen. And also, some things could be copied using specialized copy programs (Copy II Plus, Locksmith), but the resulting copy was still just as copy-protected as the original. The issue with all of this is that in the context of a hard drive that is supposed to have the contents of many disks on it, there’s a large chunk of the software that simply can’t be used that way. The only way to use these things is to boot the floppy disks. The CFFA3000 does have some compatibility with “nibble” images, but it is still stated as being incompatible with protected floppies. I’m not sure what the best solution to this will end up being. It might really be that the best solution for these is to just use real floppy drives, but for everything else the hard drive will be a big help. There’s a considerable cost, of course. The new cards are all in the region of $150, which is in many cases more than the entire machine is worth to an ebay audience. But the usability improvement probably justifies it. I also like the CF solution better than a real hard drive solution because CF cards are cheap to replace and easy to read/write on modern machines, and even though CF drives do have a limit on the number of writes you can do to them, the Apples II are not likely to come anywhere near those limits.

This does still leave the //cs and //c+ out in the cold, however. The options here are really limited. The compact form of these machines means that there are no expansion slots in which any kind of CF or hard drive card could go, and there is no external connector other than the serial connections for the printer and modem. Given that there is also no AppleTalk, they’re really stuck with floppy disks, possibly transferred over with ADTpro, but still ultimately stored on floppies. The //c+ is capable of using 3.5″ floppies, but at least two if not all three of my //cs are ROM 255 versions, which did not have support for 3.5″ drives. The best I could hope for here, really, would be some kind of front end file transfer program that could bring in a program over the serial port from a hosted catalog (like what ADTpro does) and then run it in place (ADTpro only allows for downloading disk images to be written to physical disks). As far as I know, there is no hardware solution available to the //c that can get me any closer than that for larger non-floppy storage, and the serial loader I’m imagining here probably has yet to be written.

There is a similar issue once we get to the older Macs, at least with respect to the life expectancy of the internal hard drives, though at least these all shipped with hard drives installed and know at least something about how to deal with them. The oldest Macs I currently have are three SE/30s and an LC II, which originally shipped with an 80MB SCSI hard drive. That’s a small hard drive. If the internal drive fails, which it will surely do at some point, finding a drop-in replacement will not be easy. Furthermore, the OS prior to System 7.5 had a limit of 2GB that it could see. But even a 2GB SCSI drive is going to be hard to locate. CF cards, on the other hand, quite easily get to 2GB. A CF card in a Mac worries me a little bit more than in an Apple II, because it’s more likely to start using swap space for virtual memory, and so more likely to hit the write-limit. But artmix on ebay (the manufacturer) currently sells some SCSI CF card interfaces, and I might just go for some, at least to try. Advantages I see here primarily is that even if the CF card dies, it’ll be much cheaper to replace the CF card than it will be to try to replace an actual hard drive. And, I can periodically, if I so desired, crack open the Macs and take out the CF card to transfer data to/from them or back them up (although this doesn’t sound like a great idea for the SE/30s. The hard drive in the LC II is trivially accessible, but in the SE/30 the hard drive is tucked away under some hardware that would need to be removed before I could get at the CF card inside. I guess I could get something like this SyCard CFextend 182E and position the cable in some way so I could get at the card without disassembling removing the video board, but the thing costs over $100, so I’d have to be really sure I’d actually want to change the card often).

Once we get to IDE Macs, such as the G3 and G4 iMacs, we start getting into Mac OS X territory (potentially, though as I stated at the outset, I’d probably be running Mac OS 8 or Mac OS 9 on many of them), where disk access gets even more intense. An option here is to just get a SSD drive like the OWC Mercury Pro Legacy, but they are expensive too. They’re likely to be more resilient for this kind of use than a CF-based solution, but if they fail, an entirely new drive is required. And the ability to just extract the “hard drive” to read on a more modern machine is lost. Also, on these early Macs, the first partition of a big drive has to be no larger than 8GB, and the whole drive can’t been seen past 128GB. And even those are pretty small to expect to find these days. I think the 1MHz iMac G4 can see bigger drives, but I don’t think the earlier ones can. The MDD Mac is supposed to be able to.

Of course, the expense here starts to pile up. In the case of the Mac machines, I may well hold off replacing their hard drives until I need to do so, since many of them do have working drives in them. For those that lack hard drives altogether, though, I may consider some of these CF or SSD options.

On to the other main obstacle I can see in making these older machines usable, which is connectivity. The newer Macs have ethernet capability and, some have Airport capability, so I will probably try to ensure that those connect in the modern way. I even have an ethernet card for one of the SE/30s, but I’m not sure how useful it will be. I do not anticipate putting an ethernet card in the LC II, because it has only one PDS slot, and that slot is reserved for the Apple IIe card. Most of the older Macs can speak AppleTalk, so I expect that I’m going to try to set up a small AppleTalk network among those machines so that they can talk to one another. And, the IIgs should also be able to participate in this as well, since it has both the port and the ability to use AppleTalk in ProDOS and GS/OS. None of the prior Apples II have AppleTalk ability, although an enhanced //e can use a Workstation Card to get on an AppleTalk network (and I am not sure at the moment whether my //e is enhanced or not).

The connectivity of the Apples II is most in question at this point. I have modems for two of them, although they don’t really have anyone to talk to over the phone line these days. I suppose it’s possible that if I could get them to ignore the lack of a dial tone I might be able to get them to talk to each other, though it seems a little bit silly. Still, I have these programs written for the Apple Cat that it might be nice to see running again, but it would require a second Apple Cat and I’m not sure that it wouldn’t actually require two phone lines as well, since phone lines did provide some power that the modems may be sensitive to (meaning that just running a phone cable from one modem to the other directly most likely won’t work). I might be able to rig something up if I ignore those modem cards and convince the Apple II that it’s talking with an external modem over a serial connection when it is actually talking to one of the Macs, emulating a modem. I can’t have been the first one to think of this, some kind of solution like this may well exist out there. This would require getting Super Serial Cards for the //e and ][+es, but they are still pretty cheap and plentiful at the moment. Though I might also want to stop and ponder what exactly the connectivity is useful for, too, in these cases. The Apple Cat is capable of turning things on and off (I think—I have the expansion card that allows for this, but I’m not sure that I have or can easily get the right interfaces that would get it to an actual power outlet), so perhaps if I could make the machine with the Apple Cat in it to be somehow addressable on the network I could get it to turn things (e.g., neighboring computers?) off and on. (That would be excellent if I had it set up so that if my modern office iMac freezes badly [as it sometimes has due to some kind of lockup of the Firewire ports], I could send a signal to the Apple ][+ and turn the iMac off and on again.) The biggest file transfers will probably really happen via CF cards, though, not serial connections with the modem port. So, what else would connectivity buy me? Mainly just the ability to save small, incremental files (perhaps for use in a disk image) somewhere they could be retrieved without pulling the CF card. And so maybe it isn’t really worth it, though I have to say, the thought of an unconnected computer does really make it feel isolated and lonely.

But on to the plan, what could these things be useful for? I have pondered the possibility of using the iMac G4s for art, and writing a screen saver that runs on all 6-7 simultaneously, but that doesn’t really seem useful. However, I think there is just no way that I’m going to be able to come up with something that six machines will be useful for. Perhaps I can get some form of XGrid working on them, so they can look for extraterrestrial signals or compute fractals. Maybe if I can get a fast enough connection with them going that screen sharing is possible, such that it’s effectively six extra monitors of some sort. Even if they aren’t actually sharing the screen, it would be easy enough to put PDFs I’m trying to read up on them, and they are pretty compact. The SE/30s are capable of running A/UX, and maybe I’d set one of them up running that, or, more likely, NetBSD. Once I’ve done that, the ethernet-connected one can be a little server of some kind. Though the strength of these old machines is not going to be found in fast transfer of large amount of data, it would need to be something useful that it could do just kind of directing traffic or handling low volumes of text. Apart from that, some of the vintage machines can be used to run games of their era that no longer run on newer machines—although I don’t really have much time to play them. Microsoft Word 4.0d or 5.1 is probably really super-fast under System 6, there might actually be a use for that, except that I don’t tend to use Word, and I have to be able to get the resulting files over to a modern machine.

I think there’s some work to be done here to try to find actually useful things that these old computers can do. I’d like to think of something clever that they do better than modern machines, though I suspect much of it will just revolve around interacting with other vintage machines in a way that modern machines no longer support.

Polishing the lamps

Things that come from computer recyclers tend to be a little on the grimy side. So, I spent a little while cleaning up all five of the iMac G4s and checking to see if they worked.

IMacG4a cleaning

A couple of them appear not to have hard drives in them. Really, none of them should have had hard drives in them (but I won’t reveal who it was who gave these to me, this was a bit of a data security lapse on their part). A couple weren’t properly wiped, but I’ll Do the Right Thing and wipe them myself.

IMacG4e info

I also got a couple of install disks, which happened to be in the drives (though they weren’t really appropriate—one had a PowerMac G4 disc, though this is an iMac, and another had a install disc for MacOS 9, into which most iMac G4s can’t boot). However, I was not able to start them up off the CDs, which I’m not that pleased about, I think they should have at least reached a “this machine is not compatible” screen. I didn’t investigate this, though, and I was at least able to read the disc on another machine that booted onto its own hard drive. But they all started up, at least to a blinking folder icon. So, they all work.

IMacG4a pmg4cd

IMacG4c macos9cd

Of the three that booted off their own internal hard drives, two were 800MHz models, and one was a 1GHz model. Don’t know about the other two (which didn’t have internal hard drives), and I still haven’t started up the other one I already had.

Though I still can’t quite see out what I’m going to sensibly do with six of these. I think it’s quite possible that I’ll clean them up a little more and install an appropriate blank system then see if somebody on ebay wants them. These are a little new to be properly “retro,” so I wouldn’t expect to turn much profit. Still, the main thing would be to put them in an appropriately appreciative home.

The nice thing about the iMac G4s is that you can squeeze them into pretty small spaces. Here are three of them sitting on my shelf (above a couple of iMac DV/SEs, a Bondi iMac, near a couple of SE/30s, and a couple of different generations of PowerMac).

Labspace sb2012b

All in all, I do think that I’d be wise to resist further urges to visit computer recyclers. This room is about at capacity now.

I should audit that terrarium ][+

Having just learned a little more about how to identify old pieces (from parts of Tony Diaz’s retr0blasting talk from KFest 2010), I’m now seeing that in the pictures I have of the terrarium ][+, it is actually pretty old. I didn’t think the serial number looked that old. True, it was originally sold as a 16K machine. But now I don’t understand the serial numbers. This old one has an old sticker that says A2S2-1497165. My own Apple ][+ has a newer style sticker and a lower number, A2S2-542439. Yet I think there is no doubt at all that the terrarium ][+ is significantly older.

Terriiplus a2s1016 trim

Myiiplus a2s21048a trim

The RAM chips I can see here, that were added later (given that the label says model A2S1016), are all dated from the early-to-mid 1980’s, and the 74LS257 is from early 1979, and the 75LS51 is from late 1978.

Terriiplus keyboard attachment

Terraiiplus chipdates

It also has 16K memory select chips in there, which my newer ][+ does not have.

Terraiiplus 16kmemselects

The board indicates that it was assembled in December 1980, and the ROM D8 and ROM D0 were manufactured in mid-1980.

Terraiiplus boarddate

Terraiiplus romd8d0

So, everything I can see from the limited photo set that I already have indicates that this is mostly as originally assembled in early December 1980, with the remaining RAM banks filled not long afterwards. According to the Apple II history site, the Apple ][+ ran from June, 1979, to December, 1982. The board date on my Apple ][+ is mid-November, 1982, which confirms my belief that my own Apple ][+ was one of the last ones made. And apparently, the terrarium ][+ was one of the early-middle ones.

Myiiplus boarddate

I still don’t understand the serial numbers, that’s just weird. Maybe they started over (or started lower, anyway) when the model number switched from A2S1048 to A2S1048A?

The Apple ][+ takes a shower

Frustrated with the extent of the goop on the motherboard of the Apple ][+, I started pulling out the chips, with the idea that I would just take the motherboard home and stick it in the dishwasher. There are a lot of chips. Eventually I got them out, with no new casualties beyond the broken pin from before.

Myiiplus chips out

It took a long time and a lot of effort to get the keyboard disconnected from the motherboard, the keyboard connector having been very close to goop ground zero, and once I got it out, it seems to have very goopy pins. But at least I didn’t lose any.

Myiiplus keyboard pins goop

I put it in a big static shielded bag and was preparing to go, when it occurred to me that there is a shower in the basement men’s room in my building.

Oh, what the heck. One thing I am not (and this could wind up being the death of some of these machines detailed here on this blog) is patient. I’d have to bring the board home, then bring it back, keeping it from being damaged on the T in the process. Why not just put the thing in the shower? That’s a rough approximation of a dishwasher. So, off I went to the shower.


Myiiplus before slots


Myiiplus after slots

Interestingly, that goop that just wasn’t coming up through long, annoying scrubbing with alcohol and Q-tips washed right off in the shower. Oh the time I wasted. The SE/30 boards are going straight in the shower next time I crack those machines open, at least assuming that the Apple ][+ winds up ultimately working.

Myiiplus after spcl b

Unfortunately, I also discovered after the board shower that I somehow missed a chip. So, maybe that was a casualty too, though I don’t know how specifically this would have damaged it. I pulled it out anyway.

The little lab space I have all this stuff in, being in a basement, has been equipped with a dehumidifier, so, I set the motherboard upside down on some paper towels to drain (after having shake-dried it and patted it down with paper towels), with the blower of the dehumidifier pointed at it. And went home.

Myiiplus dehumid

Next time, I’m going to have to start dealing with the chips, a few of which (near the original home of the goop) have some pretty dodgy-looking legs. Maybe I’ll just soak the legs for a bit in alcohol to loosen whatever it is and try to wipe them off. Hoping that will work. The amputated leg from the 74LS194AN is still sitting in the socket, and I may have to try to get that off. Oh, and actually, there was one socket (why did I not record which one??) that I actually accidentally pulled slightly off the board as well. It slid up in much the same way that chips slide out of their sockets, and there was no visible damage when I pushed it back down. It felt as if it were sliding back into place. So, I’m hoping that I didn’t permanently break some necessary connections. I think there may still be a bit to do with this machine even after I put the chips back in, particularly with respect to the broken 74LS194AN and its socket, but I feel like the time when I can actually turn this machine on and see if it powers up is now within sight.

Myiiplus after broken pin b

ImageWriter II

The next up in the line of things that I have re-bought after having had, then dopily disposed of, is an ImageWriter II. It arrived today, and I wasn’t sure what to expect, really, given the description in the auction. But, I expect the description helped it be at least reasonably cheap.

ImagewriterII auction

The reason I decided on the ImageWriter II is that it is one of the few printers that actually can serve pretty much all of these vintage machines. It is possible to print to it from an earlier Apple II via a Super Serial Card, and it is also possible to just hook it up to a //c, IIgs, or ADB Mac and print that way. Printers are big, and I don’t have the space (or interest in vintage printing, really) for a printer for each computer in my arsenal. And, actually, it turns out I do still have, for some reason, my original ImageWriter II power cable (which is identifiable by the fact that its plug is at a right angle).

Here is the ImageWriter as it arrived. There’s a red light, but that’s ok, that’s just the signal of it not having paper (and, though you can see the paper, you can also see that it has fed all the way through, so there is no paper remaining on which to print). It took a little bit of digging to find out how to perform a test print (turn it off, hold down form feed, turn it on with form feed still held down, then release them). I pulled out the printer ribbon, tightened it up, held my breath, and gave it a try.

ImagewriterII arrived

And it worked fine. Needs a new ribbon, but as far as I can tell, that’s all it’ll take to get this working nicely again.

ImagewriterII first test

You are the goop beneath my chips

I got a chip puller, and pulled up a couple of chips that were sitting in the goopy area of the old ][+. There is some that has gotten under the bigger socket, as I’d feared. I’m starting to wonder if I need to really just plain wash/soak this board, and stop messing around with Q-tips.

Homeiiplus chipgoop2

Unfortunately, the goop grabbed hard, and I wound up accidentally amputating one of the legs off one of the smaller chips. I think that may be fatal, I’ll have to see if I can get a replacement, though maybe I can solder it into the socket. Though maybe I also need to figure out how to replace the sockets themselves. (The chip looks to be fairly replaceable, though I’m not really an expert at reading chip numbers. I don’t know what the significance of the “8124” is, but otherwise the 74LS194AN seems to be available from a number of sources.)

[Edit: I now know the significance of “8124”, thanks to a comment made in the middle of Tony Diaz’s retr0blasting talk from KFest 2010, the chip I killed was just about to turn 31 years old, having been made in the 24th week of 1981.]

Homeiiplus amputee chip

Homeiiplus amputee chip number

The goop has gotten all over the legs of the bigger chip (which came out intact, eventually). I’m hoping this one is salvageable, since this is less likely to be easily replaceable short of finding a spare parts machine. (Of course, I do have two ][+es, but I was really hoping that I could get them both to work.)

Homeiiplus dirty legs

It’s still not clear how optimistic I should be here.

BBooting the QX-10

I popped open the QX-10 again today and swapped the A and B drives. When I had them out, I observed that the B drive (the then Right drive, second picture) has a chip that the A drive (the then Left drive, first picture) lacked.

Epson drivea

Epson driveb

“Hmm,” I thought, “maybe that’s why the A drive wasn’t working. Maybe somewhere along the line it lost a chip it needs, maybe I’ll need to find a replacement chip.” I reversed the drives (and the DIP switch settings, which was probably the most important thing), reassembled, et voilà:

Epson bbooted

Cool. Except the (now) Right drive (still labeled “A” but now logically “B”) wasn’t working at all. Well, except that its activity light was coming on at a very, very low level and just staying lightly lit.

I was distracted from thinking about that further by the thought that I should right now back up the boot disk onto the new floppy media I had (though this was not going to be possible regardless, all of the copy functionality I had available on the boot disk requires both drives to be working). But, once I popped out the boot disk, I couldn’t convince the left drive to accept any further disks, even the one I had just popped out. The problem, I correctly guessed, is that spring return mechanism mentioned in the previous post about the drives wasn’t returning. The pad didn’t want to slide back, it needs to be lubricated. If it doesn’t slide back, then it remains in a kind of unready state where the physical disk capture mechanisms won’t go.

Epson drivespring

So, I took it all back out and decided that at least until I get that lubricated, I need the drives out in the open so that I can pop the pad back with my finger. So, now the QX-10 has its drives sitting on top, though it all still works as well as it did with them inside.

Epson drivesout

Until just a little while ago, I was thinking that what was wrong with the (now) Right drive is that it was missing that chip. This is the chip:

Beckman8993R150 chip

However, when I looked it up, the Peacon Vintage Blog wiki told me that it is: “a 150-ohm resistor network in a 14-pin package. It can be used to terminate the floppy disk drive bus.”


So, this is why only the (then) Right drive and not the (then) Left drive had one, and also might be the very reason why the (now) Right drive isn’t doing anything. The chip is a terminator. It’s telling the drive bus that the Left drive is the end of the line, and there shouldn’t be any more drives expected (even though the [now] Right drive is connected after it). So, now I still don’t know if the (now) Right drive works or not, since I disabled it by accident.

Not sure what I’ll do next. I might try to transfer the terminator chip to the (now) Right drive, or I might swap them back and see if I can do anything to get the (now) Right drive to work, since I have now seen that the rest of the machine basically works.