UNIX® Workstations

The collection has several workstations which run operating systems which are based on UNIX® in one form or another. Most of them I had some experience with during my career at Wisconsin DOT.

Not shown here are a Sun SPARCstation 1 “pizza box” an SGI Indy “pizza box” workstation, an IBM RT PC and a couple of AT&T 3B2-200 computers.

Intergraph InterPro 2020

In 1982 Wisconsin DOT acquired an Intergraph drafting system based upon a DEC PDP-11/23 as a proof of concept. Later, in the fall of 1983, that was upgraded to a VAX 11/780. Then early in 1986, a VAX 11/785 was added to the mix.

At that same time, Wisconsin DOT acquired an Intergraph workstation based on the National Semiconductor 32000 series – the InterPro 32. It was dog slow, and not good for much. Its only real ability was to mimic older Intergraph workstations hooked up to the VAX.

Then, Intergraph adopted the Fairchild Clipper RISC chipset for their workstations, which they sold for several years, this Interpro 2020 among them. It was located at Wisconsin DOT District 8 in Superior Wisconsin (hence its workstation name “id83”), and was acquired through the State of Wisconsin surplus sales program. These workstations were fairly useful, and served until PC graphics and CPU power eventually made them irrelevant.

As I wrote this article I discovered, to my surprise, that there is a MAME InterPro emulation for the Clipper series of workstations.

Apollo DN3000

The Apollo DOMAIN Series 3000, as its full title calls it, is another of my nostalgic workstations. In the late 1980’s I participated in a group sponsored by AASTHO to develop specifications for states to use when acquiring workstations to use for highway design. Around 1989, just about the time that Apollo was acquired by HP, Wisconsin DOT issued a request for bid for UNIX® based workstations to use to run the computer aided highway engineering design package CEAL. HP won that bid based on Apollo DN3500 workstations, and a couple of dozen were acquired.

There was a good possibility that DEC could have won that bid. However, their maintenance cost projections they sent were only good for one year, and the bid specified a lifecycle cost evaluation of either 3 or 5 years (I forget). When we approached DEC for a clarification, they responded that their standard annual increase project would apply (it was something astronomical, like 15% to 25% increase per year on maintenance charges.) That cost them the bid. They started a bid protest process, but quickly realized they had no case. Had they specified a more reasonable typical inflation factor of 5%, they may have won.

Aside from HP/Apollo and DEC, we also had bids from Tektronix for their workstations. Fortunately for both of us, they could not get their workstations to work reliably – I think they were early production or even prototypes – and they were quickly disqualified. I no longer recall if IBM bid some variant of the RT or not.

This all led to an interesting story. A year or so later, the HP salesman approached me. They had recovered a stolen DN3500 which had had its serial numbers obliterated – it was of no real value to anyone, and he knew that I collected old computers. Being a state employee, I had to refuse, of course.

Then, in 1998, I was contacted by an employee of a company in Springfield IL which had this DN3000 that they would just as soon save from a landfill – which is exactly what I did – it came complete with its Apollo token ring connector cables and even a little 3 node token ring setup.

Later I acquired a compatible 3Com Etherlink Plus card so I could connect it to my home’s Ethernet LAN.

There are quite a few images of the old Apollo software distribution cartridge tapes out there – enough to install and run DOMAIN/OS (including the Aegis, BSD and SystemV shells and subsystems) and some layered products (compilers, etc.) as well, generally locatable using web searches. If you need something and can’t find it, let me know. Someday I expect I will scan my collection of HP Apollo manuals.

Finally, the MAME software emulator does a creditable job of emulating this and other Apollo workstations.

HP 9000 C100

The collection also has a pair of HP 9000 C100 workstations, one of which is shown here, which were acquired from the University of Wisconsin surplus program.

After extending the Apollo workstations based on the Motorola 68K family up through the HP/Apollo 425t, HP moved on to workstations based on the PA-RISC architecture: the HP 9000 series 700, 800 and C series workstations and servers.

Wisconsin DOT installed and used a number of those for several years, including HP 712 “pizza box” desktops, HP 715 workstations and HP 750 workstations. They also used HP 9000 Itanium-based series servers to run Oracle for a number of years.

Getting back to the HP 700 workstations, during the early to mid 1990’s, CEAL was already running on the PC platform, and the HP workstations were mostly used for specialized workstations and to run ESRI ARC/INFO software. Those applications, too eventually found their way to PCs.

For a while, Wisconsin DOT used HP 715 workstations to support both its Internet web server and its internal intranet web server. The former was eventually migrated to a PC running Linux, and the latter to the Microsoft PC platform.

For software, I have a number of HP installation disks, but the only thing I have actually run on them to play around with was an early version of Linux.