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DS990 Commercial Computer System - anyone has experience?

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Hello everyone,

Are people here with experience on the DS990 and TI-990 Mini Computer systems?

Count me interesting in sharing about these systems.

 

I just bought a DS990/1 which comes with a FD1000, which is a dual 8" Floppy Disk Drive Unit.

You can find details on the acution:
https://www.ebay.it/itm/Texas-Instruments-DS990-Model-1-Intelligent-Computer-and-unit-fd1000/253440639763?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2649

 

My main motivation to go for this was:

- approval of my wife :)

- incentive for 2017 from the job is being paid out

- some hardware project to improve hardware skills as it seems the Disk Drive is not working

- ability to preserve and create 8" TI-990 disks for other owners of the system

- ability to run TI-990 software on the real iron

- ability to buy and preserve not yet preserved TI-990 software when it shows up

- replace the FD1000 functionality by some Pc RS232 Software

- testing support for hardware projects that try to "FPGA" a whole TI-990 (speccery)

- explore possibilities to use TI-990 programming languages on the TI-99/4A (or TI-99/8).

 

Two years ago I bought a TI-990/5 CPU board and two VDT911 controller boards (with no 911). And a 13 slot backplane and the main power supply for it. But there was no case or Frontpanel.

It was all parts only.

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This is very interesting for the completion of the 990 emulations in MAME. Confirm this is not a TM990 but a TI990 system?

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This is very interesting for the completion of the 990 emulations in MAME. Confirm this is not a TM990 but a TI990 system?

 

It is not a TM-990 system!

 

As far as I read it, the DS990-1 is hardware wise not using a TI-990 mainframe (as this would not fit in the case used for the DS990-1). However it is made to run the same Operating System as with the TI-990 mainframes (depending on your CPU/RAM).

The DS990 Model 1 runs a TMS 9900 Microprocess and 64Kb Ram. This is the Model I have acquired.

It is called DS for Disk System as even the lowest configuration comes with the full TI-990 size FD1000 8inch(!!!) Flexible Disk Drive Unit in its typical seperate case.

The boards are plugged in on a main board as can be seen on the photos when clicking the ebay link.

 

http://bitsavers.org/pdf/ti/990/brochures/DS990_Brochure_Apr78.pdf

 

The DS990-2 comes with a TI-990/5 unit in its own case (same size as the FD1000).

 

The case contains

- Power Supply

- Main Frame with 6 slots (or 13 slots) for half factor/full factor TI-990 boards

- a Front Panel

- TI-990/5 board (includes a TMS-9940, 64KB RAM and 3 RS232 ports on one full size board)

- 911 Video Display Interface controller board.

- and I assume some FD1000 Interface board

 

from the TI Computer Family Catalog, July 1979:

 

The DS990 Models 1 and 2 comprise the lower end of the DS990 Commercial Systems, sharing functional compatibility with the DS990 disk-based systems. The Models 1 and 2 feature double-sided, double-density diskette storage. Processing is accomplished by a TI 9900 or 990/5 processor. The DS990 Models 1 and 2 provide high-performance data processing for standalone small business applications or satellite operation in a network environment.

 

The DS990 Modell achieves functional compatibility with the higher members of the DS990 family using the TX5 Operating System. TX5 supports software development using TX5 BASIC and FORTRAN and execution of BASIC, FORTRAN, and Pascal programs developed on DS990 disk-based systems. The Model 1 is also compatible with the Series 700 Distributed Processing Systems using the TPL operating system. TPL supports program development using TPL 700 and 3780/2780, TTyt, and 742 communications.

 

The DS990 Model 2 utilizes up to two Model 911 Video Display Terminals or Model 820 KSR Terminals. Running under TX5, the Model 2 supports program development in TX5 BASIC or run-time BASIC programs from DS990 disk-based systems.

 

The DS990 Models 1 and 2 are offered in a coordinated package of hardware and software with hardware installation included in software version system purchase prices. They are also offered in standard hardware packages with installation and software packages optional.

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some small update. the computer arrived. it is huuuuge.

i will post photos.

it requires a cleanup of the circuit boards, i saw dangerous dust there.

metal and plastic also should be cleaned up.

the disk drive unit FD1000 was sold as broken as the tests of the ebay seller failed. however i figured yesterday that the internal power cable to the 8" disk drives is not plugged in.

in best case that is the only reason.

 

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I forgot to say that I also have the large TI printer that was used with this model of computer.

For history, my DS990 was used in one of the famous old french factories, that produced the "Dentelle de Calais", a prestigious lace. I also collected 8" disks and mini-tapes, they contain the programs a datas of the factory :-)

Edited by fabrice montupet
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Thats pretty cool!

 

Was it true that TI wrote alot of the software for the TI-99/4a using their TI 990 range minis? I wonder what version of the 990 range they mainly used? Would be quite cool to even go through the process of writing software on the 990 for a 4a!

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Thats pretty cool!

 

Was it true that TI wrote alot of the software for the TI-99/4a using their TI 990 range minis? I wonder what version of the 990 range they mainly used? Would be quite cool to even go through the process of writing software on the 990 for a 4a!

 

Remember that the DS990-1 was the lowest (cheapest) possible model to work on. I doubt that many employees got "only" that to work with. But actually the "power" came by loading things from huge harddrives/tapes via network.

 

Most TI-99 software development used GPL as Language, there was a dedicated TI-990 software called GPL10, which is a GPL Debugger.

There was also a TMS9900 Emulator Software for the TI-990. I don't know whether that was runnable in a sofware only mode. There was for sure a bridge that plugged into the CPU socket (instead of the actual CPU).

The TI-99/4A and /8 operating system (Assembler parts) were compiled with SDSMAC, a very powerful TI-990 Assembler.

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And from this article/magazine you shared here before, "DX10" was a multiuser environment/OS ?

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There have been multiple operating systems, even for the same devices over the time.

There was TX5 wich was close to TX990, also close to TXDS. The difference between those 3 might only be the device they run from. TXDS meaning TXDiskSystem running the OS from disk and the other two running it from EProms!?

There was DX5 and DX10.

There was also TPL for the Terminals.

It might be that DX10 requires a harddisk to be in your setup. So far the infos I have on the actual differences are very vague.

The DS990-1 came with ~10 disks and I will try to preserve them in the proper way and I hope I can tweak the most out of the system with the help of other owners and the available disk images on the net.

It could be that unless you have the dedicated TX5 version of a certain software (mostly OS, Programming Languages, Assembler,...) you are screwed but I don't know that yet.

The fun is to find all that out.

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There have been multiple operating systems, even for the same devices over the time.

There was TX5 wich was close to TX990, also close to TXDS. The difference between those 3 might only be the device they run from. TXDS meaning TXDiskSystem running the OS from disk and the other two running it from EProms!?

There was DX5 and DX10.

There was also TPL for the Terminals.

It might be that DX10 requires a harddisk to be in your setup. So far the infos I have on the actual differences are very vague.

The DS990-1 came with ~10 disks and I will try to preserve them in the proper way and I hope I can tweak the most out of the system with the help of other owners and the available disk images on the net.

It could be that unless you have the dedicated TX5 version of a certain software (mostly OS, Programming Languages, Assembler,...) you are screwed but I don't know that yet.

The fun is to find all that out.

 

Looks like for the higher spec'd machines there was also DNOS, which looked like the latest OS for those machines

 

http://www.cozx.com/dpitts/ti990.html

 

Dave Pitts has ported a version of unix as well.

 

Have tried out his simulator in Ubuntu, DNOS looked pretty cool!

 

Also old-computers.com has a nice breakdown of the machine(s) - http://www.old-computers.com/museum/computer.asp?c=1025&st=1

post-40572-0-47648800-1521077374.png

Edited by palmheads
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Hi Fabrice!
We are still troubleshooting my DS990-1 unit.

 

I am wondering if your DIP switch on the blue Processor board has any of its pin set to active?

In total there are 8pins on that DIP switch.

Mine was set with none active.

John from Australia has pin 7 active.

From the photos on old-computers.com one could imagine that pin 6 is active on your Processor board, but it is no safe bet.

Can you confirm that?

Do you have any documentation for this machine which is not on bitsavers.org?

 

Here is some collected information:
http://www.ti99.eu/?page_id=4416&lang=en

 

I did a lot of tracing of the signals on the mainboard.

post-27826-0-35700500-1525361592_thumb.jpg

 

Also interesting is that the -5V are not forwarded from the test pin to the actual card slots, only to one of the power supply slots.

So each board has to create the -5V if it needs it.

 

Currently we try to get the minimum config of cards (Processor, Memory, VDU) to run to let it display a LOAD ERROR.

That would be awesome. It does that on the DS990-1 unit from the Australian guy when he only runs the machine with three cards (and it is still his problem even when all cards are installed).

 

Since the original power supply didn't output any voltages, we replaced the original power supply solution by a PC power supply and are driving the board like this.

Then we figured that the CPU on the Processor board is broken, so we temporarly used the 9900 from the Floppy card and suddenly the CPU showed correct signals on the oscilloscope afterwards, so I ordered replacement CPUs.

I also ordered replacement for the ram chips, TMS 4116. And the two PROM chips in U63 and U64 had some broken legs.

Until know I never had a video signal on the VDU output pins, only two sync signals..

 

For the next tests it would be really awesome to know how the DIP SWITCH is set on your machine.

 

Thanks, Klaus

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Some update:
Piero from Italy contacted me. He also owns this machine and his is running. He is still in search of an actual operating system on disk.

He offered me to program new PROM chips, the ones which have some broken legs on my unit.

He also has the Graphics Rom Kit that comes on 2 chips and allows sort of Graphic on the VDU. Also I will get those programmed by him.

 

Just now the TMS4116 Ram replacement chips arrived.

Also I am have bougth myself an oscilloscope.

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Here is the CPU board dip switches configuration: 1 to 5 are set OFF, 6 is set to ON, 7 to 8 are set to OFF

 

The computer came with some manuals:

- TPL System User's Guide

- Model 990 Basic System - Programmer's Guide for DS990 Models 1 & 2

- Model 990 Basic System -TI990 Basic Reference Manual

- Series 700 Intelligent Terminal Systems - 770 Field Maintenance Test - Operating Procedures

- TPL 700 Programming Manual for Model 770 Intelligents Data Terminal

- TPL 700 Programming Manual for Model 771 Intelligents Data Terminal

 

I think that I have one or two more manuals, I have to find them.

 

 

 

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Here is the CPU board dip switches configuration: 1 to 5 are set OFF, 6 is set to ON, 7 to 8 are set to OFF

 

The computer came with some manuals:

- TPL System User's Guide

- Model 990 Basic System - Programmer's Guide for DS990 Models 1 & 2

- Model 990 Basic System -TI990 Basic Reference Manual

- Series 700 Intelligent Terminal Systems - 770 Field Maintenance Test - Operating Procedures

- TPL 700 Programming Manual for Model 770 Intelligents Data Terminal

- TPL 700 Programming Manual for Model 771 Intelligents Data Terminal

 

I think that I have one or two more manuals, I have to find them.

 

I am blown away. You have an awesome set of not preversed documents. Only this is existing as pdf: Series 700 Intelligent Terminal Systems - 770 Field Maintenance Test - Operating Procedures

http://bitsavers.org/pdf/ti/990/ds990/2262570-9701A_DS990_System_Model_1_Field_Maintenance_Test_Operating_Procedures.pdf

 

The TPL System User's Guide is about using the Software or the Hardware as well? I wonder where I could find a note about the CPU Dip Switch meaning.

Thanks for checking your state. Maybe it is about setting some CRU address?

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You've presumably seen that there's a load of TI990 docs on eBay at the moment? Just sayin' in case you've missed them somehow. You'd probably need to sell a body part to buy all of them though. Might be worth approaching the seller for a bulk buy if none or little of it sells.

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@Klaus: Some manual are very heavy, more than 2.5 cm thickness. One for the model 770 contains the Installation, operating instructions, theory of operation, maintenance, diagrams & graphics, parts lists for all the boards (power and logics) and troubleshooting.
I would have to disassemble all the pages of the manual (without damage it) and, considering the high volume of pages to scan, use a professional scanner. I'll see what I can do.

 

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