NCR 3550 Digital Library Was Re: System Pro WAS RE: Compaq Smart Array 3200 Controller as a SCSI Controller

Kevin Bowling kevin.bowling at
Tue Jul 21 10:50:12 CDT 2020

Wow, would love to have a machine like that.  The “weird unix” was probably
MP-RAS which was NCR’s SysVr4.  NCR was selling massive x86 MCA systems for
Terradata setups in the early ‘90s.

On Thu, Jul 16, 2020 at 8:54 AM Chris Zach via cctalk <cctalk at>

> Now in terms of the most MANLY system I worked on, that would be the
> NCR3550 we had at the IEEE Computer Society. When I arrived in 1993 it
> had been donated, but was doing nothing with 4 486 CPUs in it and a
> weird copy of AT&T unix. I took one look at the 256 bit interleaved
> memory architecture the 3 levels of cache with affinity, the infinite
> amount of space for disks, and the dual micro-channel busses and fell in
> *love*
> We talked to NCR, upgraded it to 512mb memory, 8 Pentium Pro/200 CPUs,
> and dual Microchannel busses with FDDI and Ethernet interfaces. Loaded
> it with disks, installed Windows NT 4.0 on it, and turned it into TALOS,
> the main server for the IEEE Computer Society's Digital Library (which I
> built).
> Partnered with Anderson and Netscape to multi-thread commerce server
> (SSL), built an E-account system in Lotus Domino/Notes, and loaded up
> all of our SGML with an SGML to HTML converter (Dynaweb) and a custom
> tool that could convert Tek math to GIFs on the fly. That process could
> take advantage of all 8 CPUs and render complex math articles in real time.
> Also did e-commerce for awhile with online credit card processing for
> memberships and conferences (SuperComputing/95 was the first conference
> to do on-line credit cards, I built that too because I was sick and
> tired of keying in the cards myself. Laziness is next to godliness)
> It served for years as the CS Digital Library core server with
> 30,000-40,000 accounts in active use. Man that thing was a truck, I wish
> I knew what had happened to it.
> And to think, it all started with the computer room ceiling collapsing
> from all the RS232 cables from the Vax and crushing our Sun Sparc 20 web
> server that kicked off this whole thing.
> I should write a book or an article about that. We did so much that was
> so... new... and all of that could be forgotten like tears in the rain....
> CZ
> On 7/16/2020 11:40 AM, Ali via cctalk wrote:
> >>>   Had a full compliment of memory,
> >>> max internal disk on the ATA controller,
> >>
> >> ATA? That long ago?
> >>
> >> Possible but unusual in a server, I would have thought.
> >
> > Funny story about that - I just setup a Systempro XL at home to play
> with. It is fully decked out w/ dual processor 50MHZ 486s (not DX2), 512MB
> of memory, a 4GB SCSI Boot Drive and six 2GB SCSI drives in RAID 5. The
> Compaq systems came standard with what Compaq called the IDA (Intelligent
> Drive Array). It was IDE based but did not use standard IDE drives. I think
> it could do RAID 0, 1, and 3 (or the equivalents there of). Compaq even had
> a few iterations of the controller and cached ones. Interestingly the
> Systempro XL had a SCSI 2 controller on the MB mainly used for the tape
> dive or CD while the base config came with an IDA 2 controller and could
> have up to eight drives. In addition you could install extra IDA
> controllers for even more drives or to drive external boxes. Or you could
> upgrade to a SCSI array - which is what I have running in my Systempro XL.
> >
> >
> >>
> >> What OS, just out of interest?
> >
> > Target OS was WinNT 3.1 initially and then 4.0. 2K was also supported
> but the machine really was not meant for 2k. You could also run OS/2,
> Novell Netware, Compaq DOS, and supposedly there was even a version of MS
> LanMan (the full server OS not the client) for the Systempro that allowed
> SMP.
> >
> > -Ali
> >

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