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MAI Basic Four anyone?

Carlos

New Member
Joined
Apr 27, 2019
Messages
1
Wow a Basic Four Forum! I used to work as a programmer on Basic Four computers writing and modifying accounting, point of sale, warehouse distribution, etc for a variety of customers back in the 1970's and 1980's. What really killed BF was the introduction of the 386-486 line of PC's that ran SCO Unix very efficient and faster than any BF machine. Companies like ProvideX and Basis came up with versions of Business Basic that ran on DOS and SCO and it was relatively easy to transfer data and programs from th BF computer to the Unix (or DOS) PC. I wrote programs that run on the BF machine and on the PC using the serial ports to transfer the data and programs, and did a lot of conversions. The advantage of the PC's were enormous beginning with the cost, speed, memory, and support for a lot of peripheral which could be purchased on the open market without being tied up to a vendor. To get into the new platform, customers did not have to re-invent the wheel, as their programs ran exatly the same as they did on the BF machine. I still support people using the old BF programs customized to their needs, now running on Linux or Windows, and with graphical and character, and even web oriented interfaces. Basis and ProvideX (or PXBasic as it is now called) provide graphical and web tools, but still support character interfaces. Instead of terminals you use networked PC's and terminal emulation programs. Yes, there was a life after BF.
 

jws

Member
Joined
Sep 17, 2009
Messages
20
With the help of Richard Swingwood, we have a working Microdata 1600 emulator which can run the firmware, and also supports Marathon disks and half inch tape of both types, as well as 8ways.

I would love to find if anyone has either a tape to load the Basic Four system for the 1600 (1300 as Basic Four called it), and the firmware for said system. I would be glad to share the Microdata 1621 which I have running as well with anyone to further that project. The 1621 or 1630 were versions of the firmware which were similar to the Basic Four. But only RICM has a system that I know of that might have the disk images and firmware card.

thanks
Jim Stephens
 

Peter z80.eu

Experienced Member
Joined
Apr 21, 2016
Messages
84
Has somebody a table of ESC sequences or Terminal control sequences in general for the Model 7270 Terminal ?
I am aware of the manuals @ bitsavers.org, but there is only a "service manual" with hardware infos, and a bit about the terminal keys, but no explanation about how to position the cursor (e.g. from a BASIC program, not by using the keys) etc.
 

Chuck(G)

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Jan 11, 2007
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43,989
Location
Pacific Northwest, USA
Before the Basic Four operation got started, didn't MAI get into re-leasing IBM unit-record gear? I'm pretty fuzzy on memory, but I seem to recall using 026 and 024 keypunches where the IBM badge was replaced with an MAI one.
 

Terry Kennedy

Experienced Member
Joined
Jul 7, 2017
Messages
241
Location
New York
Before the Basic Four operation got started, didn't MAI get into re-leasing IBM unit-record gear? I'm pretty fuzzy on memory, but I seem to recall using 026 and 024 keypunches where the IBM badge was replaced with an MAI one.
It wasn't just unit record, unfortunately. I had the misfortune of dealing with a MAI memory expansion on a 370/125 CPU. The installer came in with a sawzall, cut a 4" x 4" hole in the side of the 3125 CPU cabinet and proceeded to run a bazillion wire wrap wires between the two. It required a special IMPL procedure, where you started with the expansion memory offline, then interrupted the IMPL at a specific point and brought the expansion memory online. If you didn't follow this exactly, you got both "CPU Early" and "CPU Late" states at the same time and had to power off and start over.
 

Chuck(G)

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Well, around the mid 70's, I seem to remember there were several third-party contenders for S/370 memory expansion, Intel and CDC among them. I hadn't realized that MAI had gotten into that business also. I have no idea what effect the third-party products had on an IBM service contract, but I suspect that it engendered a fair amount of finger-pointing.
 

Terry Kennedy

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Jul 7, 2017
Messages
241
Location
New York
Well, around the mid 70's, I seem to remember there were several third-party contenders for S/370 memory expansion, Intel and CDC among them. I hadn't realized that MAI had gotten into that business also.
I don't know if MAI built it, or if they were just passing thru hardware from somewhere else.

That 125 was the "born under a bad sign" system and we got out of its lease at the earliest opportunity. It was the only 370 we had with a hardcopy console (oversize Selectric mechanism) and couldn't feed continuous-form paper to save its life. To make things worse, opening the cover to adjust the paper (de-scrunching it from the side it piled up on) would cause DOS/VS POWER to crash and take the whole DOS with it if anything happened to try to output to the console with the cover open.

I have no idea what effect the third-party products had on an IBM service contract, but I suspect that it engendered a fair amount of finger-pointing.
We had the grumpiest IBM CE ever anyway, so I'm not sure it would have made much of a difference. The CPUs were pretty reliable, despite lots of abuse (I have a story of our beloved 138 in the works over at my blog) - it was the peripherals that tended to act up. This wasn't helped by our CE, who ignored the "no smoking" signs in our computer room and liked to leave cigarette butts inside the disk drives.
 

kenlenard

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Joined
Jan 15, 2021
Messages
2
I actually worked at MAI in Chicago as a Systems Consultant in 1988 and 1989. This was during the Bennett LeBow years and attempting to take over Prime. They hired a number of technical, admin and sales people ahead of the "takeover" and when the takeover failed, they let many of those people go. I was there for about one year. I had worked on MAI machines as a programmer for years before that and eventually became a self-employed programmer for anything resembling the MAI language: Pluto, Thoroughbred, Basis, Providex, etc. and I still do that work, mainly with Basis products.
 

norwestrzh

Experienced Member
Joined
Jan 11, 2021
Messages
82
Location
mount vernon, wa
I've got an MAI "mainfame" -- not sure of the model #. It was used in an office environment, supporting multiple terminals and a printer. It is a 68010 with a ~60 MB hard drive. The hard drive sounds like a 747 taking off. I'm afraid to power it up, because every time I do that, it seems that one of the memory cards (DRAM) goes south. I'd love to image the hard drive and get the software (as I remember it -- "Bossix"???) working on newer hardware, but how? There aren't any applications on the hard drive (assembler, dump program, etc.) to do it. It has a 1/4 cartridge tape drive that can be used for backups, but then how do I get things off of that?
Also have an MAI "luggable" Z80 all-in-one that seems like a pretty nice box. Last time I turned that on, one of the floppies died during boot. I haven't had the time to look at it in much detail since. Too many other things going on.

Roger
 

kenlenard

New Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2021
Messages
2
I've got an MAI "mainfame" -- not sure of the model #. It was used in an office environment, supporting multiple terminals and a printer. It is a 68010 with a ~60 MB hard drive. The hard drive sounds like a 747 taking off. I'm afraid to power it up, because every time I do that, it seems that one of the memory cards (DRAM) goes south. I'd love to image the hard drive and get the software (as I remember it -- "Bossix"???) working on newer hardware, but how? There aren't any applications on the hard drive (assembler, dump program, etc.) to do it. It has a 1/4 cartridge tape drive that can be used for backups, but then how do I get things off of that?
Also have an MAI "luggable" Z80 all-in-one that seems like a pretty nice box. Last time I turned that on, one of the floppies died during boot. I haven't had the time to look at it in much detail since. Too many other things going on.

Roger
If the OS is Boss/IX then the piece of hardware you have is in the SPx family... either a "2000", "3000" or "4000". The 2000 was more of a horizontal piece. The 3000 and 4000 were more "towers". There was a 2500 as well. What people did in the old days was take the data (whether it be from the tape or else using cables) and move everything over to a new machine which was either Windows or Unix/Linux and then run the software under something like Basis International's BBX/PRO5/VPRO5 environment. There might be some programming changes that would need to be made but many, many companies went through that migration.
 

ard

Member
Joined
Jan 28, 2017
Messages
15
Location
Krefeld, Germany
I've got an MAI "mainfame" -- not sure of the model #. It was used in an office environment, supporting multiple terminals and a printer. It is a 68010 with a ~60 MB hard drive. The hard drive sounds like a 747 taking off. I'm afraid to power it up, because every time I do that, it seems that one of the memory cards (DRAM) goes south. I'd love to image the hard drive and get the software (as I remember it -- "Bossix"???) working on newer hardware, but how? There aren't any applications on the hard drive (assembler, dump program, etc.) to do it. It has a 1/4 cartridge tape drive that can be used for backups, but then how do I get things off of that?
Also have an MAI "luggable" Z80 all-in-one that seems like a pretty nice box. Last time I turned that on, one of the floppies died during boot. I haven't had the time to look at it in much detail since. Too many other things going on.

Roger

68010, than it is a System 2000 running BOSS/IX (a modified early UNOS licensed from Charles River Data Systems). I have such a system in running condition.
As long as the disk is readable, you can do an image backup. For that, you have to boot the diags, load dutil and within dutil, the dutil command shows option to back up. You can also do a file based backup of the boot and root partitions.
The tapes can than be read on another system, i use an scsi streamer in a linux machine.
Do you have any software for that machine (Diskettes or TAPE or installed) ?, i'm trying to find the c-compiler, linker and debugger since 2005.
If you need help, please ask. I have recreated an installation tape with the basic packages out of what i had on disk and on a damaged tape as well as replaced the harddisk several times.
Btw. make sure you save the configuration record, without this you can not replace the harddisk.
 

ard

Member
Joined
Jan 28, 2017
Messages
15
Location
Krefeld, Germany
Also have an MAI "luggable" Z80 all-in-one that seems like a pretty nice box. Last time I turned that on, one of the floppies died during boot. I haven't had the time to look at it in much detail since. Too many other things going on.
Roger
This is a MAI S/10 (Model 4105). MAI bought these from a company named Direct inc. It runs basic as well as cp/m. The systems contains 2 z80 based boards, one for floppy and basic/cp/m, the other one is a terminal. The machine was also available as a terminal (from MAI as well as from Direct Inc), then equipped with 1 board and no floppy drives.
Dave Dunfield has at least one version of the bootdisks is available.
 

btb

Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2021
Messages
46
I just had a 7250 terminal fall into my lap. Unlike the other ones I've seen in photos, this one is blue:
IMG_5362.JPG
It seems to work, mostly. A bit of garbage on the screen, so maybe some failing ram. I'd love to find some documentation. At first I thought the 7270 must be pretty close, but nope! The 7270 is Z80-based and this one is all discrete. Pretty surprising to me seeing as it appears to have been built in 1980 and has service stickers as late as 1990.

I'm also interested in upgrading mine with lowercase. It uses a General Instrument RO-3-2513-001 character generator for uppercase, and there appear to be two empty sockets for other character sets. Could it be as easy as dropping in an eprom adapted to the right pinout?
 
Last edited:

GFlamand

New Member
Joined
Jun 2, 2023
Messages
6
Wow a Basic Four Forum! I used to work as a programmer on Basic Four computers writing and modifying accounting, point of sale, warehouse distribution, etc for a variety of customers back in the 1970's and 1980's. What really killed BF was the introduction of the 386-486 line of PC's that ran SCO Unix very efficient and faster than any BF machine. Companies like ProvideX and Basis came up with versions of Business Basic that ran on DOS and SCO and it was relatively easy to transfer data and programs from th BF computer to the Unix (or DOS) PC. I wrote programs that run on the BF machine and on the PC using the serial ports to transfer the data and programs, and did a lot of conversions. The advantage of the PC's were enormous beginning with the cost, speed, memory, and support for a lot of peripheral which could be purchased on the open market without being tied up to a vendor. To get into the new platform, customers did not have to re-invent the wheel, as their programs ran exatly the same as they did on the BF machine. I still support people using the old BF programs customized to their needs, now running on Linux or Windows, and with graphical and character, and even web oriented interfaces. Basis and ProvideX (or PXBasic as it is now called) provide graphical and web tools, but still support character interfaces. Instead of terminals you use networked PC's and terminal emulation programs. Yes, there was a life after BF.
Hi Carlos, I bought a cheap $45 tested SCSI drive on eBay to see if I could get one to work as a backup in case main HD fails. Do you know if MAI BIV uses a code or something else to lock out non-MBF drives from working?

This is what is happening to SCSI drive from eBay. I cannot get drive to work properly with our BIV computer system. OS seems to load onto drive but comes up with numerous errors including PANIC: Drive 0 on SHA 0 not available. Trying to dump 1952 pages., 1 page dumped. Tryin to dump maximum of 4 8/16 way controllers with 64/128kb memory each. DOUBLE PANIC:Kernal mode trap. Type 0x0000000E. Trying to dump 1952 pages. 0 pages dumped. I reloaded OS multiple times and keep ending up with above errors making drive useless. Do you know any reason drive would not work with a BIV computer? Doing a DEMON diagnostics I get: WARNING Disk Not MBF Disk.

This problem might have something to do with config file. When I load OS without config file system boots up but with it I get above errors.

Thank you
 

GFlamand

New Member
Joined
Jun 2, 2023
Messages
6
Hi,

I am trying to get help from multiple members on BIV MAI GPX system that has errors installing a backup hard drive. Only Carlos was sent the duplicate message. Do I need to resend to other members?

Thank you
 

GFlamand

New Member
Joined
Jun 2, 2023
Messages
6
I actually worked at MAI in Chicago as a Systems Consultant in 1988 and 1989. This was during the Bennett LeBow years and attempting to take over Prime. They hired a number of technical, admin and sales people ahead of the "takeover" and when the takeover failed, they let many of those people go. I was there for about one year. I had worked on MAI machines as a programmer for years before that and eventually became a self-employed programmer for anything resembling the MAI language: Pluto, Thoroughbred, Basis, Providex, etc. and I still do that work, mainly with Basis products.
Do you still work on Basic Four systems?
 
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