DEC PDP 11/24 CPU card teardown from Electronupdate:
This is a cpu card from a class of computers known as mini-computers.
By the late 1970’s DEC was about to be eclipsed by the microcomputer. At the same time this card was in production the 68000 and 8086 16-bit class micro processors were also in the market: their superior cost would soon take much of DEC’s low end market.
The card uses their FONZ-11 LSI chip set. Most interestingly the CPU instructions are micro-coded and placed into separate chips: the instruction set could be expanded at will by adding more “303E”s. Typically this would be for a floating-point instruction set.
I recently helped repair the card reader for the Computer History Museum’s vintage IBM 1401 mainframe. In the process, I learned a lot about the archaic but interesting electromechanical systems used in the card reader. Most of the card reader is mechanical, with belts, gears, and clutches controlling the movement of cards through the mechanism. The reader has a small amount of logic, but instead of transistorized circuits, the logic is implemented with electromechanical relays.1 Timing signals are generated by spinning electromechanical cams that generate pulses at the proper rotation angles. This post explains how these different pieces work together, and how a subtle timing problem caused the card reader to fail.
FPGA-based disk control for Apple II is finally working! Six months ago, I began designing a universal disk controller card for the Apple II family. Apple made a bewildering number of different disk controller cards in the 1970s and 80s, and my hope was to replace the IWM chip (Integrated Wozniak Machine) and other assorted ICs typically found on the cards, and substitute a modern FPGA. With a little luck, that would make it possible to clone any vintage disk controller card – some of which are now rare and expensive. It would also enable a single card to function as many different disk controllers, simply by modifying the FPGA configuration. With the successful cloning of a Liron disk controller, the first major step towards those goals has been made.
After a month of inactivity, I finally returned to my unfinished Yellowstone disk controller project to investigate the JTAG programming problems. Yellowstone is an FPGA-based disk controller card for the Apple II family, that aims to emulate a Liron disk controller or other models of vintage disk controller. It’s still a work in progress.
Last month I discovered some JTAG problems. With the Yellowstone card naked on my desk, and powered from an external 5V supply, JTAG programming works fine.
I decided to build a gateway that would allow the Alto to communicate with a modern system. The gateway would communicate with the Alto using its obsolete 3Mb/s Ethernet, but could also communicate with the outside world. This would let us network boot the Alto, transfer files to and from the Alto and backup disks. I expected this project to take a few weeks, but it ended up taking a year.