DEDICATED HOBBYIST ALERT: IBM AS/400 9406-F2 for cheap sale in Germany

Patrik Schindler poc at
Tue Jan 5 17:57:42 CST 2021

Hello Tomasz,

Am 05.01.2021 um 22:45 schrieb Tomasz Rola via cctalk <cctalk at>:

> I guess it is more complicated to check mainframe's correct operation.

If you’re new to the platform, I agree. :-)

Hint: If you say mainframe to an AS/400 and a mainframe guy is nearby, duck and cover. ;-) AS/400s were part of the IBM midrange platforms.

Having played with the Hercules Mainframe Emulator, and the last OS that can legally being run (MVS 3.8j), I’d say, the AS/4000 platform borrowed a good deal of good concepts from the mainframe platform. Compatibility with established mainframe personnel, and already running mainframe software wasn’t necessary. This makes the platform a really nice entry into the big iron world.

Btw., you can download a Turnkey-System with MVS for your own learning experience here:

Add a 3270 emulator and you’re ready to go. The biggest pain is to decide where to begin, because everything seems to be different and need to be learned. This is true for OS/400, also. ;-)

> And I would want a very specific info about what is in the box. I am not sure, for example, if hard drives for it can be easily bought. 

This would be hard to know, because the seller states, he has no clue about the platform. He can look at the labels on the disks, most likely stating being type 6607, which equals to a 4GB drive. The only identifiable card is a 2838 10/100M Ethernet NIC, seen on the extra photos the seller sent me (but unfortunately did not put online).

The hard disks still can be bought in used condition. In the US, they can be obtained more easily than in Europe. And they are pretty reliable also.

For the rest of information, the machine needs to be powered and IPL’d. Most likely, a password reset needs to be done, and then someone skilled could easily find out about what’s inside.

I doubt that the seller is willing to make such an effort for the given price. I guess he’s pretty much aware that transportation is what really costs money. Not the machine itself.

> Then again, if it worked perfectly and did not broke, there is good chance it might work for a long time. At least this is what older mainframes did (from what I have read).

The reliability is indeed pretty good.

> I would also make sure it could be powered on without blowing the fuses out of the wall...

On the label of the second last photo, there’s the machine type written (9406-F2), and the maximum power rating: 2400W. Far from blowing a fuse. But hurtful to pay when running 24/7. At least here in Germany.

Searching, and having a look into the most likely fitting System Builder Manual (, I can’t find a model F2, though. Hmm.

> Ok, after consulting IBM page [
> ] - it says, 300~~700 watts, depending on configuration. 

The page you linked is for a model 170. Much smaller.

> Last but not least, my limited understanding is, the owner would need either control panel or operation console (looks like a laptop... perhaps?)

You’re possibly talking about a true mainframe's so called „service element“, which equals to a ThinkPad running OS/2 and a proprietary setup software for a long time. I don’t know if current SE’s run Linux meanwhile.

After the demise of Twinax Terminals, IBM introduced other ways of console handling. For AS/400’s (their successors, to be precise) this equals a built-service processor with a LAN port. IBM offers a so called Hardware Management Console (today even compatible with Vmware ESXi) to manage many of these machines. And have console access, of course.

> I suppose it will not boot (ipl) without panel/console.

You suppose wrong. The machines are usually set up to IPL in „normal mode“. You plug them into the power outlet(s), press the square, white power button on the front and just wait between nearly 10 Minutes or much more, depending on a lot of factors. For a normal mode IBM, Console is not needed, and the panel itself is built-in anyway. It’s mainly used to set the IPL mode, force console to be of a certain type and surely a lot of undocumented things. The panel displays hex numbers to show the IPL progress. If finished, most likely „01 B N“ is displayed. (Function 01 = Display IPL mode, B = IPL secondary, patched/updated „kernel“, N = Boot normal, unattended).

:wq! PoC

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