Recovery adventure - Re: Unidentified DEC gear available, NSW-AU
steven at malikoff.com
steven at malikoff.com
Wed Mar 2 16:50:58 CST 2016
Well, it started with 'Unidentified DEC gear available, NSW-AU'...
A few weeks ago you saw some poor quality photos Jay posted from someone who had found a PDP-11 of some sort.
It seems no-one could identify it or the ancillary equipment at the time. As it happened to be located here
in Oz, and only in the next state, I thought it was worth a gamble on going to rescue it even though it was
hundreds of kays/miles away and would mean a few days driving.
So I took last Thursday and Friday off work to drive down in my ute from Brisbane to the gear's location. I drove
the inland highway and just camped along the way each evening. The weather was very warm and pleasant. During the
evenings the mozzies were out in force, biting.
Arriving at the location first thing Saturday morning (as I had camped the second night nearby) I was shown the
horse stables where the gear was stored. It was near an entrance and the top of the rack was covered with a tarp.
The rack was sitting directly on the dirt floor. The stables hadn't been used for decades as such and there was a
lot of mouse and other animal droppings on everything. The front of the rack was against some horse tying-up posts
so we got to work levering it away from them to get to the front, for which I had brought gloves.
At this point I realised what I was looking at. It was a Foxboro Fox 2 computer, essentially a rebadged PDP-11/20.
A while ago I had by chance downloaded and looked at the very same brochure for this machine, I think perhaps
because it had been mentioned here. So I was able to identify it immediately. This is that brochure:
The cabinet was about two and a half 19" rack-widths wide, painted lime green and with custom industrial control
equipment to the left and the computer, paper tape reader and expansion box in the right. The half width section
contained a series of power supplies. almost all cables had Winchester MRAC connectors on them (visible in the
original photos, and I happened to have a need for some for my Diablos).
There were no peripherals of any sort apart from the paper tape reader and the custom A-D I/O. No disc drives nor
the fabulous drum shown in the brochure.
At the bottom of the computer rack section there was a very sad PDP-11/05, missing its console, and full of mud.
Being at the bottom it had been flooded over the years and was silted up. It had a cable to the BA-11 expansion
I started by removing the 11/05, as there was a (very very) slim chance I might be able to use it for some spares,
and I had a need for the BC-5 Power Control Unit in the chassis anyway. This machine was not on rack slides but
just lying on the bottom on the dirt. Surprisingly the paper label on the top panel was still partly legible,
considering the immersion.
Next I worked on removing the BA-11. It was pretty much empty with only a small Unibus backplane.
After that I attended to the Fox 2, and before long after a lot of sweating we had the machine out and ready to
load onto my ute.
Finally I removed the Foxboro paper tape reader. The tape holders each side slide up to reveal the rack mounting
screws. Onto the ute it went.
There were some other racks of gear, but all custom idustrial control equipment. One rack had a DEC A-D Converter
in it with some serious cables connected to some backplanes of the smaller Flip Chip modules. I grabbed the A-D
and Flip Chips.
There is an identical DEC A-D on eBay at the moment which shows you what it's like:
The I/O for the machine was (I believe) an ASR-35 the bigger brother to the ASR-33. I couldn't take it, it was
wedged in behind the other racks and I had only a limited amount of time to load the equipment before I had to
head back interstate to home. I did not see any sign of the optional I/O Selectrics shown in the brochure, as I
would definately have liked to have found those if I could have! I don't think this machine had them, only the
ASR-35, as no printout I found appeared to be done by a Selectric.
There was a smallish dumb terminal under some junk, this didn't have any brand or logo on it. Can anyone identify
Loaded the gear and the unmanaged mass of paper tape on, sort it out later!
There were removalists boxes of documentation, so many I had no chance to go through more than half a dozen. In
the ones I went through, I found manuals for the Fox 2, DEC printsets, printset for the 11/05, PDP-9 manuals,
Honeywell 716 and Westinghouse manuals. I found a CDC disc pack that seems to be suitable for an RM03. Once again
no PDP-9 (that I could identify as such!), peripherals or any other piece of hardware that these manuals were
for was evident anywhere (I looked!!). No sign of any early DEC units such as RP01 02 03 or the like, nor PC04 or
After looking at the Foxboro documentation it seems the Fox 2 ran an application called 'FOXY' which controlled
the coking oxygenation plant at Port Kembla steelworks from about 1972 to the mid-late 1970s. Documents indicated
the PDP-9 controlled the steelworks plate rolling mill. I have no idea (yet) what the Honeywell and Westinghouse
One curious thing was, I was allowed to take the machines, documentation and so on, but not the rack slides nor
any part of them. They were to stay with the cabinets. Yes I did mention they were specific to the equipment and
probably no use for any newer equipment. So it's going to be another long process of making or adapting rack
slides as I have already been doing for my other gear.
As soon as I had finished loading I left gor home. After an overnight rest stop near a nice lake, I was back home
in Brisbane on Sunday arvo. Here is the haul before I started unloading:
I've contacted others about the need to recover the rest of the gear and especially the boxes, so I'll see what
happens in that respect. I must thank Jay for putting me in touch with the relevant people. All in all it was I
think a worthwhile 1651km (1025 mile) round trip!
(Top posting my reply here - yes I don't normally do it nor condone it, but it in this case suited my lengthy post)
---------------------------- Original Message ----------------------------
Subject: Unidentified DEC gear available, NSW-AU
From: "Jay West" <jwest at classiccmp.org>
Date: Fri, January 29, 2016 6:11 am
To: cctalk at classiccmp.org
> DEC Gear available. Unlike most dec gear, I must admit that I can't identify
> exactly what this is. Several racks, I was guessing AFT or Instrumentation
> Testing. Looks like one or more cpu or expansion cabinets in some of the
> racks, and some DEC AD/DA interface stuff. I was left with the impression
> that there may be one or more racks that are not shown in the pictures
> provided. I was told that racks are in "several different buildings on the
> estate" (residential). The first rack looks to be in very bad shape (perhaps
> a power supply), but the other racks don't look so bad.
> I am not sure that I can get more pictures from the owner, but will try. I
> think that in order to get pictures of the fronts (what we all probably want
> to see), the owner would have to move stuff (and them) and would rather not.
> The equipment is located in NSW, Australia. It sound like they just want it
> to go to a good home.
> If someone is local to NSW Australia and wants to spearhead going onsite to
> take a closer look for others and/or pick up the gear themselves, let me
> know offlist and I'll give you the contact info.
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