IBM System/38 Available for Free, Is It Worth It?

From: Riccardo Romagnoli <>
Date: Mon Sep 22 20:55:18 1997

At 22.57 21/09/97 -0400, William wrote:

>People are abandoning System/36 boxes like crazy these days. If you
>search, you should be able to find a deskside system for free in little
>> 2) But the main thing that keeps me away from IBM machines (and towards
>> DEC/Philips/etc) is that IBM machines are often almost impossible to hack
>> and repair. The chips are those strange IBM square metal cans with
>> unlisted numbers. Schematics and spares are impossible to obtain. A
>> binary listing of the instruction set is sometimes a pain to find.

>You do have a valid point, IBM does things weird. The chips are far from
>off-the-shelf. The solution is to build up spares from donor machines. For
>my RS/6000s, I saved some extra motherboards (planars, as they call them).
>For System/3x stuff, there seem to plenty of machines in the scrapyards
>that can be picked apart. IBM tended to cram lots of stuff in a small CPU
>box, situated inside the normally spacious cabinet. Pulling an entire CPU
>should pose no problems.
> The best thing for repair is to get donor boards.

I fully agree with William's opinion.
Unfortunately here in Italy IBM had a great fame, comparing to others
(Digital,Honeywell, etc.)
I can say that talking with many general manager about the first
installation of a computer system
in the company where they were working during early 70'S, everyone
confirmed that was IBM the first approach.
This, together with the incompatibility of the hardware of other producers,
leads many company here (once sticked in the net of the IBM-spider) to have
no way out rather than the same "system".
So, in few years, during '70 years, too many IBM S/3X were installed in
many companyes and today IBM is still present there.
This big park of machines needed to have many company to be involved for
programs and maintenance.
I can say that those machines reached a level of diffusion here nearly to
be compared to the success of the VHS
system as a consumer video system.
If all above said seems to help a collector to find plenty of those system,
this is not true.
In fact there is a market of used hardware for those units that are still
1)The "family" is so well known by programmers
2)There are many IBM and specially ex-IBM programmers available for those
systems (=low price know-how)
3)Park of twinax peripherals already installed (=why change all?)
4)Strengthness of IBM Hardware (=if it last is very good)
5)Low price of faster used CPU (=easy upgrading/maintenance)
5)Customerized application running ONLY on them.

All this keep high in price and request of used S/3x hardware.
I remember one of those specialized company based in Milan to have a
"STOCK-EXCHANGE-LIKE" price list of S/3x machines as advertisement in
PC-WEEK last year.
This sort of "market fever" keeps working IBM system far from scrapyards.


Received on Mon Sep 22 1997 - 20:55:18 BST

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