SGI IRIS 1400 (longish)

From: Tothwolf <>
Date: Thu Jul 18 02:36:00 2002

As many folks might have already noticed, I've been a little absent from
the mailing list as of late. One reason is the current status of upgrading
my day to day workstation, but the other is the latest SGI system that I
got from Nick here in Houston.

The small amount of information I found on the web about SGI IRIS 1x00
line seems to indicate that the 1400 is the first "workstation" class
system SGI sold. The 1000 and 1200 were both GUI terminals without any
local storage. These systems were all made in the early 1980s, and no one
seems to know just how many were made.

For those folks who have never seen a 1x00 or 2x00 desk-side SGI IRIS, the
chassis is about twice the size of a DEC BA123 (not too much wider), but
it seems to weigh a little less. (The custom Hitachi monitor for the 1400
actually seems to weigh more than the system.)

This 1400 is more or less complete. It has it's monitor, all the cables
(except for the two power cords), the keyboard, mouse, and a set of
programmers manuals. If someone has an OS or diagnostics tape (of even
knows which versions of IRIX this system will support), please let me
know. A hardware manual would also be very nice, but I'm not going to hold
my breath...

While breaking the system down for a complete cleaning and inspection, I
found a couple of notes and tags in the system from a previous sysadmin.
One is a hand-drawn card cage ribbon cable/led diagram on a scrap of paper
(which might turn out to be useful ;) There was a tag attached to the
corner of the ST-506 interface board, that states something along the
lines of "Board removed from IRIS, suspect U/S, no prints.", and has a set
of initials on it. There was also a tag attached to the ribbon cable that
connects the AUI connector on the rear of the system to the network
interface board. The cable had been unplugged, and the tag stated
something along the lines of "This cable was found to be damaged when
removing the PSU, do not reconnect!", and showed a date of 1996 and two
sets of initials. It turned out the "damage" was minor, and could have
been safely ignored. The ribbon cable had originally been 15 conductor,
but had been stripped down to 14 conductors, except for one loose 8" wire
at the AUI end. That wire is connected to pin 1 of the AUI connector, and
it appears someone had crimped a 0.25" quick connect terminal to it and
connected it to an unused chassis ground terminal on the line filter. Pin
1 didn't even exist on the card end of the cable, so my guess is someone
modified the cable due to interference problems. When I found the loose
wire, it had been pulled loose from the quick connect terminal, and had
some (cheap) electrical tape wrapped around the end.

This particular system was located in England from around 1983 to 1998 or
so, and had been converted for 240V operation. It appears the conversion
was done by a SGI field tech, since the rear of the system has a sticker
that states "115V", while the metal plate with the IEC connector states
"230V". The PSU has a typewritten SGI sticker with a 184-260V(?) voltage
range covering the 115V rating next to the supply terminals. After looking
at the PSU itself, it appears conversion back to 115/120V requires little
more than desoldering/resoldering some jumper wires. The 3 system fans
will also have to be replaced when converting the system back to 120V. I
also noticed an extra white wire run up to the front panel where the power
switch is mounted. There is a black wire used for hot, and a red wire used
for the switched hot. The white wire is connected to the unswitched hot
(or what would be neutral for 120V operation), so I'm guessing this system
would have originally used a lighted rocker switch before the 240V
conversion (there are no power on indicators on the front of the system).
There are also 4 extra wires in the junction box behind the bottom rear
panel. Two are white and are on what would be the neutral side, one is
black, which is unswitched hot, and the other is red, again switched hot.
My guess is that these were originally used for accessory outlets on the
original panel, which was replaced during the 240V conversion.

I found quite a few things that had not been reinstalled properly at some
point, but one thing that really sticks out were the "missing" spacer
washers used for the 5V 100A power supply connections. I actually found
the pair of washers used under two of the bolts that mount the PSU to the
system chassis. I ended up replacing some of the crimp-on connectors for
some of the power supply connections. I think the original system builder
must have been having a bad day, because there were a number of those
terminals that were not crimped properly. About 50% of the screws that are
supposed to hold the system together were also missing. I guess one of the
former service techs in England didn't like removing/installing screws...

After completing the cleanup/inspection, I checked out the supply voltages
(without any boards installed in the card cage and without any drives
installed) and found all the supply voltages to be within spec. I
reinstalled all the boards, and checked it out again, at which point the
system appeared to be functioning properly (according to the diagnostic
display on the rear of the system). I then reinstalled the hard drive, and
connected the monitor. I got an image on the monitor, but the picture was
very, very poor. It looks like the monitor will need to be recapped. I was
able to read it well enough to see that I got the initial monitor display
with a 'boot>' prompt. I wasn't able to boot the system though, since
there does indeed appear to be something wrong with the ST-506 interface
(I got continuous "timeout" errors for md:0). There could also be
something wrong with the hard drive (which appears to have been serviced
at some point), but since there was a tag attached to the ST-506 interface
board, it is my primary suspect.

The SGI sticker under the front panel on this system shows it as serial
number 95 (same as on a rear sticker), and all the boards installed in the
card cage (with the exception of the ST-506 interface) appear to match the
numbers on that sticker. I'm kinda wondering if someone might have used
this 1400 as a source for a spare ST-506 interface, but I'll probably
never know. The ST-506 interface thats currently installed in this system
appears to be of 3rd party origin, though maybe all of the ST-506
interface boards for the 1x00 and 2x00 systems were. The SGI sticker also
shows the backplane cut to be 9/10, but inspection showed that it actually
has a 11/12 cut. There is also another SGI sticker underneath the visible
one, and it appears this system was originally serial number 47, also with
a 11/12 backplane cut.

Does anyone have any info on these systems? There doesn't seem to be much
information left, and very little can be found on the web. I'm somewhat
tempted to try contacting SGI for a little more information, but I don't
know if there would still be anyone still there who would know anything
about this system.

If there is any interest, I'll see about putting up some pictures of this
system over the next couple of weeks.

Received on Thu Jul 18 2002 - 02:36:00 BST

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