NeXT/HP 9000 project; handoff to interested party?

Started by grendel, May 12, 2012, 06:44:48 pm

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NeXT & HP 9000/800 K class mashup project

Sometime around 1994-1995, a video was release by NeXT, Inc., of Steve Jobs demo'ing their distributed objects product.  Sitting in front of an intel 486-based computer running OpenStep, he opened, and generated a large, colorful, complex, fractal image on the monitor.  Given the limited floating point processing power of a 486, the image was generating slowly, line-by-line.  On an identical monitor beside it, connected to an essentially identical OpenStep machine, he also opened  He turned back to the first machine and hit "start" to regenerate the original fractal image.  Pausing to speak briefly, he then turned to the 2nd monitor/keyboard, and started the other Mandelbrot instance.  The same image generated very quickly on the 2nd, completing well before the 1st. Via distributed objects, the math processing for the fractal was being done over the network on a third machine... what I understood to be an HP 9000/800 "K" class workhorse.  

The K-class box is itself not completely uninteresting. A RISC type multiprocessor architecture machine running the HP-UX UNIX variant, it could be installed as either rack-mount or floor standing.  Physical dimensions of the free-standing enclosure are  635×432×698 mm high/wide/deep. The complete system weighed in at 59KG.  Given the time frame, it was likely running the 32-bit version of the OS, not the 64.

That machine, unseen behind a curtain, must have briefly captured my imagination.    

Some time thereafter, I ran across the enclosure of just such a machine.  It was being discarded, as the box was being rack-mounted. It seemed ridiculous to landfill it, so it was "liberated".  Being aware of this oblique historical connection, I wondered what the machine would look like if painted the classic NeXT charcoal-black, and emblazoned with the unique cube logo.  A futile gesture against the commodity beige boxes that ended the elegant black hardware.

Over a series of years, some related items were accumulated for the project. I ran across an HP 812/70 workstation for sale, capable of running a port of the NeXTSTEP operating system (a UNIX variant itself), which I purchased for little more than shipping. Sometime later, I ran across a set of obsolete HP SCSI peripherals that enclosure-matched the workstation, free for the asking.

Even if available, employing the actual 9000/800 K-class hardware for the project was impractical.  It is heavy machinery, designed for a datacenter. My home sports neither 30-amp/220-volt power circuits, nor NEMA L6 twist lock plug receptacles. Additionally, the laws of Moore and Amdahl, combined with the passing of time, make it more suited as a space heater than a computer.    

The project never made it onto my "must finish" short list, unfortunately.  I start things (many, many things) with a pathological fervor; finish them... not so much.

Figure 1:  K-class enclosure, 812 workstation, peripherals

Figure 2:  Logo badge simulacra, displayed at the canonical 23 degree tilt.

Figure 3:  NeXT hardware logo badges (reference only)

I'm looking to offload the project to an interested party, without incurring cost to myself.    

The three small peripherals weigh approx. 14 lbs.  

712/80 workstation:  18.4 lbs.

K9000/800 enclosure: less than 10 lbs.,  disassembles to 4 pieces, largest is 635x698 mm.  

The logo badges are as shown.  I've no idea of the intellectual property implications.  Let's consider this exercise as something between fan-art and satire.