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

Chris Zach cz at
Tue Jul 21 12:00:56 CDT 2020

That was it: MP-RAS. It was neat, kind of good, but to be honest Windows 
NT 3.51 and 4.0 ran very well on it.

Just weighed a literal ton. For all I know it's still in the basement of 
their Dupont Center office (now long closed)


On 7/21/2020 11:50 AM, Kevin Bowling wrote:
> 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 <mailto:cctalk at>> wrote:
>     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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