Interested in buying a DECstation - any advice?

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SiliconClassics
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Interested in buying a DECstation - any advice?

Unread postby SiliconClassics » Tue Mar 09, 2010 5:09 am

I might be able to get my hands on a DECstation 5000/260 - just the system unit, no keyboard, mouse, monitor, or drives. Aside from the basics that can be gleaned from Wikipedia and a few fan pages, I know next to nothing about these systems.

Any practical advice? What are some of the more interesting apps that can be run on these machines? And where would be the best place to find parts & accessories - eBay doesn't seem to have much? Any input is very much appreciated.

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Re: Interested in buying a DECstation - any advice?

Unread postby miod » Tue Mar 09, 2010 6:53 am

ajerimez wrote:I might be able to get my hands on a DECstation 5000/260 - just the system unit, no keyboard, mouse, monitor, or drives. Aside from the basics that can be gleaned from Wikipedia and a few fan pages, I know next to nothing about these systems.

Any practical advice? What are some of the more interesting apps that can be run on these machines? And where would be the best place to find parts & accessories - eBay doesn't seem to have much? Any input is very much appreciated.


You're a lucky man, the 260 being the high end model. 10+ years ago I would have sold my family to get one... the best I could snatch was a 240. Of course by today's standards the 40MHz 260 will fell as slow as the 33MHz 240 :cry:

This machine uses a combined DB15 keyboard/mouse port, which was also used on several VAXstation models (35x0, 38x0, 4000/60 and 4000/9x) ; the keyboard itself is the regular LK-201 or LK-401, and the mouse is the regular VS-XXX , which are both quite easy to find on eBay or elsewhere; the important part being the DB15 cable, which will be more difficult to find.

Of course, with no keyboard connected, the machine will default to a 9600 8N1 serial console on the first DB25 serial port.

One thing to look for, after all these years, is the quality of the memory sticks. Since quite a few years now, I've seen more and more 16MB sticks becoming more sensitive to dust, and eventually dying. Be sure to clean the memory sticks and connector as best as you can.

You will not find precompiled modern software for MIPS Ultrix. And since Ultrix lacks support for shared libraries, many modern ``desktop'' software will not build on Ultrix (assuming the code is portable enough in the first place).

I am not sure there are Linux distributions available for pmax systems. Your best choice of operating system for this machine is probably NetBSD/pmax, although not all choices of frame buffers are supported (which will only matter if you manage to get a keyboard and mouse for that system, anyway).
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Re: Interested in buying a DECstation - any advice?

Unread postby SAQ » Tue Mar 09, 2010 9:41 pm

NetBSD - it preserves the "true path" of BSD on DEC. Comes with a pretty good selection of software available, too.

Do have a disk with Ultrix 4.5 on it if you can. It does bring back that vintage feel (the one that gave rise to the "UNIX Hater's Handbook" ;) )
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Re: Interested in buying a DECstation - any advice?

Unread postby SiliconClassics » Wed Mar 10, 2010 2:46 pm

Thanks for the suggestions - I'll try to pick up the system this Sunday and will write more then.

In the meantime, I stumbled across this page, which seems to have a lot of useful little programs for the platform.

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Re: Interested in buying a DECstation - any advice?

Unread postby kshuff » Wed Mar 10, 2010 3:22 pm

SAQ wrote:Do have a disk with Ultrix 4.5 on it if you can. It does bring back that vintage feel (the one that gave rise to the "UNIX Hater's Handbook" ;) )


Come on, it wasn't that bad. Cut my teeth on Ultrix 3.0 on a VAX 11/750 at community college, ended up bringing the system home with me when they decommissioned it :) That started my DEC era. What I thought really sucked was RSTS/E.
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Re: Interested in buying a DECstation - any advice?

Unread postby PymbleSoftware » Wed Mar 10, 2010 3:46 pm

I used DECstations and VAXen at university also.
I had a DECstation 5000 running Ultrix but something major failed in it, it was a loooong time ago.

I didn't mind Ultrix, I did have problems with it at the time that I can recall on ... VAX or MIPS versions..
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Re: Interested in buying a DECstation - any advice?

Unread postby SAQ » Thu Mar 11, 2010 5:22 pm

Ultrix wasn't a bad implementation of UNIX, indeed for the time it was in active development (really the late '80s, after that things shifted to OSF/1 and Ultrix stalled) it was pretty good. However, UNIX from that time tended to not be the system that we know and love today (although the seeds were there). I guess a more generalized version of what I was saying is that everyone who can should experience the development of UNIX to where it is today, including something from the period that inspired the UNIX Hater's Handbook

If you're really masochistic it would be an early AIX, SCO UNIX, or vanilla SysVr2.
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Re: Interested in buying a DECstation - any advice?

Unread postby PymbleSoftware » Thu Mar 11, 2010 5:39 pm

SAQ wrote: vanilla SysVr2.


I used SVR2 on Tower32s and TowerXP (Motorola based 68000s)..
The store everything in binary and the overwrite the text files in /etc from this database was just evil. :twisted: :(
死の神はりんごだけ食べる

開いた括弧は必ず閉じる -- あるプログラマー

:Tezro: :Tezro: :Onyx2R: :Onyx2RE: :Onyx2: :O3x04R: :O3x0: :O200: :Octane: :Octane2: :O2: :O2: :Indigo2IMP: :PI: :PI: :1600SW: :1600SW: :Indy: :Indy: :Indy: :Indy: :Indy:
:hpserv: J5600, 2 x Mac, 3 x SUN, Alpha DS20E, Alpha 800 5/550, 3 x RS/6000, Amiga 4000 VideoToaster, Amiga4000 -030, 733MHz Sam440 AmigaOS 4.1 update 1.

Sold: :Indy: :Indy: :Indy: :Indigo: Tandem Himalaya S-Series Nonstop S72000 ServerNet.

Twitter @PymbleSoftware
Current Apps (iOS) -> https://itunes.apple.com/au/artist/pymb ... d553990081
(Android) https://play.google.com/store/apps/deve ... +Ltd&hl=en
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Re: Interested in buying a DECstation - any advice?

Unread postby SiliconClassics » Sun Mar 14, 2010 3:25 pm

Snagged the DECstation! Got some other goodies as well. Posted some pics to the "I am officially insane" thread in the Everything Else forum.


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