Equipment Available (really VAX 8600)

Johnny Billquist bqt at
Fri Jan 23 10:21:24 CST 2015

On 2015-01-23 16:55, Richard Loken wrote:
> On Thu, 22 Jan 2015, Jay West wrote:
>> Just received the following "equipment available" email..
> ...
>> Vax 8600
> ...
>> MicroVax II
> ...
> Coinicidently, my employer purchased a VAX 8600 (running VMS) and a
> VAX-11/785 running Ultrix in 1985 and I was reading the tender for its
> purchase last week.
> In 1985 an educational institution could get a VAX 8600, VAX/VMS 4.7,
> umpteen layered products, and a three years hardware/software support
> agreement for CDN$1,034,000.00 and a VAX-11/785 with Ultrix and layered
> products for around $400,000.00.
> The purchase All-In-One was $35,000.00!!!  Coo Lummey!
> Four years later the 8600 (now an 8650) was replaced by a VAX 8820 for
> an additional $1.2 million.

Thanks for that information. Pretty cool. Lots of money...

> The VAX 8820 ran a MicroVAX II as its boot/management console but I cannot
> remember what did that job for the 8600.  Was it a MicroVAX II?  If so, then
> anybody wishing to haul away the 8600 will also want the MicroVAX II...

No. The 86x0 machines have a built-in PDP-11 for the front end. This 
PDP-11 has its own Q-bus inside the VAX, and on that sits a RLV12 
controller, with the FE RL02 disk pack, on which all microcode, 
diagnostics, tools, and the FE console handling software resides. (It is 
actually a specially tailored RT-11 system.)

If anyone, anywhere, plans on running an 86x0, please contact me. Unless 
you really know what you are doing, chances are that you will not manage 
to get the machine running, or that you'll break it in short order.

Important things to know: The machine *really* needs 3-phase. And the 
phases have to be ordered right. The blowers are 3-phase motors, and 
they create a small storm behind the machine. The machine is all ECL, 
and really need the cooling, or else it will break. The RL02 is critical 
for operation of the machine. All the microcode is loaded at boot time 
from the PDP-11 into the VAX.
The VAX have a battery back unit for RTC. Chances are that the batteries 
have gone bad if the machine have been in storage. They are 12V lead 
batteries. Without healthy batteries the machine will not start up. 
There is a jumper you can install to get around this, but it's not 
documented anywhere.

All that said, it is my favorite model of all time (although maybe a VAX 
9000 would beat it, if I ever would have a chance to play with one...)


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