ORAC lives again!

Firstly, apologies for not taking more of an active part in the competition as an organiser. I know I’ve done half-time round ups and such in the past, but I’ve been in the unique position this month to have the time to be able to indulge myself in my own retro-tinkering, so I expect leniency from my peers! I promise to do an uber-roundup at the end. Honest.

ORAC is the first VAXstation 4000/90, and indeed the first VAX of any description, that I’ve ever owned. The name is derived from a computer appearing in the cult BBC television series Blakes 7 broadcast in the UK between 1978 and 1981. I pinched the name from a node in a VAX cluster I worked with whilst in my first job at Cyberscience Corporation around 1991.

The Perspex wonder that is ORAC

The Perspex wonder that is ORAC

I had a VMS saveset of the system disk (created in November) under Ubuntu on the HP microserver. In order to get a disk image created from it I had to load it into SIMVAX via ftp – SIMVAX is a SIMH instance running on the microserver so I was basically pulling the file from Linux into a VMS file system. This took a long time! I attached a new disk image to BUBBLE and extracted the image across DECNET. Then I stopped BUBBLE, detached the image, attached it to a new VAX MP instance (single processor only) and booted into ORAC.

Of all the VAXEN I’ve owned ORAC has had the most software thrown at it. Of note is that it runs ALLIN1 – and in fact I’ve used this to generate previous Retrochallenge entries. Besides a bit of reconfiguration still to do it looks like it’s hanging together.

I bought a quad ethernet PCI-E card off eBay to go in the DL380G5 for a very, very reasonable £7.99 which turned up yesterday. On closer inspection it looked like the connector had been hacked – part had been cut off and a notch created:

PCI-E connector - hacked!

PCI-E connector – hacked!

Now the card was sold as seen – and I hadn’t picked up on this – and indeed would never have thought to look. I contacted the seller, in a non-confrontational manner, and got a reply detailed the fact that he had used the card, it worked, and that he had bought it in this condition and sold it on at a discount price. Fair enough I guess. So I put it in the DL380, and you know what – two of the ports work, and two of them don’t. How weird is that!

So BUBBLE and ORAC are now configured on these Ethernet ports. Here are a couple of screenshots of ORAC running under VAX MP:

Mosaic Web Browser rendering the Yahoo home page!

Mosaic Web Browser rendering the Yahoo search page!

Screenshot from 2015-01-26 23:39:07


Screenshot from 2015-01-26 23:40:20

Screenshot from 2015-01-26 23:40:33

Screenshot from 2015-01-26 23:40:52


Screenshot from 2015-01-26 23:41:50


Screenshot from 2015-01-26 23:42:16


Screenshot from 2015-01-26 23:42:47


Screenshot from 2015-01-26 23:44:51


Screenshot from 2015-01-26 23:45:00


Screenshot from 2015-01-26 23:45:29


Screenshot from 2015-01-26 23:45:47


Screenshot from 2015-01-26 23:46:22


Screenshot from 2015-01-26 23:46:54


Screenshot from 2015-01-26 23:47:15


Screenshot from 2015-01-26 23:47:40

That’s all for now!