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New to the HP-86

AkBKukU

Member
Joined
Jan 29, 2017
Messages
47
Location
Chandler, AZ
Yesterday I picked up an HP-86 from someone looking to give it a good home and now I'm starting the process of getting to know it. One thing I know is that I got a very complete setup:
DSC_0051.jpg

I got it with:
  • HP 86A 64kB
  • HP 82908A 64kB Memory Module
  • HP 82900A CP/M System
  • HP 82939A Serial Interface
  • HP 82936A ROM Drawer, containing:
    • HP Advanced Programming 1
    • HP Advanced Programming 2
    • HP Plotter
    • HP I/O
  • HP 82913A Monitor
  • HP 9130A Disc Drive (x2)
  • HP 82905B Printer
  • VisiCalc PLUS
  • FILE/80
  • WORD/80

And the documentation for everything!
DSC_0058.jpg
If anyone is looking for any of these manuals let me know and I can scan it.

Unfortunately the three complete programs have everything but the original disks. There are copies of all the disks in what appear to be the original sleeves though.

What I have played with so far has felt very Commodore to me. The alpha and graph memory for the text and graphics is really nice. Unlike the commodores it has a rolling buffer that starts out at 55 lines which is really nice. It's cool that you can also sacrifice the graphics memory and have 204 lines!. I haven't played with the CP/M module yet. I just threw it in for the photo. I've never had a CP/M computer so I'm looking forward to that.

I've already discovered the dark side of this machine. The key stems press fit into a thin plastic square tube. Time and furious key presses have weaken and broken some of the more commonly pressed keys and widened out the square tube, So when it is depressed is sticks down.
DSC_0055.jpgDSC_0056.jpg

I took the top off last night to get a quarter out of it that someone dropped through one of the vents and briefly looked around. It's not easy to see much without getting deep into it.
IMG_20170620_201818.jpg
The keys look like they aren't going to be fun to repair. But I've already serviced the carbon pads on PET and TRS-80 Model 4 keyboards so I'm sure I can do it. Is there a know solution to this problem already? I was thinking about trying to lubricate the tubes so they will slide back up but that doesn't really solve the root problem. I can't glue it back together on the outside because that is where is slides in the assembly, and I can't glue it on the inside because the key stem slides into there. To make it even more fun the tube isn't the only part of the plastic piece. It also holds the two contacts inside apart until depressed to make the switch press. So it can't be easily replaced.

Aside from that are there any other common tips and tricks to this machine? I stumbled onto the HPDrive Project which would be great if this was an 86B. I want the HP-IB module anyway so if I can get one of those I'll try it out. The HP museum has a little bit of information on this stuff but for the most part it seems like a community hasn't really sprung up for the HP lineup,
 

gslick

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Dec 30, 2010
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Seattle, WA
If you haven't already found it in addition to http://hpmuseum.net there is also http://www.series80.org

Between the two of them you should be able to find almost any information you need about these systems.

I have an 85 and and 86B. Think I probably also have an 87. I have most of the ROMs including the more rare Assembler and Extended Mass Storage ROMs. I also have one of the PRM-85 universal ROM cards. Those are nice if you can find one.
 

gslick

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Nice that you got the matching monitor. Those seem less common than the 86 base unit. I don't have one for my 86B. I have a nice Sony monitor than can underscan to fit the whole 80-column display mode. Some of the display area gets cropped on a lot of composite monitors.
 

AkBKukU

Member
Joined
Jan 29, 2017
Messages
47
Location
Chandler, AZ
That's good to know. I was thinking I could pick up a second to try out the multimonitor feature. If they're uncommon it's not likely I'll get that to happen. Later today I'm going to try an old Magnavox monitor on the output on the monitor to see if that works.
 

cruff

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Joined
Dec 12, 2012
Messages
331
Location
Colorado
The key problem is well known. The TI 99/4A (some? most versions?) uses the same style key switch. I purchased a cheap one to use as a parts donor for my 85B and 87A.
 

AkBKukU

Member
Joined
Jan 29, 2017
Messages
47
Location
Chandler, AZ
The key problem is well known. The TI 99/4A (some? most versions?) uses the same style key switch. I purchased a cheap one to use as a parts donor for my 85B and 87A.

That's very relieving to know there was a much more common computer that used the same switches. I was afraid I was screwed. I'll key an eye out for a beat up beige one to part out. I don't want to take one of the pretty metal ones out of service.

Also, the Groups.io hpseries80 group is very active. https://groups.io/g/hpseries80

I'll head over there and check it out, thanks!



I tried out the multi monitor capability.
IMG_20170621_160101.jpg
My monitor almost works perfectly. Then top line is mostly cut off but everything else fits. I only got it to duplicat what was on the screen when I was tried it out. I assume it does more than that so I need to do some more research.
 

AkBKukU

Member
Joined
Jan 29, 2017
Messages
47
Location
Chandler, AZ
That's very relieving to know there was a much more common computer that used the same switches. I was afraid I was screwed. I'll key an eye out for a beat up beige one to part out. I don't want to take one of the pretty metal ones out of service.

I found a local listing for a white TI-99/4A that was sold as-is stating "Does not power on". I was able to get them to do pickup and grabbed it for $25. It came with the PSU, the box /w foam, and a few of the docs. They keys all looked ok to me, they all had minor cracking though. The keys fit really loose and fall out easily.

Being curious and having never owned a TI99/4A, I wanted to know what was wrong with the computer. So I measured the PSU, it was 16VAC and 2.8VAC. From what I read online that would be close to fine, but the 2.8VAC seemed like it should be closer to 8VAC. So I opened it up and measured the internal power supply, I got the 5V, 12V, and -5V expected. It does buzz so it's possible that it wouldn't turn back on after warming up with some use before. I removed the RF shield from the motherboard and saw nothing out of place. So I decided to put it all together and try firing it up for the first time. After soldering on RCA jacks to test with, I flipped the switch.
IMG_20170624_102642.jpg

It worked fine. I put it all back together and made a video cable out of an old MIDI cable and it has no problems I can find. It is in great cosmetic shape. So now I can't bring myself to part it out. I guess I'll be looking for another now.


I only got it to duplicate what was on the screen when I was tried it out. I assume it does more than that so I need to do some more research.

I'll mention how this ended for anyone else who is curious like me. I looked through all the documentation I have for the computer and the monitor and I can't find anything more about how the multi-display works. It barely mentions the feature only talking about it when telling you how to connect the monitors. It mentions the 75-HIGH switch on the back as needing to be set to HIGH on all but the last monitor connected. I started to suspect that it is only meant for duplication. So I tested continuity between the input and output jacks on the monitor and they are directly connected. I'm guessing the 75 side of switch is for terminating the chain and the HIGH side let's it have a high impedance sense on the input. All other signs point to it just being for duplicating. I'm guessing it is just meant for presentations and educators, I was hoping it was a cool multi-monitor from the 80s. I was imagining having the alpha buffer on one screen and graph on the other.
 

AkBKukU

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Joined
Jan 29, 2017
Messages
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Location
Chandler, AZ
Wow, that is a real nice and complete setup of a fine machine you got there!

Yeah, I'm really happy with it. The documentation is always one of my favorite things to get for these old systems. So I'm over the moon to get all the possible documentation for the computer and accessories right off the bat. And I really lucked out with the disc drives. I didn't realize that they were uncommon until after I got it home and did some more research.

I also got the product catalog form the same year, I found a couple more things in there I'd like to get. The plotter, the drawing tablet, the GP-IB card, and the Electronics Engineering multi pac. Everything for these computers seems to be pretty rare and expensive so I'm not thinking it's likely to happen.
 

smp

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Joined
Oct 4, 2011
Messages
1,676
Location
Bedford, NH, USA
Hello AkBKukU,

Well, you inspired me to dig out my HP-86B and set it up. I have:
HP 86B (128K memory)
HP 9121 Dual 3.5 inch Floppy Drive
HP 82900A Auxiliary Processor (A.K.A. CP/M System)
HP 83936A ROM Drawer (Advanced Prgm, Plotter/Printer, Assembler ROMs)
HP 82929A Programmable ROM Module

I have my system attached to a Panasonic BT-H3190Y monitor, that can under-scan to properly display the HP 86 composite video (Well almost completely properly display it. The top line
is chopped off a little bit if it's capital letters. Lower case letters display fine on the top line.)

Anyway, I successfully set up the whole system this afternoon. I've exercised the BASIC system, loading and storing a couple of test programs. I also inserted the CP/M system and successfully fired that up, too. I managed to boot and read all my stored floppy disks. I don't have too many, but I checked to see that the boot disks still boot, and the data disks are still readable.

You have acquired a terrific pile of equipment and documentation there. Congratulations.

I'll mention how this ended for anyone else who is curious like me. I looked through all the documentation I have for the computer and the monitor and I can't find anything more about how the multi-display works. It barely mentions the feature only talking about it when telling you how to connect the monitors. It mentions the 75-HIGH switch on the back as needing to be set to HIGH on all but the last monitor connected. I started to suspect that it is only meant for duplication. So I tested continuity between the input and output jacks on the monitor and they are directly connected. I'm guessing the 75 side of switch is for terminating the chain and the HIGH side let's it have a high impedance sense on the input. All other signs point to it just being for duplicating. I'm guessing it is just meant for presentations and educators, I was hoping it was a cool multi-monitor from the 80s. I was imagining having the alpha buffer on one screen and graph on the other.

Remembering that the HP calculator/computers of this vintage were designed to support engineering and test equipment monitoring/control, I believe that the multi-display feature was meant for display duplication, as you are finding. This was to be able to have a display at the computer (like the original HP 85) and also elsewhere with a pile of test or measurement equipment, for ease of seeing what was going on without having to return to the computer, or shout to each other across the lab or manufacturing space.

Good luck with your system. It's a nice one!

smp
 

AkBKukU

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Joined
Jan 29, 2017
Messages
47
Location
Chandler, AZ
Well, you inspired me to dig out my HP-86B and set it up.

That's a cool setup. The guy I got mine from originally thought he had an HP-86B. I was hoping it was because I was wanting to play with GP-IB. I can't complain though, the 86A is still plenty cool.

The 3.5" drives seem odd to me. This era feels right to me at 5.25". Do you use DD disks on it? I have a 286 Tandy 1000 with a DD only drive and it's a pain. I can make it rain HD disks, the DD are more elusive.

As a programming nerd I can't help but be interested in the Assembler ROMs but being a one of a kind CPU I know my time would be better spent on something else like the 6502. Have you played around with it? I saw the Programmable ROM Module listed in my catalog and was curious about it. The description says "This drawer lets you use the firmware created with the Assembler ROM in Series 80 Computers. You can plug in standard EEPROMs that you program yourself in your own code.". It makes it sound like you can use it as disk-less storage for your own assembly programs. But I know you can load "binary" programs from disks, and it would seem odd to me for that to also be an EEPROM programmer and not tout it more. Is it meant for extending the firmware built into the computer? That would make a lot of sense for the 86B if you were in a lab where you would make your own tools to interface with the computer.

That Panasonic BT-H3190Y seems interesting. I'd never thought about a higher quality LCD like that. For kicks I connected it to my Dell 2007FPb and it massively overscans. I'm a huge fan of using CRTs whenever I can, but a jack of all trades LCD makes a lot of sense..
 

smp

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That's a cool setup. The guy I got mine from originally thought he had an HP-86B. I was hoping it was because I was wanting to play with GP-IB. I can't complain though, the 86A is still plenty cool.

You bet it is! Plenty cool indeed!
I have the HPIB module if you're interested. Send me a PM and we can discuss it.

The 3.5" drives seem odd to me. This era feels right to me at 5.25". Do you use DD disks on it? I have a 286 Tandy 1000 with a DD only drive and it's a pain. I can make it rain HD disks, the DD are more elusive.

Yessiree, DD! And, the drive can sense if you put a floppy disk in that has the HD hole in it, and it barfs right away. Yep, it's a pain. For whatever reason, many times it takes a couple of initializations before the drive doesn't throw an error. I'm currently experimenting with the ROM module. It may be that I need to have the Advanced Programming ROM installed in order to properly interface with the 9121 drive.

As a programming nerd I can't help but be interested in the Assembler ROMs but being a one of a kind CPU I know my time would be better spent on something else like the 6502. Have you played around with it? I saw the Programmable ROM Module listed in my catalog and was curious about it. The description says "This drawer lets you use the firmware created with the Assembler ROM in Series 80 Computers. You can plug in standard EEPROMs that you program yourself in your own code.". It makes it sound like you can use it as disk-less storage for your own assembly programs. But I know you can load "binary" programs from disks, and it would seem odd to me for that to also be an EEPROM programmer and not tout it more. Is it meant for extending the firmware built into the computer? That would make a lot of sense for the 86B if you were in a lab where you would make your own tools to interface with the computer.

When I originally acquired my system, I was obsessed with the CP/M System, and I didn't pay too much attention to anything else. So, no, I haven't played around with the Assembler. IIRC, the ROMs extend the command set of the BASIC and also add the ability to interface with devices that were not originally available. Each of the ROMs comes with its own manual to explain the additional capability it brings.

I had just acquired the Programmable ROM module when I put the system into storage last. The idea was going to be to get EPROM copies of ROMs and plug them into that module. Again IIRC, I needed a ROM beyond what I now have to be able to properly interface with the HP 9122 dual 3.5 inch floppy disk drive (which I also have but cannot use yet) and then get to use HD disks. I believe the Programmable ROM module is simply a platform for using 2732 or 2764 EPROMs instead of the little ROMs that plug into the ROM Drawer.

That Panasonic BT-H3190Y seems interesting. I'd never thought about a higher quality LCD like that. For kicks I connected it to my Dell 2007FPb and it massively overscans. I'm a huge fan of using CRTs whenever I can, but a jack of all trades LCD makes a lot of sense..

I'm sorry to have misled you. The Panasonic BT-H3190Y is a CRT monitor. It's a "studio" monitor that has many controls on it - I got it because it has a button to make it underscan so it properly displays the HP video output. I have no idea if the HP 86 video can be used on an LCD monitor, because it's probably a 15 KHz scan rate and I don't know if there are any LCD monitors that will go that slow any more.

smp
 

AkBKukU

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Chandler, AZ
I'm sorry to have misled you. The Panasonic BT-H3190Y is a CRT monitor. It's a "studio" monitor that has many controls on it - I got it because it has a button to make it underscan so it properly displays the HP video output. I have no idea if the HP 86 video can be used on an LCD monitor, because it's probably a 15 KHz scan rate and I don't know if there are any LCD monitors that will go that slow any more.

Ah, I had searched the model number on Google and didn't see anything for that exact model number. Similar models were LCDs so I assumed it was as well.

When I originally acquired my system, I was obsessed with the CP/M System

I can't blame you, it's a weird way to add an operating system to a computer. I still haven't played with it much but it's one aspect I'm looking forward too. I'm glad I have the manual because I have no experience with CP/M.

I have the HPIB module if you're interested. Send me a PM and we can discuss it.

PM sent
 

gslick

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Here are a couple of photos I posted a while ago to show the difference between the HP-86B 80-column mode displayed in the standard monitor mode and also in UNDERSCAN mode on a Sony PVM-1351Q monitor. Get a nice sharp display with that monitor, although it doesn't really match the vintage setup as an original HP monitor does.

https://sites.google.com/site/glensvintagecomputerinfo/hp-86b


I never got around to picking up a Programmable ROM module. I have one of the PRM-85 modules instead which is really handy. I think one thing you could do with the Programmable ROM module is clone some of the more rare and expensive to acquire ROMs into it, such as the Extended Mass Storage ROM which you need to access CS-80 drives instead of Amigo drives, if I have that distinction correct off the top of my head.
 

smp

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... it's a weird way to add an operating system to a computer. I still haven't played with it much but it's one aspect I'm looking forward too. I'm glad I have the manual because I have no experience with CP/M.

You're right. However, CP/M was added this same way to the Apple II and the Commodore 64 & 128, too. Essentially the module is a separate Z-80 processor with 64K RAM that replaces the CPU and memory of the host system, and uses all the host system I/O for the user interface, mass storage, printer, etc.

HP implemented the disk storage in a custom way to keep CP/M and all the user files in a wrapper so they all show up as one blob file on the disk if you try to view it from outside of CP/M. IMO, this is one of the original efforts to keep users in a "walled garden" so they had to purchase their software through HP.

smp
 

AkBKukU

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Here are a couple of photos I posted a while ago to show the difference between the HP-86B 80-column mode displayed in the standard monitor mode and also in UNDERSCAN mode on a Sony PVM-1351Q monitor. Get a nice sharp display with that monitor, although it doesn't really match the vintage setup as an original HP monitor does..

That is a sharp looking monitor. Sony CRTs are really great. I scored a Sony KX-4200 some time last year and it looks great for being a 4" color CRT.
View attachment 39312

I had no idea when I was buying the computer that the original monitor was so unique. I thought it was a cool novelty that it came with it but that it was just another composite CRT.


HP implemented the disk storage in a custom way to keep CP/M and all the user files in a wrapper so they all show up as one blob file on the disk if you try to view it from outside of CP/M. IMO, this is one of the original efforts to keep users in a "walled garden" so they had to purchase their software through HP.

I read about that and it is unfortunate. I haven't looked into trying to backup the disks I have yet or trying to make new ones on another computer but I suspect that doesn't make it easy. Especially if you want to modify them. My computer came with a bunch of disks made by the original owner with utilities for moving the files out of the blob while in CP/M. I haven't tried them out yet though.
 

gslick

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I read about that and it is unfortunate. I haven't looked into trying to backup the disks I have yet or trying to make new ones on another computer but I suspect that doesn't make it easy. Especially if you want to modify them. My computer came with a bunch of disks made by the original owner with utilities for moving the files out of the blob while in CP/M. I haven't tried them out yet though.

I think I was able to get Cpmtools to work with floppy images I was using with HPDrive emulated disks and an HP-86B CP/M system. I'll have to look and see what I figured out for disk def settings to make it work.
 

smp

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I think I was able to get Cpmtools to work with floppy images I was using with HPDrive emulated disks and an HP-86B CP/M system. I'll have to look and see what I figured out for disk def settings to make it work.

IIRC, it was you, Glen, and another fellow by the handle leeb who both made tremendous effort to help me out with this.

At present, I am not finding anything in my notes (that is intelligible) about the file copying process onto and off of the special HP CP/M disks with the OS and/or data buried on them. Hopefully, I can keep digging and find something about that. I have a vague memory of leeb (maybe) coming up with a couple of definition files for use with one of the disk manipulation programs, that defined the HP 3.5 inch floppy disks. Do you have any memory of that?

Thanks,
smp
 

gslick

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IIRC, it was you, Glen, and another fellow by the handle leeb who both made tremendous effort to help me out with this.

At present, I am not finding anything in my notes (that is intelligible) about the file copying process onto and off of the special HP CP/M disks with the OS and/or data buried on them. Hopefully, I can keep digging and find something about that. I have a vague memory of leeb (maybe) coming up with a couple of definition files for use with one of the disk manipulation programs, that defined the HP 3.5 inch floppy disks. Do you have any memory of that?

Thanks,
smp

Maybe it was this thread? I haven't read all the way through it again yet.

http://www.vcfed.org/forum/showthread.php?31395-CP-M-on-HP-86B
 
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