One of the biggest problems with older hardware and software is finding documentation or drivers. These are some links I've found over the years that have proven to be helpful. Suggestions for additions are, of course, always welcome.
Few areas of electronics are as rich with 'classic' and collectible hardware as the field of Telephony. Prior to its breakup, the Bell System had managed to standardize technologies and operating practices across the United States, and had even managed to influence other countries.
My own contribution to keeping 'classic' telephone equipment alive is that I have a fully functional 1A2 key telephone system installed here at the house, driven by a computer-based Asterisk installation. If you don't have any idea what '1A2' or 'Key System' means, then you can either E-mail me or visit the web pages of two very well-known telephone collector's associations.
Telephone Collectors International features a monthly newsletter and many shows/conventions throughout the year.
The Antique Telephone Collectors Association is a similar organization. Their newsletter devotes a large chunk of space to members buy/sell ads. This makes it a good source for older gear.
Here are some others I've found that have histories of the former Bell System and Northern Telecom (Canada's answer to Western Electric), sound bytes, technical data, and Lord only knows what else.
This one goes all the way back to prehistoric times.
A Memorial to the Bell System - An overview of Bell System history, plus loads of sound bytes and links.
The History of Telecommunications - A very well-written and easy-to-read piece, giving a comprehensive timeline of everything from smoke signals to VoIP, provided by ShoreTel. Thanks to Vanessa Russell at the Charlotte Library for alerting me to this one.
A Tribute to the Telephone - Run by the same fellow who does the Bell System Memorial site above. More focused on the telephone itself than the Bell companies. Has some great links to technical data and schematics for various phones.
This site, known as Technick.net, has loads of do-it-yourself electronic projects, including telephone circuits. WARNING: If you're not skilled with basic electronics design, to the point that you're comfortable turning a schematic and parts list into a working unit, I would not suggest attempting to build what you find there.
Tomi Engdahl's Technology Page, now hosted on ePanorama.net, is another excellent collection of telephony technical info and projects. Keep your pop-up blockers loaded and ready when visiting the ePanorama site, though. They'll throw all kinds of crap your way otherwise.
Don Hurter took a tour, back in December of 1995, of a PacBell C.O. in San Francisco. He gives a very detailed description, now hosted on the Bell System Memorial web site, of the whole event (regrettably, no pictures). This is a must-read for anyone interested in central offices.
The Vintage Telephone Equipment Museum is a must-see stop for any technoid visiting the Seattle area. It's a full-blown telephone and telecommunications museum housed in a still-in-service central office building near Tukwila. Their interactive exhibits include fully-functional panel, Step-by-Step, and No. 5 Crossbar switches.
General hours are Tuesdays from 08:30 - 14:00 local, other days by appointment.
The PhoneTrips site was created by those known to some as "Phone Phreaks." Contrary to all the negative press terms like "Hacker" and "Phreak" have gotten, the honest truth is that they're all individuals, just like any of us, and the media stereotypes about them are often as phony and misleading as a nine-dollar bill (mainly because the truth is too boring to make good press copy).
In fact, in the eyes of the popular press, anyone who likes to dig into electronic equipment or computer code, in an effort to understand how it works and how to fix it if something breaks, would immediately be branded a "hacker."
The truth is that I have better things I choose to do with my time than cheat payphones, or try to get free long-distance calls, and so do the guys who run PhoneTrips. Check it out for yourself.
Private Line is a website that has to be seen and read to be appreciated. Its author has extensive write-ups on cellphone history, how telephone equipment works, and lots of other techie-trivia.
I'm sorry to report that, with the merger of AT&T and Alcatel, the Lucent Documentation Center was shut down and disbanded almost two years ago. Their original domain, 'lucentdocs.com,' no longer resolves to anything but a faux search results page. Lord only knows what happened to all the archival Bell System Practices and documents they used to sell, but I would not be at all surprised if Alcatel, in their utter incompetence and arrogance, disposed of everything.
Contrary to what Billy-boy Gates and the Redmond Empire would like you to believe, there are plenty of perfectly viable alternative computer platforms and operating systems worth playing with (for self-education if nothing else). Check out these links.
FreeBSD -- The Berkeley Systems Division Free Unix info page. My own Internet presence, and this site, would not exist if it were not for FreeBSD. I’ve also made extensive use of CentOS and Ubuntu Linux, the former for my Asterisk PBX .
NetBSD -- An offshoot of FreeBSD and another free Unix version. This is the one to go to if you're looking for a good Unix OS for VAXen, Amiga, 68K-based systems, etc.
DEC Boot PROM source files -- This is my local mirror of a site run by Don North, AK6DM. It contains Intel hex code, source code, and assembly files for most of the boot PROMs used by the DEC M9312 card. Those of you who are 'Classic' computing folk will know exactly what this means.
The only changes I made to the page, since Don did such a nice job of layout and tabling with the file listings, was to add some information on device programmers. I also corrected one or two minor grammatical errors. Other than that, what you see is a mirror of Don's site.
Here’s a brief (but, apparently, extensive) computing timeline, called 'Computers Changed History.' Thanks for this one go to Terry Kelly, found while helping her daughter put together some research for a school project.
Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) – Struggling, but still around.
Adaptec -- Be careful about buying SCSI adapters from them nowadays. They have become, to my eyes, largely overpriced and undervalued, and far more marketing-driven than engineering-driven. They have, in essence, become the Microsoft of the SCSI adapter world.
American Megatrends (AMI) -- Yes, the same people that make system BIOS also make (and made, in times past) some mean motherboards. They may be pricier than others, but they have the best technical support Out There..
DPT -- Distributed Processing Technology. They used to be one of the top makers of high-performance SCSI host adapters and RAID cards. They were bought out several years ago, first by Adaptec and now by Microsemi. You may still be able to find drivers and such for the legacy cards on their site, but don’t hold your breath.
The MCA Militia -- This is a site dedicated to technical data and support files for IBM's once-very-popular PS/2 line of computers (and don't you even THINK of confusing it with the Sony PlagueStation!).
Roy Tellason has a neat page that, among other things, has a huge list of part numbers and datasheets for discrete semiconductors and IC's alike. Enjoy!
Many older items of electronic test gear have batteries in them to maintain setup memories. Over time, these batteries can (and do) go dead, leak and corrode the circuit board they're mounted on, ruining what may otherwise be a perfectly viable piece of equipment. Thankfully, recent technology advances have given us a permanent, non-battery solution: Cypress Semiconductor's F-RAM products.
At least one company, Pinitech, has taken good advantage of these chips to create battery eliminator modules which are, quite literally, drop-in replacements for existing SRAM chips in battery-backed RAM circuits. All you need to do is remove the instrument's battery, clean up any corrosion it may have left behind, and drop one of the Pinitech modules in its place.
The only downside is, of course, you'll lose the original contents of the memory chip being replaced, so you'll have to recalibrate or similarly re-do what was stored. However, once that's done, you'll never need to worry about it again. I've done this for two of my own instruments so far (a Datron 1062 multimeter and a Fluke 6060B signal generator) and had no regrets at all.
Looking for Internet RFC’s? You can get them straight from the proverbial horse’s mouth (the IETF) right here.
NIST -- National Institute of Standards and Technology. An all-around interesting site, well worth a visit (formerly the National Bureau of Standards).
No Starch Press -- Publishers of many good technical books. Check 'em out!
Powell's Books - One of the biggest, best, and oldest new/used booksellers on the west coast. They have an entire separate (from their main building) bookstore devoted to every technical subject imaginable, from Atmospheric Science to the Z80 microcontroller (and beyond).
SCSI (pronounced 'scuzzy' though it is anything but in actual practice) is an acronym for the 'Small Computer Systems Interface.' It has its roots in SASI (Shugart Associates Standard Interface), and though SCSI has been implemented in one form or another on all kinds of computer platforms since 1982, it was not until 1986 that it first won ANSI approval and went on to become a standard.
Though it can cost more to implement than the more popular 'IDE' or 'ATAPI' interface, I've always believed the extra cost to be well worth the investment. SCSI is far more flexible and powerful than any IDE/EIDE setup, no matter how "enhanced," and is still the interface of choice for many legacy servers and high-end workstations.
The evolution of technology has brought us SAS (Serial Attached SCSI), which has caused a phase-out of nearly all the original parallel SCSI devices. Here is a FAQ from Seagate on SAS.
For more details on the original parallel design, click here. You'll be taken straight to Gary Field's official SCSI FAQ and Game Rules site.
This section, I think, will always bear an 'Under Construction' logo. You can E-mail me if you have suggestions for additions or updates. Thanks!
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Last Updated, and all links checked, 31-Jul-16 by Bruce Lane