Nat Semi ns32k, was Re: Whitechapel Computer Works MG-1

Rick Bensene rickb at
Mon Dec 1 08:58:07 CST 2014

Steve Jones wrote:

> Tektronix delivered a couple models of UTek workstations. 

Yes, the first machine, whose designation I cannot recall at the moment,
was 32032 based, and was a desk-side unit, quite large.   The UTek OS
was based on 4.2bsd, though there were definitely some Tek-specific
modifications.  A quite complex graphics processor was available for the
machine.   It was quite capable for its time.   However, Tektronix
didn't really know how to market and sell computers (after all, they
were a Test & Measurement company), and sales were less than stellar.  

Despite this rather lousy sales of the big machine, a smaller line of
32016-based machines were made.  The first was the 6130.  It was about
the size of an original IBM PC, and had 3 dual-wide or 6 single-wide
expansion slots, which could be mixed and matched with peripheral and
memory cards.  The machine came with a 30MB (IIRC) Micropolis 5 1/4"
hard disk (ST-506), and a Wangtek 1/4" cartridge tape drive (DC-300) and
a 5 1/4" double density half-height floppy disc drive.   I think memory
maxed out at 4MB.  The machines made a great little desktop Unix machine
hooked up to a CRT terminal.    I bought all the parts to build one from
Tektronix engineering stock back in the day (Tek employees got cost+10%
for any parts Tek stocked), and put a complete system together.  Great
fun, and it worked straight away.  The CPU board (single board) was
purchased completely assembled, so that made things a lot easier.  

The next was the 4132.  It was very similar to the 6130, but it changed
from ST-506-style disk drive to a SCSI disk drive, and had a SCSI
connector on the back panel of the CPU for adding external drives.   It
also had a built-in IEEE-488 interface, and was really designed to be an
instrument controller, which Tek was pretty good at, and could sell the
machine as such.    I ended up buying one of these at the Tektronix
Country Store for something like $30 when the line was canceled and a
bunch showed up at a "Fire Sale".    It was a bit faster than the 6130,
partly because of faster disk I/O, and also I think that the 32016 CPU
was a faster-clocked version.  

At this point, denying the fact that Tek didn't really know how to sell
computers very well (despite the successes with the 4051/4052/4054),
they dumped the NS processors, and went with the Motorola processors for
a line of machines, that were desktop form-factor (a little larger,
though), and had built-in graphics.  Pretty nice, and were much faster
than the NS-based machines.  However, again, not much market success.

Lastly, they dumped the NS processors, and went with the Motoroal 88K
CPU for a line of XD88 "superworkstations".  They were fast, and had
pretty amazing graphics capabilities, but alas, the company never really
figured out how to sell computers as computers/workstations, and
eventually the development group was disbanded, and that ended Tek's
foray into Unix workstations.

While on the subject, a plea -- if anyone out there has floppy images
for the standalone boot and an image of the DC300 UTek installation
tapes for the 4132, I'd love to get my hands on them.  I still have the
4132, but no media -- the original floppies were low-quality, and are
unreadable today, and the installation tapes that I have don't seem to
want to read either, likely due to print-through from sitting for so
very long (since like, oh, 1987 or so).  I'd love to get this beast
running again.   Stupidly, I never imaged them back in the day.

-Rick Bensene

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