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Unread postPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2011 7:52 pm 
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So a few weeks ago I purchased six unibus boards from a guy seeing that they had a peculiar design to them and the other day they arrived.

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The sixth board was what blooked to be a 128mb qbus memory card made by National Semiconductor. The ribbon cable connector is slightly offset from the cable that comes off my MicroVAX 4000 boardset so I'm assuming it isn't compatible with it.

Anyways, the five other boards were very interesting. Three boards clearly state that they were made by a company called Digital Dynamic Displays Inc. and appear to be part (if not all) of a Unibus framebuffer.

The three boards all have the following information:

Code:
"FB" 1000FBL001 Serial# 55

"VOXEL BUFFER" 1000VB-001 Serial# 35

"CTU BOARD" 1000CTD001 Serial# 47


All three boards have no connectors on them with the exception of the Unibus connectors and the coaxial RGB jacks on the FB board.
Then there are two other boards which make me nervous as they both have ribbon cable connections on them them, and the sizes and positioning on the two are different.
They also have disturbingly similar model number scheme.

Code:
"HI" 1000HIL001 Serial# 45

"DOTS" 1000DTD001 Serial# 54


There was some serious processing power going on here. The best way for me to find out what boards I don't need.....or which ones I am missing is to read the documentation however I can find no traces of the company or the boards themselves. The super low serial numbers tell me that it's possible they were not common items or were not sold for long.
Cctalk seems to of skipped over my discussion on these boards and that means I'm out of places to look unless Usenet is still as glorious as it was fifteen years ago.

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Unread postPosted: Sat Jul 16, 2011 8:31 am 
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Have you tried the OpenVMS hobbyist forum? Not a lot of activity, but there are several people who really know their stuff

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Unread postPosted: Sat Jul 16, 2011 10:54 pm 
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Never heard of the place so no I have not tried there yet.

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Unread postPosted: Wed Jul 20, 2011 12:38 am 
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My first thought is to drop a note to Richard / legalize in Salt Lake City. He might at least have some info about the company, and he doesn't always catch everything that goes by on the lists or forums...

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Unread postPosted: Wed Jul 20, 2011 10:19 pm 
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I know that guy from the Vintage Computer forums. I'll send him a note and see if he can help. Thanks.

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Unread postPosted: Fri Jul 22, 2011 2:43 pm 
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I'm also on here, but to be honest, I find mailing lists easier to track than web forums, so I only show up on web forums randomly.

It appears to me that what you have is a 3D imaging board. And by "3D", I mean a three-dimensional box (i.e. stack of images) of pixels. The clue is that the one board is labelled "voxel", which is volume element as pixel is picture element.

I haven't heard of the manufacturer, but voxel processing cards were/are common in the medical industry because medical scans are volumetric scans consisting of stacks of images. It is common to create custom processing hardware for these sorts of applications and many companies have made products for this market. Pixar's Pixar Image Computer has voxel processing exactly for this sort of application and was the first machine I saw do real-time voxel processing in person at NCGA 1986. Therefore, I would start asking radiologists if they ever heard of this company :-).

Of course having the hardware is only one part of the puzzle; these devices often had elaborate control software to manipulate the voxels and produce an image. From the look of the boards, you've got some serious CPU power on there. I can't quite read the part numbers from the photos here, but it looks like Motorola 680x0 and AMD 29000 parts. That would put it at late 80s, early 90s perhaps?

I'm guessing that only some of the connectors interconnect the cards; the remainder probably connect to the medical scanning equipment. You know on House when they sit in the little control room and look at the images? You've probably got most of the system that sits between the scanner and the screens.

CTU might be the thing that talks to the CT scanner. (CT -- computed tomography).

HIL might be human interface *mumble*

DOTS -- who knows

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Unread postPosted: Fri Jul 22, 2011 10:30 pm 
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legalize wrote:
... Therefore, I would start asking radiologists if they ever heard of this company :-).

Of course having the hardware is only one part of the puzzle; these devices often had elaborate control software to manipulate the voxels and produce an image. From the look of the boards, you've got some serious CPU power on there. I can't quite read the part numbers from the photos here, but it looks like Motorola 680x0 and AMD 29000 parts. That would put it at late 80s, early 90s perhaps?


I wouldn't talk to a doctor about it. Doctors have so many other things to worry about that they usually see their systems as "appliances" and have someone else deal with the tech aspects.

Someone in diagnostic imaging supply and support might know.

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Unread postPosted: Sun Jul 24, 2011 10:22 pm 
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Thanks Legalize.
Well that's a fantastic place to start from then and yeah, those are 68010 chips which alone made me know that there was indeed some punch to this thing.
Well I guess there isn't much else I can actually do in terms of interfacing but hopefully one day under a blue moon I might find documentation or if it's a blue moon and satan complains about it being cold, the technical documentation.

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Unread postPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2011 4:46 am 
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If by technical documentation you mean something akin to a "Theory of Operation" and schematics, I very much doubt it. That was the sort of thing you'd often seen in 1960s or 1970s documentation, but by the 1980s things were custom ASICs or programmable systems with lots of software or both. ASIC designs and software are considered IP and not something that is easily shared with a customer. Additionally, this medical stuff is produced in very low volumes and they wouldn't spend the money on creating end-user documentation that went down to that level. Even a system integrator is unlikely to have obtained that much visibility into the inner workings of the product. For this era, the best bet of finding such information is if the original designer kept that stuff and is willing to give it to you.

For instance, my field service manual for an Evans & Sutherland ESV workstation contains block diagrams of the system and how the boards interrelate, but it doesn't contain any circuit diagrams for individual boards. Field service personnel were expected to replace boards, not desolder individual faulty components. Boards were reworked by the manufacturer after having been swapped out by personnel in the field.

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