Sometimes you're lucky, and sometimes you're not.

General discussions related to the Altair 8800 Clone

Sometimes you're lucky, and sometimes you're not.

Postby KenF » August 17th, 2022, 8:39 am

s100.jpeg


A little backstory. The wife loves to shop in Goodwill and Salvation Army stores - not only for the interesting stuff you can find on occasion, but it is the only place she can still find 100% cotton, Made-In-USA work clothes. I go with her on occasion when I need to pick up something elsewhere in town.

But this day, Random Factors, as Spock put it, worked in my favor.

I just sit in a chair and surf while she shops, but usually check the tools and electronics section. Almost always there is nothing but junk and obsolete PCs, but on this day I instantly noticed a crate. None of the employees knew what it contained, of course, since the price tag indicated ten dollars.

Almost ripped my pocket off reaching for my wallet before some other nerd walked in.

Yes. 30 + or so original S-100 cards. I haven't made a deep inventory yet, but a quick look shows the gamut of old stuff. Several memory cards, processors, I/O, disk controllers, video cards and such. About a third are not easily identifiable, and some are commercial, but with absolutely no label of what and from who.

So, I guess the pundits are right. Timing is everything.

Ken
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Re: Sometimes you're lucky, and sometimes you're not.

Postby AltairClone » August 17th, 2022, 1:26 pm

Wow - what a haul! Let us know the inventory when you have it all figured out.

Mike
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Re: Sometimes you're lucky, and sometimes you're not.

Postby BillO » August 17th, 2022, 7:27 pm

There seems to be some VME buss cards (or something similar) in there too. Quite the little treasure chest.
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Re: Sometimes you're lucky, and sometimes you're not.

Postby Wayne Parham » August 18th, 2022, 8:54 am

So cool!
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Re: Sometimes you're lucky, and sometimes you're not.

Postby KenF » August 18th, 2022, 4:35 pm

Busy week so I haven't had much me-time to spend on my examinations, but so far...

First, the oddball prototype card for a PC-Bus. Original, like for an XT or earlier.
I don't even remember these being made.

Two blank Vector prototype cards in mint condition.
Ithaca Audio missing three chips. No REV mark.
Konan Corp SMC100 REV M Complete ???? Whatever it is.
ExpandoRam REV E Complete
MicroAngelo REV 1 Complete
Solid State Music Video Interface REV VB1B Complete
Vector Graphic Bit Streamer II 3 blank sockets, but everything else is soldered in.
Several 8080 GEN Parallel IF cards. REV C. Eight 8212s per board so are parallel interface cards. Complete.
A no name card with the S-100 tabs sawed off. Someone wanted the male connector for something.
Wire Wrapped 8080 processor on Vector card. Has two 8212 ports and 4k of memory. Complete.
Vector Graphic Z80 all chips soldered. This one actually fires up - at least according to my scope. However, it takes four times the power of the same card made with modern TTL.
Another almost identical wire wrapped processor board but with no chips. 2 mhz crystal so was 8080 probably.
A Space Byte (??) 8085 CPU board with disk, CRT and printer interfaces at the top.
Vector Graphics 8K ram card. Very clean, but didn't work in my workhorse S-100 homebuilt. Later I realized that there was no way that these old 2102 ram chips were going to work with a 5mhz 8085. As I remember, they were on the ragged edge with a 2mhz 8080. Will try it later with my 2mhz IMSAII.

That is about half. More later.
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Re: Sometimes you're lucky, and sometimes you're not.

Postby KenF » August 18th, 2022, 4:46 pm

This has absolutely nothing to do with either Altairs or S-100, but was in the box with a few other pieces of junk.

I assume that the barely visible 6/25/70 scratched on one of the connectors is the date. No manufacturer on either side.

It has eight blocks of what looks like 10x10 cores, so 800 bits, but not arranged in bytes. It probably cost more than a complete Altair five years later.
Attachments
core.jpg
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Re: Sometimes you're lucky, and sometimes you're not.

Postby Wayne Parham » August 19th, 2022, 1:37 pm

What neat stuff! The guy that owned all that stuff had an incredible inventory of parts, back in the day. What a great find!

It will be neat to get some of those boards running. You have an interesting personal museum there!
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Re: Sometimes you're lucky, and sometimes you're not.

Postby KenF » August 19th, 2022, 10:51 pm

My main S-100 machine has 9 cards and runs with a 5V 2A power cube, and it only uses about a quarter of that rating. But as I began to try these cards one by one, I began to remember why our original Micros in the 70s had a 9 pound transformer and three 5 inch muffin fans screaming to keep the silicon from melting down. After several blown fuses, and realizing that my little power cube was about to explode, I temp-wired a ten amp PSW to the buss.

The old chips are generally the same type (TTL) as would be used today in a modern clone, except for RAM which is now far more dense and vastly more reliable than the old 1024x1 2102s. But, the power requirements between, say, a 1970s 7404 and a modern 74LS04 is huge. For instance, the three I/O cards with eight 8212 parallel port chips work fine (although not at 5mhz) but each has two 7805 regulators that will instantly take the skin off a knuckle if you brush against it and just one card uses five times the power of the rest of the machine.

The Vector Graphic 8k Ram card is even worse. It also works (again, not at 5mhz) but has four (count em) regulators and eats almost 4 amps. There is no way that an original Altair (or equivalent) could max out to 64k back in the day using this brand of memory card. 32 amps on the 5v line would not only blow the 25 amp power supply but probably rip the trace off the motherboard.

This old stuff doesn't have much use today when the same card can be duplicated for far less than the original cost and with almost absolute reliability.

But they are interesting to play with and a trip down a long-time-ago memory lane.

Ken
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Re: Sometimes you're lucky, and sometimes you're not.

Postby Wayne Parham » August 20th, 2022, 4:23 pm

Yeah, I hear you, Ken. It's an interesting observation that straddles the border between technology and nostalgia. I'm right there with you. Same holds true in other technologies too.

I love old cars and old computers. And while I don't expect them to perform as well as newer stuff, I do like some of the advantages we've afforded ourselves with modern advancements. Then again, some "modern advances" are just ways to make things cheaper, and are actually less reliable. Other advances are done purely for features, and are again, less reliable. One glaring example that comes to mind is the modern phone network. Not even close to the reliability of the old analog system with tip and ring, energized by batteries.

That's why I like this 8800c. It's all old school stuff, but built with LS chips and boards with a solder mask. I kinda liked the old transformer supplies, but these switchers are a lot lighter, so I'm OK with that too.

And I really like that it's still TTL and 8-bit instead of a clone on newer silicon. I mean, the Altair emulators are cool too, but it's just not the same. When I'm fooling with my 8800c, it feels very much like the 1970s again. Same stuff, or very close. When I'm fooling around on SimH, well, I know I'm running an emulator and it's just not the same.

I'm like that with cars too. Anybody can get a junkyard LS motor and put into their Chevy, a Coyote for their Ford or a modern Hemi in their Mopar car. Easy to get several hundred horsepower, up to a thousand even, and still get double-digit gas mileage. That's awesome! And it's nearly maintenance-free!

But damn if I don't prefer the look, sound and feel of a 429 Ford, a 427 Chevy or an Elephant 426 Hemi. The lope of the cam. Don't hear that in a modern engine, no matter what power level. And if you put a roots-style blower on top of the old-school engine, even better. It's just cooler stuff, if you ask me.

Then again, those technologies gave single-digit gas mileage and sometimes not even that. Kind of like the current requirement for 64Kb using 2102 chips.
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Re: Sometimes you're lucky, and sometimes you're not.

Postby KenF » August 24th, 2022, 9:04 am

Well, this has been a fun look back into the 1970s, but alas I have found very little that can be used in the 2020s. A lot of these cards actually work "out of the box", and others, also, once the missing ICs have been replaced, but there is just too much difference between both ends of 40+ years of technology. i.e., these old cards use way too much power and make far too much heat. I am used to running a full 8 or 9 card 8085/Z80 system on 5v at half an amp. All of these take 8v, of course, and almost never less than 2 amps and some considerably more. And some a fuse busting 4 or 5 amps.

But the real showstopper is that they are too slow, most barely fast enough for a standard 8080 at 2mhz.

Still, they are a great add to my "museum" and make good conversation topics for visiting nerds. Especially young ones that have trouble believing that 8k ram devices ever existed. I don't regret the 10 bucks for the purchase. (Heck, the crate alone costs 5 dollars at Walmart.)

Ken
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