New Item: HP Integral Personal Computer

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I am trying to avoid buying any old computer, but a friend of mine and I made an exception in this case and bought this together. Somebody in Prague offered a non-working HP Integral Personal Computer (1985) for $420. It was just 15 minutes of traveling from my friend’s home, so he visited the seller and told him that he would buy it if he could look into it, measure voltages and check for corrosion (either from caps or a leaked battery). The seller agreed. They briefly started the computer, but only horizontal bars were flashing on the screen. Then he disassembled the system, and everything was in pristine condition and all voltages were ok. After reassembling, he just paid and took it home.

When I visited the friend, he showed the computer. I asked him to start it so I could record a video of the error. To our surprise, the machine started directly into its HP-UX 5.0 UNIX system stored in ROM. Maybe the reseating of the internal boards helped it. Who knows. Anyway, we haven’t played with it more. I will first clean it and it is necessary to check capacitors in the power supply, repair the power button and check why the machine does the high-pitch sound when operating – it sounds like a hard drive which is not there.

I love how the machine looks like and it is even smaller than I expected. When carried, it is just as tall as my 1989 Toshiba T3200SX with a 386SX CPU, 3MB of RAM and a VGA gas-plasma display… and it is not much heavier. HP Integral Personal Computer is based on the Motorola 68000 CPU and has at least 512KB of RAM. In addition to the ROM storage containing the operating system, there is just a single internal floppy drive (720KB 3.5”). More storage devices can be connected using HP-IB though. I always wanted this machine. I even have a HP Journal magazine from 1985 with a very in-depth description of each internal component.

Fun With Intel Itanium

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It might be surprising for somebody, but Itanium-based systems are still being used today. You cannot see them in a form of a standard office PC though. They are hidden in large datacenters, doing some serious stuff running on HP-UX or OpenVMS.

I have one HP Integrity BL860c i2 blade server (manufactured in 2010) in our lab and there was recently some time to play with it a bit. I played a lot with HP-UX before (even with PA-RISC machines) so the obvious next step was to install the last version of Windows Server for Itanium. It has a built-in x86 emulator written by guys from Intel and it is possible to transparently run standard 32bit x86 applications along with native ones. It is not very different from current ARM-based Windows devices.

Some simple emulated applications can achieve 50-70% of CPU performance. However, other applications (especially those with GUI) are super-slow. It takes ages to load a web page in emulated Firefox. The quad-core 1.33-GHz Itanium 9320 received only 0.38 pts in the Cinebench R11.5 multi-threaded test (32bit x86, 8 threads). That is similar to a single core of a five years old in-order Intel Atom processor.

It was expected to access Windows Server 2008 (R2) for Itanium no other way than using RDP. Therefore, there is literally no graphics acceleration implemented in the ATI driver (the chip is based on the ATI Radeon 7000 core).

The support for Itanium in Windows was discontinued in 2010.

One day at Hewlett Packard in 1991

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After many years, I decided to share this video because of its historical value. I’ve realized that it wouldn’t find its way to the Internet if I didn’t upload it by myself. The video shows an on-site technician team from Germany doing its job – fixing minicomputers and terminals in large industrial buildings. I would like to experience the atmosphere of the good old HP.

HP-UX and Common Desktop Environment (CDE)

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The HP-UX installation was successfully finished with a large text over a half of the screen saying “FAILURE!” written in ASCII art. The whole process took about ten hours and after an automatic restart, the system booted up in the graphics environment.

The CDE GUI is not as intuitive as the one on SGI IRIX but I can live with it. I was more surprised that all color schemes (about 20) looked ugly as hell. The guys who were responsible for this were probably on LSD. Otherwise, I cannot understand the color combinations they created.

On the bright side – although the CPU runs only on 100MHz, the overall feeling of speed is better than on 200-MHz SGI O2. I have only a low-end graphics card capable of 1280×1024 in 256 colors (actually it can combine one 256-color palette for an active window and second 256-color palette for the rest), it is very fast and has no problems with refreshing windows while moving.

Btw the system cannot use audio in the CDE until the network is fully configured. It wouldn’t be a true UNIX without such jokes.

HP 9000/C100 Graphics Workstation (1995)

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My C100 is not as nice as the one on Wikipedia, but it’s fully working. The machine was used in a small GIS company as a server for two X terminals (probably HP 700X). It is equipped with 100-MHz PA-7200 CPU, 256 MB of RAM, 2-GB SCSI HDD, two additional 100-Mbit/s network NICs and a single-head version of the HP 8-bit frame-buffer card. The original owners used it with an external SCSI drive for user data and did regular backups using the internal tape drive. They didn’t delete anything from the internal system drive when they stopped using it (the drive has only about 10 megs of free space).

Owners were probably smokers so I had to clean the internals of the machine from the greasy dust. Fortunately, there was no visible corrosion on logic boards. Now it is ready for a fresh installation of the HP-UX operating system including the complete aC++ development environment.

Itanium Blade Server

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Yay! I accidentally found an Itanium-based blade server that had never been used. I already removed the original root password that nobody knew and started with HP-UX configuration over a virtual serial connection.

I’m surprised how uncomfortable the terminal is. Although I have a very recent version of the system, even backspace/delete doesn’t work the way the world is used to for decades. Looks like UNIX guys like it rough…