Value of a small VAX farm

From: Geoff Roberts <>
Date: Wed Mar 7 00:22:33 2001

----- Original Message -----
From: "Jeffrey S. Sharp" <>
To: "ClassicCmp Mailing List" <>
Sent: Wednesday, March 07, 2001 3:55 PM
Subject: Value of a small VAX farm

> I have found a person in my area that has 7 VAXen he's going to scrap
if he
> can't move them out. Now, I'm not particularly interested in VAXen,
but I am
> currently trying to raise money to put together a PDP-11 system or
two. I need
> to know if these machines' value (in terms of power to acquire the
PDP-11 parts
> that I want, either by money or direct trade) is greater than the cost
of the
> trip to get them.

I think I saw these mentioned in the Linux/VAX mailing list.
Considerable interest was expressed.
$ value is always hard for stuff like this, but these are not beyond the
reach of hobbyists either.
While not high, $ value would be likely to exceed the $500 trip cost
If you find the right buyers, (especially for certain components) you
could do fairly well.
(The 7000 sans cpu's may be harder to flog.)
But if you were to offer the other 5 complete for, say, $150-300 each,
(more for the faster/SMP ones)
(or PDP-11 stuff in lieu) you should find homes for them and/or PDP
stuff for you.

Ahem, I take it you know these system units weigh in around 500lbs each
and have factored that in to your $500?

> The VAXen:
> VAX 6000-310
Single CPU. 300 Series
Speed 3.8vups (1VUPS ~=1MIPS) XMI ,VAXBI busses. CI capable where
fitted. Calypso/XCP CPU

> VAX 6000-410
Single CPU 400 Series
> VAX 6000-420 (2 of them)
Hmmm, dual cpu 400 series, combine the 2 and and you have a 4 cpu SMP
system. Verrryy nice.
Speed 7-36vups XMI,VAXBI busses, CI capable where fitted. Model 410-460
Calypso/XRP CPU
The performance figures are a range as it varies according to the number
of CPU's fitted.
A 420 is around 12-13, a 440 (like the one at work here is around 24)

> VAX 6000-510 (2 of them)
Single CPU 500 series, again, combine the two into one chassis for a
fairly slick 2 CPU SMP Box.
Speed 13-58 VUPS XMI,VAXBI Busses, CI and DSSI where fitted. Model
510-560 Calypso/XMP CPU
I believe there is a backplane difference between the 200/300/400 series
and the 500/600 series, different power
requirements IIRC. There is a kit to allow it 500/600 stuff to work in
the 200/300/400 stuff I think.
Out of the box, 200/300/400 series could interchange CPU cards, and I
think the 500/600 series could with each
other but not with the 200/300/400 stuff, unless it had the backplane
mod done.

> VAX 7000-610 (cpu cards removed)
Bugger. They really zip. Still got it's ram?
Don't have the performance figures for these handy, bit academic minus
the cpu cards. AFAIK, the 6000 class CPU's
have different backplane power and are not compatible (or vice versa).
ISTR that they are around 36 VUPS in single
CPU configuration. Very similar to the 6000, and there are probably
some common components.
If there are other cards still in it, (particularly RAM) you should do
ok. XMI bus cards of any kind are $$$,
particularly ram and SCSI or other disk controllers. An XMI network
card is worth a considerable amount too.

I could give you a better idea if you were to provide a list of the
cards in the slots of each machine.
A basic off the shelf 6000 would be likely to have a minimum of 64Mb of
ram, but could have more.
Also the numbers on the cabinet don't mean a lot, if they were upgraded
(extra/faster cpus added),
only way to tell is to count the CPU cards and check the numbers.

You don't mention ram or other adapters present. SCSI cards are
particularly hard to find for these and quite
expensive. A single XMI SCSI card (to the right people) would probably
go close to covering your expenses.
There are still quite a few of these in commercial service around the
world. One of the more reliable larger Vaxen,
and with quite modest power requirements.
You also don't mention drives or HSC controllers or anything like that.
Ex NASA stuff would have been clustered, so
they probably have CI (Computer Interconnect) bus adapters, and would
have been connected by that to each other and
a HSC (or several probably) It's unlikely they have disk controllers,
but you might get lucky and find a SCSI or DSSI
in one or more of them. Unlikely to have SDI (KDB50) controllers in Ex
NASA systems.

Summary: There is certainly more than $500 worth of parts in the lot.
Way more. Finding a buyer that needs what you have
may be more difficult. I should point out that I would consider the
machines worth saving in their own right. The fact that they
are ex NASA gives them some additional historical significance. Perhaps
they were a part of the Viking Mission, or some other landmark space
exploration. OTOH, I suppose it could have been the payroll cluster,
but you never know.....
Patience is the key, if you look on it as being worth the $500 (they are
IMHO) then you should recoup your capital in time,
and should show a profit, in some form, in not too long.

> Cost of trip: $500
> The owner claims they were used by NASA,

Likely. NASA was (still is) a big Digital/Compaq shop and had herds of
Vaxen, which gave way to Alphas.

> then stored in a climate-controlled room,

These are pretty rugged anyway, my personal one is sitting in a dusty
un-airconditioned corner shop, it still works good.
Built like a panzerschiff. But if they were babied, so much the better.

>then given to him. He says they look brand new.

They usually do, unless badly handled. Probably as good as the day they
were made. Better really, no infant mortality.
Might want to power them up cautiously if they have been off a long
time, capacitors can dry up and go 'bang!'
They are 3 phase out of the box, but are moddable to 240vac single
phase, and they draw around 500-600w depending on

Hope this helps,

Geoff Roberts
Computer Systems Manager
Saint Mark's College
Port Pirie,
South Australia
ICQ: 1970476
Received on Wed Mar 07 2001 - 00:22:33 GMT

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