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The one and only: Personal Mainframe
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da9000



Joined: 30 Sep 2006
Posts: 387
Location: Silicon Valley

PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2007 1:29 am    Post subject: The one and only: Personal Mainframe Reply with quote

I promised the nextcomputers.org folks I'd put some photos up, so here they are!

Please realize that I'm not a photographer, I had almost non-existent lighting and a rather simplistic camera without a tripod Sad Aka: some photos are blurry and dark (I swear they looked brighter in the LCD Smile)

Enjoy and feel free to answer some of the questions posed, about the chips and things Smile

EDIT: now that I know about BBcode, let's put up a sample photo or two:




























Last edited by da9000 on Thu Apr 15, 2010 12:25 am; edited 2 times in total
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pergamon



Joined: 30 Dec 2005
Posts: 211
Location: Indiana

PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2007 6:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very nice!

A couple things:
* The mainboard probably isn't original to this cube. That serial number is very late - I've got mainboards in the AAX...0500 range from regular production machines.
* Your Dimension board seems to be a pre-production one, but it couldn't be original to this case either. It is from 1991, and your case is from 1987. All the Dimensions I've seen are 1508.AD, and yours is 1508.AB. I'm curious - what is the serial number on this?
* The PSU is probably original to the machine (back cover) - I've never seen a serial number of the form "A00049" before. I have a prototype cube with a serial number like "000004XX" with no A at the beginning at all. Interesting that both yours and my prototype are still marked with part number "152.00" just like the production ones.
* Then you've got the paint on the back cover. Clearly not the normal paint. It is even, so I'm guessing that's the original color of the thing. My prototype cube's back cover is black (almost the regular production color), so I'm guessing that your back cover predates my "prototype" one. Neat!
* I'd also guess that this cube case might not go with the back, since the cube itself doesn't match. Plus the obvious - none of the original cubes would have had a floppy drive slot. Yeah, this case is almost certainly from much later. Can you take a pic of the backplane within the case and get the serial number / part number from that?

I'm not sure what part this would have played - the "Personal Mainframe". I'm guessing that it was something made up for internal use only, just to see how it looked. Of course, the Computer was marketed as a "Personal Mainframe" early on.

As far as my opinion that parts of this aren't original goes - don't feel bad. Only one of my very early cubes is, as far as I can tell, completely original and it is from 1988, a year after yours. Since these things were so easy to repair and their pieces so easy to replace, it seems most did. Back in the day when any NeXT was thousands of dollars and you were relying on it if a part went bad even in your pre-production machine, it probably just got replaced.

Thanks so much for posting these!
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da9000



Joined: 30 Sep 2006
Posts: 387
Location: Silicon Valley

PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2007 1:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

pergamon wrote:
Very nice!

A couple things:
* The mainboard probably isn't original to this cube. That serial number is very late - I've got mainboards in the AAX...0500 range from regular production machines.


First if all, I'm no expert in NeXT stuff, just love them to death Smile So, could you tell me, does the above mean that the first motherboard was AAX..0001 ?

Also, does it mean by default that it must have been an 030 board? Or does the AAX...0001 mean it's the first 040-25Mhz motherboard?

pergamon wrote:

* Your Dimension board seems to be a pre-production one, but it couldn't be original to this case either. It is from 1991, and your case is from 1987. All the Dimensions I've seen are 1508.AD, and yours is 1508.AB. I'm curious - what is the serial number on this?


I'm not sure what you mean by "be original to this case". Didn't the NeXT Dimension come later down the road? When the first cases appeared, I doubt there were any Dimensions, right? So by default no NeXT Dimension would be original to any case, right?

As for serial number, I didn't see any, otherwise I would have photographed it. Where should I look?

pergamon wrote:

* The PSU is probably original to the machine (back cover) - I've never seen a serial number of the form "A00049" before. I have a prototype cube with a serial number like "000004XX" with no A at the beginning at all. Interesting that both yours and my prototype are still marked with part number "152.00" just like the production ones.


Just out of curiosity: why would they not be marked 152.00 ?

pergamon wrote:

* Then you've got the paint on the back cover. Clearly not the normal paint. It is even, so I'm guessing that's the original color of the thing. My prototype cube's back cover is black (almost the regular production color), so I'm guessing that your back cover predates my "prototype" one. Neat!


At this moment, I can't recall what other Cubes looked like in the back, but yes, this backcover is certainly not the same as the rest of the case. It's blacker than what looks in the photos, BUT it's not smooth like the case. It's got a grainy feel to it. You can feel the difference easily if you run you fingers on the two surfaces.

pergamon wrote:

* I'd also guess that this cube case might not go with the back, since the cube itself doesn't match. Plus the obvious - none of the original cubes would have had a floppy drive slot. Yeah, this case is almost certainly from much later. Can you take a pic of the backplane within the case and get the serial number / part number from that?


I'll try to do it one day when I get some time to disassemble the whole thing.

pergamon wrote:

I'm not sure what part this would have played - the "Personal Mainframe". I'm guessing that it was something made up for internal use only, just to see how it looked. Of course, the Computer was marketed as a "Personal Mainframe" early on.


I might not know enough, but I've got a gut feeling, based on the feeling I got when I first discovered NeXTs in my univ. labs in the past-mid-90's, that this beast was as kick ass as having your own personal mainframe. I believe it was a boasting statement by the NeXT guys, and frankly well deserved :)

pergamon wrote:

As far as my opinion that parts of this aren't original goes - don't feel bad. Only one of my very early cubes is, as far as I can tell, completely original and it is from 1988, a year after yours. Since these things were so easy to repair and their pieces so easy to replace, it seems most did. Back in the day when any NeXT was thousands of dollars and you were relying on it if a part went bad even in your pre-production machine, it probably just got replaced.


Yes, no worries, I'm not so much looking to be the most ultimate NeXT fan/collector*, although now that I finally got a cube (this is the first I've owned, the rest have eluded me in the past, I've only been able to use them, not own them), and being so cool and rare like this, I'll be looking to get another one so I can tinker with, and not cry as hard in case I damage it. Given some time, I'll do some software porting (now that I know and love Obj-C/Cocoa, Interface Builder, and 68k assembly), and I'd like to attempt some hardware hacking following some of the excellent material posted on these forums (I forget the posters' names), like accelerating these beasts.


As for the last bits, about the parts being easily replaced, I can certainly respect that, because I've never had any difficulty rearranging the previous cubes I have used, and to complete the story of this machine: I got it from an ex-NeXT QA engineer, and I'm assuming these guys had plenty of spares, like you said, and retrofited items as needed. So it seems almost certain he'd swap parts as he saw fit to keep his machine top-notch, and not spending $10,000 Smile Perhaps I'll ask him for the history of this machine one day, if he even remembers...


pergamon wrote:

Thanks so much for posting these!


You're very welcome! Do you have photos of your prototype(s) somewhere that I can check out?


* Even though I'll be keeping this machine for now, I got plenty of interesting NeXT paraphenelia with it (pencils, posters, magazines, books), and I'll be selling most of that off. I'm not necessarily going to be looking for top dollar for them, I'd rather they go to good hands, and would actually like to swap some off (maybe another "plain" cube as I said, or some good NeXT books, or anything else NeXT and interesting), but if anyone has any suggestions on how to proceed with this, feel free to let me know. What I mean by this is: I don't necessarily want eBay getting most of the $$, they've got plenty. I'd also like to feel safe when doing the swap, and eBay/Paypal sort of helps in that respect, so I don't know if I can/should do a bid-type thing in these forums or not, or newsgroups, etc. Finally, I'm not sure about the time frame, as I'm kind of busy lately, but who knows. I'll just start by listing and photographing the items.
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pergamon



Joined: 30 Dec 2005
Posts: 211
Location: Indiana

PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2007 4:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

da9000 wrote:
pergamon wrote:
Very nice!

A couple things:
* The mainboard probably isn't original to this cube. That serial number is very late - I've got mainboards in the AAX...0500 range from regular production machines.


First if all, I'm no expert in NeXT stuff, just love them to death Smile So, could you tell me, does the above mean that the first motherboard was AAX..0001 ?

Also, does it mean by default that it must have been an 030 board? Or does the AAX...0001 mean it's the first 040-25Mhz motherboard?


Well:

Cubes:
ADA... are 33mhz 040s
AAX... are 25mhz 040s
AAG... are 25mhz 030s

Stations:
ABB... are 25mhz (early) or 33mhz (later) 040 mono
ABC... are 25mhz (early) or 33mhz (later) 040 color

Based on serial numbers I've seen, it is quite probable that they did start their serial numbers at ...0001.

da9000 wrote:
pergamon wrote:

* Your Dimension board seems to be a pre-production one, but it couldn't be original to this case either. It is from 1991, and your case is from 1987. All the Dimensions I've seen are 1508.AD, and yours is 1508.AB. I'm curious - what is the serial number on this?


I'm not sure what you mean by "be original to this case". Didn't the NeXT Dimension come later down the road? When the first cases appeared, I doubt there were any Dimensions, right? So by default no NeXT Dimension would be original to any case, right?

As for serial number, I didn't see any, otherwise I would have photographed it. Where should I look?


Well, right. There were no Dimensions in 1987, so it would have to be added to it. But that's kinda what I meant -- there wouldn't have been a Dimension board in a machine from 1987.

As for the serial number, on the later Dimensions it is on a yellow sticker (like your cube MB) on the bottom of the board, on the same edge as the NeXTBus connector, but at the other end.

da9000 wrote:
pergamon wrote:

* The PSU is probably original to the machine (back cover) - I've never seen a serial number of the form "A00049" before. I have a prototype cube with a serial number like "000004XX" with no A at the beginning at all. Interesting that both yours and my prototype are still marked with part number "152.00" just like the production ones.


Just out of curiosity: why would they not be marked 152.00 ?


While NeXT products usually kept the same (what I call) model number (like N2001), the (what I call) part number usually changes depending on the version. There were some part numbers used only for pre-production stuff too. I would have thought that really early PSs would have been given a different part number.

da9000 wrote:
You're very welcome! Do you have photos of your prototype(s) somewhere that I can check out?


No, but I need to do that. That machine, actually, isn't nearly as interesting as yours though.
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helf



Joined: 29 Dec 2005
Posts: 1097
Location: Alabama, USA

PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2007 4:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That is a really nice machine, da9000!

I just aquired a Cube. According to FedEx, It will be here on the 13th. Cannot wait Smile Unfortunately, it is not a Dimension system. Ah, well, It will be awhile before I could afford that!
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da9000



Joined: 30 Sep 2006
Posts: 387
Location: Silicon Valley

PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2007 4:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

pergamon wrote:

Well:

Cubes:
ADA... are 33mhz 040s
AAX... are 25mhz 040s
AAG... are 25mhz 030s

Stations:
ABB... are 25mhz (early) or 33mhz (later) 040 mono
ABC... are 25mhz (early) or 33mhz (later) 040 color

Based on serial numbers I've seen, it is quite probable that they did start their serial numbers at ...0001.


Aha! So here's a question for everyone: what's the lowest serial # you've seen for an AAX motherboard?

pergamon wrote:

Well, right. There were no Dimensions in 1987, so it would have to be added to it. But that's kinda what I meant -- there wouldn't have been a Dimension board in a machine from 1987.

As for the serial number, on the later Dimensions it is on a yellow sticker (like your cube MB) on the bottom of the board, on the same edge as the NeXTBus connector, but at the other end.


Gotcha. Now for the yellow sticker business: there was no sticker. All there was is the label on the backside of the board, near the black connector, and it says:

ZCT (it's white and stamped) and then 21092 and below that Zc2m 94V-0 09 91

These can be seen in the last Dimension photo.

pergamon wrote:

While NeXT products usually kept the same (what I call) model number (like N2001), the (what I call) part number usually changes depending on the version. There were some part numbers used only for pre-production stuff too. I would have thought that really early PSs would have been given a different part number.


Aha, I see.

pergamon wrote:

No, but I need to do that. That machine, actually, isn't nearly as interesting as yours though.


Yeah, it would be nice to see. What sort of machine is it? Pre-production or very early unit?
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da9000



Joined: 30 Sep 2006
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2007 4:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

helf wrote:
That is a really nice machine, da9000!

I just aquired a Cube. According to FedEx, It will be here on the 13th. Cannot wait Smile Unfortunately, it is not a Dimension system. Ah, well, It will be awhile before I could afford that!


Thanks, and glad to see you're getting one too Smile Basically glad to see people here getting them, and not garbage dumps :D

Keep'em coming folks!

PS. There was a REALLY banged up Cube on eBay the other day, I sure hope someone pities the poor bastard and picks it up! I doubt it's working, from the description and the photos, but surely some parts will be salvagable. They were tough bricks!
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helf



Joined: 29 Dec 2005
Posts: 1097
Location: Alabama, USA

PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2007 6:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Magnesium cases can take quite a bit of beating :P

My Cube looks pretty rough too. It is missing it's front logo and all... But that's OK! It's a Cube! Smile
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pergamon



Joined: 30 Dec 2005
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2007 9:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

da9000 wrote:

Aha! So here's a question for everyone: what's the lowest serial # you've seen for an AAX motherboard?


For me, I currently have one in the early AAX0010300's. That one too is a 1698.AE. Actually, that's the one that hosts my Pyro.

Now that you mention it, it occurs to me that I don't think I've seen one much lower than that.

da9000 wrote:

Yeah, it would be nice to see. What sort of machine is it? Pre-production or very early unit?


It has a sticker on it marking it as a prototype, and has nothing resembling a normal label on the back.


Regarding the color of the back panel - it looks like the same gray that is the primer I can see on a back cover which has some paint chipped off. Hard to tell for sure though.
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idylukewild



Joined: 28 Feb 2006
Posts: 121
Location: Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A.

PostPosted: Sat Mar 10, 2007 10:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

While on the subject of ‘rareness’...

Someone at NeXT must have kept track of production numbers. Now that NeXT has been bought by Apple for ten years now I don't see how publishing the production numbers could hurt anybody. It would be enlightening if we could see something more concrete than the ‘approximately 50 thousand computers were produced by NeXT over its lifetime’ that I keep reading. It would be fun to see how many dimension boards or NeXT Cube cases were produced. Collectors might find that 608030 Cube boards were produced in lower numbers that 608040 Cube boards, or vice versa. It might turn out that a turbo slab is less common than a turbo-color slab. It seems a bit tragic that we need to try to figure out production numbers by looking at serial numbers when there is probably a file at someone’s fingertips that could make things a lot clearer. Of course that wouldn’t take into account the NeXT stuff that has ended up in landfills, but it would be a good start!
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da9000



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 10, 2007 6:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We must infiltrate Apple HQ Very Happy

It's in the plans... Wink
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idylukewild



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 10, 2007 6:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sounds like fun Very Happy
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NeXT³
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2007 10:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow, that’s a cool Cube da9000. Thanks for showing us some NeXT history. Sweet! Cool We'd be happy to host some pictures of your cube in our NeXTfiles section if that's ok.
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pentium



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PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2007 10:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
There was a REALLY banged up Cube on eBay the other day,

I think I rember that one.
It had the smashed BNC socket right?
I wanna get a cube some day. I'm missing out on all the fun. Sad
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da9000



Joined: 30 Sep 2006
Posts: 387
Location: Silicon Valley

PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2007 3:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

@NeXT³:

You're welcome and it's perfectly fine by me. In fact I've asked to have these forums mentioned whenever the pics are used :-)


@pentium:

Yeah, that's the one Smile Beat up all over the place. The BNC looked fixable, but I don't know about the internals... Although I'd guess they'd be ok, mostly Smile
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