One from the 'believe it or not' file...

From: Ward Donald Griffiths III <>
Date: Sun Nov 16 13:18:56 1997

James Willing wrote:

> Last night, while I was working on a notebook (yes, one of those 'modern'
> things) for one of my wife's friends, I decided to have another look at the
> UNIX PC while I was waiting for a disk scan to finish...
> Found a spot for it on the bench, made a cursory check of the unit (nothing
> loose, nothing rattling...) and powered it up. It hummed and beeped
> happily and started drawing little boxes on the screen as I recalled it
> doing when it was starting up...

> However, about 3-4 minutes and 4-5 lines of little boxes later, it starts
> to dawn on me that it should not be taking quite this long to get a prompt
> of some kind. So, I move the keyboard to have a look at the floppy drive
> (it hides behind the keyboard you see) and sure enough the machine is
> looking for a floppy.

The marching blocks is almost always a sign of a serious motherboard
problem. One of my three suffers from it, so it's set aside for parts.
Unless that machine was shipped without an OS preinstall, which would
make it unique in my experience.

Dejanews seems to have stopped carrying the comp.sys.3b1 group, but the
3B1 FAQ is still available --
is one location.

> All of the disks are still sealed! At this point it starts to dawn on me,
> that this machine has never been run! A comment flashes back to mind; made
> by the person who gave me the machine... "My father bought it for his
> company, read the manuals and realized that he had no idea what he was
> doing..."
> I find myself wondering... Back around 1985 when this thing was released
> (and about $10k+), who could have afforded to buy one of these things, open
> the manuals, decide that they were in over their heads, and just put it on
> the shelf without even loading the software??? EEK!

Think of it as evolution in action.

> And so, the dilemma... do I open the disks and crank this critter up? Or
> just pack it all away as another classic 'artifact'? (or leave it until I
> have a fair amount of time to spend with it)

It's well worth spending time with. A fairly unique user interface over
Unix, a fine 68010 CPU. The case design I still consider one of the
sexiest _ever_ put on the market. Admittedly, the built-in 1200 baud
modem is pretty well a lost cause.

If the OS level isn't at least 3.0, the disks are fairly useless, though
some of the documentation may still be usable. There were some missteps
in integrating the Convergent Technologies kernel with the AT&T stuff.

If you do get it to boot, there is a nice little Easter Egg invoked by
the command ".!." from a shell prompt. That's dot-bang-dot. It'll give
a list of the folks at AT&T, Convergent and Alloy who were involved in
the project. Some of whom I worked with or otherwise met in the early
90's at Unisys at the old Convergent campus in San Jose, though most had
gone on to other companies.

And if you're interested, I may be able to supply a DOS-73 card -- I've
got a couple I'm not using much -- not much runs these days on an 8086
with 512K and Hercules graphics.

If you don't get it to boot and you have the later keyboard (with slots
to take function key labels) I'd be interested in the keyboard at least,
as those are not as common as the older keyboards I have -- the change
was made not long before AT&T bailed out of the project.
Ward Griffiths
"Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails 
of the last priest."  [Denis Diderot, "Dithyrambe sur la fete de rois"]
Received on Sun Nov 16 1997 - 13:18:56 GMT

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