Sometimes, we make plans for our next collection purchase – in my case, an excellent Bull Micral computer –, but the Ferengi rules of acquisition play us and the object of our desire vanishes like a boson in a rabbit fart. Pffff, gonesky. And that’s when the unexpected strikes us usually. Since you read my posts, you know that I have a sweet tooth for UNIX workstations. I have a few iconic ones – Next, SGI Indigo, Indy, O2, Octane, HP IPC, and several SUNs. Many of them have a great HW design, a specific CPU architecture, and a proprietary version of UNIX. In other words, a collector’s delight.
Among the missing ones, Alpha, Apollo, SONY, etc., I always wanted an IBM RS/6000. My appreciation of these IBMs goes way back to my time in college, where I worked as a sysadmin and installed an RS/6000 in the department. That puppy was a beauty! However, I never thought I could several decades later find a working one for a fair price. Indeed, these workhorses are either ruined beyond reparability or sold for several thousands of dollars.
That’s when I found my RS/6000 43P-150 Type 7043 (a more recent model equipped with a PowerPC processor @ 375MHz). Yay! I didn’t have the time yet to restore the computer entirely, but I cannot resist the pleasure to share a few early thoughts and pics about the system. The machine boots and the only error (2803002) is a simple RTC battery failure. The boot sequence, quite long, can be monitored via the small display that scatters POST codes (not error codes, although they are prefixed E).
After a while, the workstation boots AIX and finally, you can log in CDE KDE (or the console, but come-on, this is a workstation). From here on, nothing uncommon. The system was unfortunately wiped-out by its previous owner, so although few IBM C-compiler files remain, I will have to find and install a workingC compiler. Unfortunately, in the realm of IBM, everything is licensed and has a hefty price tag attached – even when the system is OELed –, so I will have to revert to an Open Source solution. I was pleased to find that Smit (System Management Interface Tool) was still present in later releases of the OS. This GUI to admin tasks was hilarious. As you initiated a command, the screen displayed a small animated runner character. If the command failed, the runner felt flat on its face. Last early gem for today: on the initial boot screen, you can see the IBM and the Apple Computer copyright. This is, of course, the result of the cooperation around the PowerPC CPU architecture. IBM reused the Apple firmware. Note that the RS/6000 computers were supposed to be able to run AIX, macOS and Windows NT. Unfortunately – or not –, only AIX ever ran on these reliable computers. Stay tuned, more as I progress in my restoration.