Vintage Computing / Avionics and

"Programmer Electronic Control"

- Chronology -

Part No. 51-019-02, NSN 1680-99-652-3410,
Supplier K0656, Marconi Avionics, UK

Everything started in 2004 with obtaining PEC...




11/29/2004 Got PEC serial 42 from Abex Co./UK (eBay). Serial 42
12/16/2004 Made inventory of NSNs of the installed PCBs and submitted first posting. Found out, that timing is generated by mono-flops of type 74121 and made first list of chips used.
Submitted posting on the unit with several questions in the use-net group rec.aviation.military.




1/10/2005 Deciphered pin-out of the 8 PROMs used on the SK11, "Function Decode PCB" for the microcode of the unit. They are compatible to the 82S123 being 32bytes with open collector output. 82S123 data-sheet
2/19/2005 Analyzed the output section of the power supply: Supply voltages of the unit are clear now as well as a "power good" signal. There is some kind of feedback from the unit (later it became evident, that the core voltage and thus the currents are adjusted according to the temperature of the core-plane). Still unclear: What is the input voltage (guess 115VAC, 3phase) and how to supply/generate this. [PowerSuppSubAssy1.jpg]
2/22/2005 Layout and principle of operation of the core section roughly analyzed. Sketch of the schematic completed: Memory is 12bit*8192 words. [CoreMemory.jpg][DiodeArraysAndCore.jpg]
2/25/2005 Submitted posting to the "Professional Pilots Rumor Network" (PPRuNe) to see whether there is someone out there recognizing the unit and having any information. Unfortunately there was no feedback.
3/12/2005 Rx-Tx-Board investigated: Contains 100R differential line drivers. Four links are highly symmetric and can only be used one-at-a-time. Rough sketch of this section complete.
3/29/2005 Checked SK10, the "Control Register" and drew rough schematic diagram. Decision: unit must be complete Computer and is worth further investigation. Connected logic analyzer (Agilent 1661A) to the pins known up to now and prepared power supplies for external input. Removed core plane and stored at save location (idea: might still contain code which can be recovered later to learn about the command set). [TornadoComputerUnitSK10.gif]
4/11/2005 After trouble with the logic analyzer's floppy, setup now via GPIB control from Sun SPARC Station 20 which works great. Started investigation of the signals at the memory and memory-processor-interface. Connected DIP switch to apply defined bit pattern to be read from non-existent core plane. Discovered a GOTO-like command (later RJMP). [Switches.jpg]
8/11/2005 SK8 and SK9 analyzed: They contain accumulator and ALU (some adder, shifter etc.) and each of the identical PCBs holds 6 bits. First computer generated diagrams of PEC's internals complete for documentation purposes.
From the already known commands, idea emerged to write an assembler in TCL and implement discovered commands simultaneously. This proved extremely valuable later as platform for writing test programs to investigate and analyze further commands...
"Birth" of Assembler:
pecasm V0.1
8/20/2005 Next level in the analysis-setup: Built hand-wired interface between a Parsytec-Megaframe Transputer PCB and the PEC. This allows to apply bit patterns to the PEC's bus. Connected this to the unit with the logic analyzer. Transputer and logic analyzer are controlled via workstation (Sun SparcStation20, dual Ross-200) allowing rapid cycles of applying patterns and analyzing them. [Connection.jpg][TrapuInterface.jpg]
10/10/2005 Setup now able to generate timing for accessing core memory. Inserted the core module again and verified correct behavior on word 0 of the memory. After adjustments of voltages and timing read out the whole memory 5 times. Got 5 nearly identical copies (error rate about 1 wrong bit per 4000, reason unknown by 2005). But memory did not contain any useful information: Mainly 0 and only very few 1s -> No usable information in core memory found! Hex-File
10/11/2005 Additional information: PEC starts operation at 0xa0 after reset. Setup now able to write core, observe 100us of operation of PEC via the logic analyzer and read out memory afterwards. Basically, this setup remained unchanged for a very long time. [SetUpPanoramaExplained.jpg]
25/11/2005 Reverse engineered timing generator for core memory. Made documentation of read/write timing. [PEC_SingleWrite.jpg]
12/01/2005 After many postings in rec.aviation.military regarding PEC, this tread leads to suspicion that PEC controlled navigator's displays in Panavia Tornado. [TornadoLanding.jpg]
05/12/2005 Measurements on patch-panel and connected more of the relevant signals (SK7 and SK15 mainly) to the logic analyzer. [DeviceUnderTest.jpg]




02/09/2006 Discovered, that freezing of PEC is related to bit 7 in instructions like STA and is related to IDX register, too. Commands confirmed: ADD (no carry!), LDI, STA. Assembler extended to accept the new commands. ADD, LDI, STA
Assembler V0.96
03/20/2006 Instructions SHR and SHL analyzed, added to the assembler. Current version 0.97. SHR, SHL
Assembler V0.97
04/22/2006 Conditional jumps RJAZ and RJAN discovered: Jump if accumulator holds zero or is negative. Assembler extended to accept these commands and produce various list files (hex, octal). Version is 0.98 now. Interesting notice: This machine does not have a carry bit, thus writing e.g. 24bit arithmetics is not that easy. RJAN, RJAZ
pecasm V0.98
05/28/2006 Deciphered input and output format on the fast links DPL1 to DPL4; sketches of the associated circuits complete: Transmission is SPI-like with 3bit header, R/W bit followed by 12 bits of data. End of transmission is indicated by dropping one clock cycle. [PanLink2.gif]
11/22/2006 Discovered that occasional memory errors in writing to core by the Transputer are related to the T805's refresh cycles. Fixed this problem by a small additional PCB on the Transputer interface detecting refresh cycles which can thus be avoided to interfere with the code writing to core.
During this experiment also made measurements on the temperature dependency of optimum currents to operate the core stack.
12/08/2006 Plugs identified as MIL38999 plugs. Sorted out Amphenol part numbers and ordered socket contacts for tests at GlenAir/Germany. [Connectors.jpg]




01/07/2007 Discovered UMUL and confirmed as unsigned MUL. But by this time, I had not fully understood that the extension register holding the additional 12 bits of the result is the same as the index register B. Roger Holmes gave me the right hint later this year - Thanks!
Up to now, the large setup with it's many switch mode power supplies caused spikes in measurements with the oscilloscope due to grounding problems. Added ferrite cores to reduce common mode noise making measurements much easier. Oscilloscope can now be triggered by the logic analyzer.
UMUL Multiplication
01/14/2007 Hand-wired console LCD completed. This connects to one of the fast serial links of the unit and is powered by a 9V battery. Works fine and first "Hello World" program executed successfully on PEC. [ConsoleLCDonDPL03.jpg]
2/25/2007 Assembler: Improved handling of labels, implemented support for macros using the M4 macro processor. Added all commands deciphered up to now with parameter checking and error messages. Version increased to 0.99. Assembler pecasm V0.99
03/08/2007 Posting in classiccmp mailing list with short report on my efforts. In the emerging thread, the command set is being identified as being similar to the Elliott900 series computer (Hint from Roger Holmes: Elliott 900 uses 18bits and a very similar structure of commands!). Before submitting the initial posting, I put a description of the commands known up to date online into my home-page. Somewhat later and extended pdf
version of the original posting:
03/17/2007 Confirmed addressing mode "modified" to be M*D*128+offset. This causes PEC to freeze (even reset can not clear this lock), if an address outside of PEC's memory is being accessed. During search for yet undiscovered commands, came across some kind of RETFI (return from interrupt) instruction. Indirect Addressing
03/18/2007 Released second, strongly expanded, version of my documentation on the Programmer Electronic Control via the project's web page. This contains a description of most commands deciphered so far with execution times. In the appendix there some sketches on PEC's internals and timing diagrams as well.
03/21/2007 Discovered that there are several interrupt vectors which are accessed in entering interrupt level. But only one return address associated to the RETFI instruction. This was the start of investigation of the interrupts and IO machinery. In total this was much more difficult than anticipated and consumed nearly the same time the whole process up to now did! IRQs discovered
04/15/2007 Got a Ferranti FIN1010 inertial navigation system via Helmut Singer. Bought this because I had the idea that this could be connected to PEC. Investigated the included computer, but technology is different and there is no way that this was connected to PEC.
But nevertheless, the Internet store of Helmut-Singer always offers strange and interesting items.
Helmut Singer GmbH
08/12/2007 Submitted posting to the German avionics/aircraft group on the FlugzeugForum, There emerged some interesting discussion on Tornado, it's computers and displays. But no hint on the Programmer Electronic Control or it's application.
08/15/2007 Second try in submitting a posting to the "Professional Pilots Rumor Network", This time, there was some feedback on the Tornadoes displays. But no input specifically regarding the Programmer Electronic Control.
09/15/2007 Got PEC serial 129, again from Abex Co./UK (direct sale). In comparing the two units, some differences regarding the grounding scheme became apparent. Apart from some obvious questionable design features of all units (e.g. the covers are electrically insulated from the housing by the black painting used - very strange) they obviously had special grounding problems at the plugs, leading to added grounding in unit No. 129. Serial 129
10/27/2007 Investigated slow link on DPL05. Format of 24 bit in/output is clear, but completely unclear remains how to sync software's read and write access to the shift registers with transmission itself. -
11/01/2007 Released third, revised, version of my documentation on the Programmer Electronic Control.
11/16/2007 Input from experts at "Deutsches Museum" that liquid cooling often is only present in radar systems and not in ordinary avionics applications. This new input ruled out the navigator's displays as application for the units. Since the original source of the units insisted that the units are from a Tornado application, a new hypothesis emerged: The units might have been used on the Foxhunter radar of the Tornado ADV. The unit's coaxial connector
for liquid cooling:
New suspected application:
11/27/2007 The continuously growing test program used for many different tasks got sufficiently versatile (e.g. includes display support) making it worth being called programmer electronic control - tiny operating system alias pec-tos. PEC Operating System
Birth of pec-tos, V0.60
12/17/2007 Confirmation by Roger Holmes (who asked Terry Froggatt as I was told later) that the unit's architecture is indeed very similar to the Elliott computers and the unit might be an Elliott 12/12 airborne computer.




02/08/2008 Got information, that liquid cooling in Tornado is only used in ADV's radar system utilizing Coolanol. Subsequently found traces of a red fluid in the ducts of PEC which matches the look of Coolanol. Therefor PEC finally ruled out being related to the cockpit displays in Tornado. New hypothesis is, that PEC was used in the first stages of the Foxhunter AI24 radar (Stage1, and Stage 1+) which was unable to fully meet the required specifications. According to the time line of Foxhunter development, the units (if really used in Foxhunter) where in service until 1996 when the digital electronics in Foxhunter was replaced to lead to Stage2 for this radar system. Foxhunter article on
the Internet.
02/18/2008 Got PEC serial 90 from Tim Wayre in UK via eBay. Serial 90
04/29/2008 Completed porting the sim900al emulator by Terry Froggatt and Don Hunter to gnat Ada by implementing new graphics handling - first release (Windows, IRIX, Solaris). The emulation runs about 10 times faster than the original machine on a 500MHz UltraBook.
As of 2017, this is superseded by V1.3 - link updated!
Sim900al-NT, V1.3

05/01/2008 Investigated IRQ circuit, hereby identified the possible IRQ sources (0: Unknown,1: SlowLink,2: Timer,3: FastLink Rcv,4-7: DPL1-4) and the associated IRQ vectors. Timer IRQ is working already. IRQs of the fast links are always asserted if no device is connected. Applied bridges to turn them off. IRQbridges on DPL01-DPL04
05/03/2008 Released document showing detailed photographs of all PCBs of PEC, serial PEC129. Shown are component and solder side of each PCB on a separate page. PCBs of PEC No. 129

Joined the CCS seminar "Early computer programming at Elliotts" in London: Got more information on the 920, 902 and 12/12 series of computers from Terry Froggatt. Especially fruitful was the personal discussion with Terry on the following day together with the demonstration of his just repaired 920. This was definitively one of the the most exciting days in the PEC related research.
On 5/16/2008 I visited the RAF Museum near London. Apart from many interesting aircraft, they have a huge archive holding many air publications. Among them I found documents related to the Nimrod reconnaissance aircraft, which used the 18 bit Elliott 920M in various applications. One of these documents even contained flow charts of the microcode and complete schematics of the Elliott 920M unfortunately too many pages to make copies of...
902 Facts Card

05/23/2008 Deciphered in detail how the IRQack command works and sorted out what the bits in the IRQmask part of this instruction mean. Assembler support for these instructions added, documentation updated. IRQack, pecasm V1.03.
06/08/2008 Added timer interrupt handling to pec-tos, converted all comments to English and performed severe clean up. Now the OS handles all interrupts in parallel and prints letters to the console for each IRQ call handled. All interrupts work nicely in parallel now! pec-tos V0.70
06/17/2008 Last custom chip reverse engineered by ohmic and dynamic measurements. All chips within PEC (even custom ones) identified now. Launched separate page listing all the chips with data-sheets and a statistics showing the date codes of the chips used in PEC #42.
06/23/2008 Discovered the blinkenlights-bus, a data-bus dedicated to debugging and hardware diagnosis leading to the big programming- and diagnosis-plug DPL07. Functions deciphered by 80 percent. First experiments of attaching a cable to the diagnosis plug DPL07 of PEC using an Amphenol plug with soldered socket contacts - inserting and removing such socket contacts is really pain and for final blinkenlights this has to be done by the properly crimped connections. [SolderedPinsPain.jpg]
07/16/2008 Remaining pins of DPL07 recognized and more than 90 percent known. List with function descriptions for documentation purposes generated (first version). -
09/10/2008 Added a PROCEDURE mechanism to pec-tos using macros. This mechanism allows comfortable definition and calling of functions and procedures where the assembler is implementing everything (memory allocation for destination- and return addresses) automatically using PEC's IDXCALL command.
BTW: The Elliott machines (as many other machines of those days, e.g. PDP8 from Digital Equipment, too) do not have got a stack as modern computers do. Thus calling subroutines and sending parameters to them has to be handled in a different and rather complex way.
pec-tos V0.80
10/25/2008 All interrupts work reliably and in parallel now in PEC-TOS (aka PEC-Tiny/Trivial-Operating-System) V0.81. Major new discovery: Sync with SlowLink on DPL05 has to be done by it's associated interrupt: Immediately after the interrupt is asserted by the hardware, there is a window of about 100us time during which the 24 bit value received can be read from the shift registers and the value to be transmitted can be written. Despite the link being slow, this update of the shift registers is very important and thus this IRQ has a very high priority... Slow Link
pec-tos V0.81
12/17/2008 Simulated memory expansion to 32k words via DPL07 and the Transputer setup successfully for the first time. External simulation of paper tape and TTY also successfully implemented in Transputer, too (all used only one out of 12 bits). Added commands RPPT, WPPT, RTTY and WTTY to assembler. RTTY, WTTY, RPPT, WPPT




01/07/2009 Ideas for building new console with display, switches and 8751 processor to interface a plotter finalized. As well as way to go to build blinkenlights and second generation of Transputer-interface to connect to DPL07 decided. Selected suitable programmable logic device and conducted first experiments using an evaluation board of this EPM7128 from Altera connected to PEC. Started PCB design using EAGLE5.3 -> 4-layer PCBs. [CPLD-EvalPCBonPEC.jpg]
01/18/2009 Frederic Im. from France connected me via email regarding the PEC. He acquired >10 of them and is currently reusing the outer case of a unit for a project with the vintage Intel 4004 processor. In the weeks to follow he reverse engineered the input section of PEC's power supply and managed to power up his units continuously. I have got no further information, what his plan about his units is. -
02/12/2009 Got new PCBs from manufacturer: New Trapu-Link and new FastLink-interface. Started CPLD development and mounting of components.
The new Transputer-interface was up and running within one day - now featuring a digital means of detecting the refresh cycles of the Transputer thus allowing faster and more reliable programming of PEC's core memory. This new interface will go in service together with the new blinkenlights - hopefully beginning of 2010...
03/20/2009 PEC #129 runs on it's own supply in intermittent operation using a rotating inverter and a battery of transformers to step up from 115VAC to 200VAC 3 phase current. Power of the inverter (being from an Alouette helicopter) of 100W is not enough for continuous operation of PEC but nevertheless the inverter is a beautiful and very noisy device. Interesting issue: The inverter has only four pins: Negative input and one of the three phases are connected to chassis... ;-) [PECversuchInverter20090214a.JPG] [Rotary100Winverter.jpg]
4/6/2009 Got proper tools via eBay for making professional crimped connections of various cables to the AMP plug. Completed tests on which cabling to use in connecting the future blinkenlights- and Transputer-setup to DPL07 without hampering signal quality. PEC's cycle time is on the order of 1us, but timing is critical since the unit is asynchronous. Ringing etc. has to be kept to a minimum to ensure reliable operation. [DMCcrimper20090311a.jpg] [InsertionRemovalTools-20090306.jpg]
04/10/2009 Released newest version of my documentation on the Programmer Electronic Control - now rather complete with details on interrupts and corrected errors in the section on the fast links. Timing diagrams on fast link transmission (send and receive) are given in the appendix.
04/12/2009 New FastLink-PCB working properly: Possible to write AND read via FastLinks DPL01-DPL04. Implemented console abstraction in pec-tos to switch easily between old hand-wired and new console PCBs. CPLD-Design complete, 8751 operational. The picture on the left shows PEC-TOS online. The letters in the second line show which switches on the console are on (K) and which interrupts occurred in the first 100ms of operation. pec-tos V0.84
04/29/2009 Removed minor bug in pec-tos with pointer handling and reworked the TRAP macro, allowing to stop the OS giving a message on the new console display. pec-tos V0.85
06/06/2009 Implementation of driver for pen plotter CalComp M84 in FastLink PCB completed; API included within the operating system to move and draw with relative and absolute coordinates and to send commands to the plotter. Essentially plotter commands from PECs view are single assembler instructions:

PlotterPreLoadX, 15/1/6, Preload new x position from accumulator.
PlotterPreLoadY, 15/1/7, Preload new y position from accumulator.
PlotterDrawX, 15/1/8, Draw using accumulator as x and preloaded y.
PlotterDrawY, 15/1/9, Draw using accumulator as y and preloaded x.
PlotterMoveX, 15/1/10, Move using accumulator as x and preloaded y.
PlotterMoveY, 15/1/11, Move using accumulator as y and preloaded x.

Digitized a picture of PEC via xfig, converted to hpgl and from there using a home-brew program to an asm-file for pecasm, containing the data. Now pec-tos can draw a simple geometric pattern, write text and draw an outline of PEC. Unfortunately there is some issue with certain core pages preventing to load the full data set to PEC. Thus only the plug-section of PEC's outline is drawn by the plotter.
pec-tos V0.90
6/28/2009 After hours of fiddling around with the insertion and removal tools, the cable connecting to the diagnosis and programming plug of PEC is completed and the plug assembled. Cable itself is made from Amphenol spectra strip ribbon cable. [DPL07-Cable-2.jpg]
11/8/2009 Restoration of a Facit N-4000 paper tape punch/reader completed after trouble finding a appropriate firmware EPROM. Wrote a test program "BigLetters" to punch out nice banners (just for fun) and read in the original Elliott assembler SAP together with the "trigger tape" to launch programs from the II (i.e. initial instructions).
Design of the blinkenlights to be built will offer the possibility to connect the paper tape unit directly to PEC.
[Facit-N4000-PaperTape.jpg] [Elliott-SAP.jpg]
11/17/2009 Acquired a package of computers from the Tornado via Liquibiz. Among them an Autopilot-Flight-Director-System (part nos. 49-133-01 and 49-134-01) and most important a TV-Tab waveform generator (part. no. 51-011-21).
This contains some VERY nice technology since it seems to supply two independent video channels for raster scanned displays with the possibility to lock onto an external source (superimposed radar images?). Entirely built of TTL chips it is from the same epoch as PEC itself and image generation is obviously a genial technology without utilizing a frame buffer as modern graphics cards usually do. There are some interesting patents on the analogue precursors of this device by Elliotts (US4188627A, US3657558A) and later ones which might well relate to the digital version (e.g. DE2252556A1).
This waveform generator will surely be a project to be analyzed and connected to one of the fast links of PEC after the blinkenlights are completed.




1/22/2010 Completed the first PCBs for the blinkenlights: The LED-Lines are feed via a serial high speed link (update rate faster than PEC's cycle time) and display up to 16 bit words (e.g. 12 bits for accumulator and 15 bits for addresses) on a row of LEDs. The value displayed on the LEDs is autonomously converted to a hexadecimal display on the smart pixel display and an octal/decimal reading (later selectable by a switch on the blinkenlights panel) on the 7 segment displays. There are additional LEDs e.g. to mark a value as valid or indicate whether the last access to memory was a read or a write cycle.
The PCBs needed to be assembled on a tool for alignment of the LEDs otherwise the result would not have been satisfying.
The next PCBs already designed and expected to arrive for assembly in February are a backplane which will be the "nerve center" between PEC and the Transputer, holding up to 5 small plug-in PCBs. These containing CPLDs from the Altera MAX7000 series contain the necessary logic for interfacing to PEC. The first plug-in module to be tested will allow memory expansion of PEC to 32k words of memory XOR simulation of paper-tape and tty.
[PEC-LED-Line.jpg] [PEC-LED-Line-Jig.jpg]
1/30/2010 Recycled some venerable switches and buttons for the PEC's blinkenlights to be build by dismantling a "Data Monitoring Unit", NSN 6625-99-6559680, manufactured by Smiths Industries under part. no. 2001TE/1. Rumors have been, that this was used on some computer within the early Harrier VSTOL aircraft. The chance of finding such a beast is zero and thus the switches will get some new job soon. [DataMonitoringUnit-Parts.jpg]
3/26/2010 After receiving last parts for the housing the 3 phase inverter is completed now. This inverter is based on three audio amplifiers, each being capable to deliver 60W of power. Three transformers allow different voltage ranges (0-120VAC and 0-240VAC) by switching from the star to a delta configuration.
Initially the 24V supplies have not been strong enough for a continuous operation of PEC, but with the new supplies this works very well.
Had a very exciting second visit to the UK: Visited the museum in Bletchley Park holding an Elliott 800 in working condition and a non working 905. Lot of time is spent by volunteers in maintaining the wonderful collection of avionics items at the Farnborough Air Sciences Trust Association which was well worth the visit as was the excursion to Kent to visit the Rochester Avionics Archives holding many items manufactured during the long history of the vintage Elliott Brothers Ltd. to become part of the current BAe Systems.
Another very impressive event was the demonstration of Roger's huge ICT1301 machine which Roger and Rod lovingly call Flossie. Many thanks to Roger and Rod for turning the baby on during my visit. The highlights of this journey definitively have been the nice evening with Peter and the time together with Terry and Val - Many Thanks!
Due to the volcanic eruption the schedule of the weekend got severely disturbed, since my wife was not able to join me for sightseeing in London. So after a visit in Cosford to see the mighty TSR2, I spent the Sunday for a strange journey back to Munich: Travel took 24 hours by 10 different means of transportation instead of 2h time of flight.
5/30/2010 After struggling with the Altera Quartus 9.1 software for several weeks I got a fix of the problem from Altera in April. Now there is progress with the actual setup again and on 19th of May the word generator module was working for the first time. The two Transputer setups work in parallel now: The old one wired to the backplane still controls PEC and is able to access the core memory. The new one, being connected to the debugging plug is going to implement the first new functions and will later make the old Transputer superfluous.
On 5/25/2010 the second module in the new setup holding a memory expansion, giving the PEC an additional 24k words of memory ran for the first time. Since the PEC is an asynchronous machine, it is able to run at nearly twice the speed from silicon memory than from its internal core. But due to thermal issues I artificially slowed silicon memory's speed down.
Up to now the software on the Transputers is strictly single-tasking, but for the ongoing project (experimental PPT and TTY emulation) it has to go multi-tasking...
8/21/2010 As there is lot of interesting vintage stuff around - I had a short look at the waveform generator (WFG1) acquired on Liquibiz in 2009. Thanks to Peter, who supplied me the pin out of this baby and with some reverse engineering I was able to modify a vintage CRT screen to accept the somewhat weird output of the WFG and to launch the self test of the unit. Although not directly compatible to PEC it is well possible building an interface to attach the WFG to PEC via one of PEC's fast serial links. This will be an adequate display for PEC and surely an upcoming project. Of course reverse engineering of the "language" WFG expects is necessary.
By the way: This "Graphics Card" does not contain display memory as today's devices do (memory was rare in the 1970ties). The picture is virtually drawn by its x-y coordinates very fast and continuously. If the CRT's beam is at a point which is generated by drawing process, than it is turned on for a short time. So the memory of the WFG contains objects (circles, characters, lines) and their locations. A real masterpiece even being dual headed (two CRTs!).
[WaveformGenerator-51-011-21.jpg] [WFG-TestPattern2.jpg]
11/21/2010 In waiting for PCBs for controlling the LED lines being manufactured I worked on the new Transputer setup implementing sockets and multi-processing there. Abusing the CPLD-PCB which will be a tracer in the future, it was possible to implement a first version of paper tape (PPT) and teletype (TTY) simulation. I.e. the new setup supplies or receives characters if PEC is accessing these devices. The Transputer redirects PPT requests to files and the TTY to a socket allowing easy access from any machine.
In this way it was possible to execute the original 902 assembler (SAP=Symbolic Assembly Program) on the PEC - HEY, look at the output as the SAP starts compiling himself on the vintage box!
Well, not fully true - the original SAP had to have a tiny patch applied to work on PEC: The periodic interrupt system not existent on the big 902 caused a crash by overlapping interrupt vectors.
[Elliott-SAP.jpg] [SAP-on-PEC-20101108.gif]
12/12/2010 Highlight of this weekend is the finalisation of the Blinkenlights, i.e. the PCBs monitoring the internal registers of PEC and showing them on LED lines, on hex and octal displays and allowing the new Transputer to read their values. Although the setup is very crowded now it works perfectly as can be seen from a small video of the setup in action:
The video starts showing the four units displaying PEC's registers S, A, E and D. First you see that there is a sudden change in the register display - here I started a small test application on PEC. This application stops immediately as it wants to access external memory within the memory expansion. As the camera looks to the right, the flashing red light can be seen on the Memory Expansion Mode Switch telling us, that PEC is blocked by waiting for memory being enabled. Afterwards you see me enabling the three external memory banks (switches turning red and at the end the red flashing light remains off).
Now the two LED displays in front of this switch show activity: They show the last address in the external memory, accessed by PEC together with the data read or written. Afterwards the camera looks back to the register display which now shows hefty activity as the test program digs around in memory.
Hopefully I will find the time to put everything into a nice wooden box some when in the future. There is already a sketch what the final front of the PEC-Operators-Panel will look like.
[PEC-BlinkenLights.jpg] [PEC-BlinkenLightsExplained.jpg]
Video -> [BlinkenAction.jpg] <- Video




1/27/2011 Among the black boxes bought via Liquibiz in 2009 there was an Engine Computer from Tornado Z324. This jet engine controller with part number 300-2C-3B containing lots of chips from Lucas Aeorsapce makes a nice addition to the RB-199 jet engine on display in the aeronautical exhibition of the Deutsches Museum. So I donated the unit and it will probably be visible in this exhibition after the reorganisation in the following two years.
2/12/2011 Uploaded the latest version 1.2 of the Sim900al-NTR: Now there are distributions for Sun and SGI UNIX systems and for Windows 2000 or later. The distributions contain much more examples, source code and the simulator now is able to handle paper tape input from and output to files. Thanks again to Terry for his tips!
3/20/2011 By end of 2010 there was an auction on Liquibiz which listed CRPMD displays. This acronym stands for Combined Radar and Projected Map Display and it is the central display in the Tornado's back cockpit and by the way the biggest unit in the cockpit.
The German electronics company Helmut Singer Elektronik won the auction and I bought one of these from them. It consists of an analog storage CRT tube whose image, delivered by the radar, is projected to the frosted screen where it is overlayed with a projection of a standard 35 mm dia film. Only a small portion of the film, given by the selected scale, is projected and the main computer adjusts the projected area and the rotation of the complete projection unit to align the map with the aircraft position being in the center of the screen and the flight path pointing upwards. If the aircraft moves, the film is moved as well and from time to time there is heavy winding since the map consists of many stripes. By detaching the CRT assembly from this extremely heavy unit (>35kg) it is easy to "project" own images to the screen and I assume a bright LCD will do, too.
Although I think the German Tornados still use this type of CRPMD, the British ones might have undergone update utilizing a LCD display (see TARDIS).
Any information on this unit (NSN 5841-99-991-1833, Ferranti Part.No. 3892/72000-02-011) or the closely related RPMD (NSN 5826-99-573-1589, Ferranti Part.No. 3892/75500-02-010) is highly appreciated since I do not want to start a bigger reverse engineering project on this one now.
[CRPMD-Boxed.jpg] [CRPMD.jpg]
[CRPMD-storageCRT.jpg] [CRPMD-Fake.jpg]
4/18/2011 The final front panel for the PEC's Operators Panel arrived from the workshop. It was reliefing to see that all parts fitted in very well after it took several weeks for the QCAD drawing to materialize.
Because the front panel is made from rather thick Al (5 mm), I used a milling machine to reduce the size where the displays need more room to increase the viewing angle.
Later a wooden box will follow covering the rear side where all the electronics will be mounted.
[PEC-OMP-Panel.jpg] [PEC-OMP-Milling.jpg]
4/20-24/2011 Over the last ten years Prof. Simon Lavington wrote a awesome book on the Elliott Brothers company. The launch of this book and the talk he gave on 21st of April in the London Science Museum was a perfect reason to visit London again. This time my wife Pia was with me and apart from joining the CCS talk we had a great time sightseeing in London and we spent a great day walking and picknicking with Terry and Val.
The weather was phenomenal and thus the walk along the Thames, the visits of the Tower, the Tower Bridge, the National Gallery, the museums in Greewich and may other places was a great experience.

BTW: I had the opportunity make some input to Simon's book, especially to the Appendix 6 which can be viewed online on Springer's web page.

[Sightseeing.jpg] [Thames-Ride.jpg]
5/20/2011 During the last weeks a lot of time went into analyzing and understanding the MECSL (=Marconi-Elliott-Computer-Systems Ltd.) floating point library for the 12/12 which survived in one of Terry's boxes. First I encountered issues compiling the library (the original MECSL assembler was somewhat different from the later assembler I got from Terry) and of course the floating point number format as well as the way to use the library had to be figured out.
The really interesting point on this library is, that it is an interpreter which essentially behaves like a floating point processor or a microcode extension - at least for the basic functions. I.e. if you want to use floating point you do not have to call weired library functions all the time but one has to call a subroutine once which immediately returns. From now on, one can use ordinary assembler commands like ADD, MUL and DIV but they are not obeyed directly any more - the interpreter does the floating point arithmetics. Using a special function this mode can be terminated again if one is done with FP arithmetics. For me this is a really clever design from the 1970ties although the implementation is ... well, ... ugly.
What followed was an investigation on accuracy (see pictures starting with MECSL-FLoatTest* for plots of relative accuracy for all relevant functions supplied by the library). The accuracy is usually around 1E-5, whereas from the bits in the mantissa I'd have expected a higher accuracy. Additionally there are systematic deviations in the EXP function and ranges of lower accuracy in LN, SIN, SQRT, ATAN and even the multiplication! A function for converting floats to integers actually is severely broken as very small floating point values get converted to big integers instead of zero! But a software report from those days states, that the library has probably not been used by customers, so perhaps it was not tested very well.
An investigating how the numerical error builds up during the Savage benchmark shows, that accuracy is really bad - especially if compared to the same algorithm utilizing 5 digit arithmetics using Mathematica. Anyhow even modern software is not without pitfalls regarding accuracy as can be seen if the Savage error is plotted aversus the precision set in Mathematica: As the set precision is increased, the Mathematica relies too long on the IEEE floats before activating its own floating point arithmetics, leading to unexpected low accuracy (up to 4 orders of magnitude!) at certain precisions set!
Last but not least: Speed. The library is faster than a Z-80 at 4MHz being programmed in assembler or the 68000 based TI-92+ using BASIC which finally is a cold comfort. Summary: During this investigation I really learned a lot on floating point numbers, their representation, several pitfalls and how arithmetics is done correctly (E.g. by the CORDIC method for trigonometric functions)!
[MECSL-FloatTest-Multiply-12-2.gif] [MECSL-FloatTest-Divide-13-2.gif]
[MECSL-FloatTest-QFMATH-Exp.gif] [MECSL-FloatTest-QFMATH-Sqrt.gif]
[MECSL-FloatTest-QFMATH-ATan-2.gif] [MECSL-FloatTest-QFMATH-Sin-2.gif]
[MECSL-FloatSavage.gif] [MECSL-FloatTest-QFMATH-Ln-1.gif]
[MECSL-FloatTest-QFMATH-Ln-2.gif] [MathSavage05.gif]
[MathSavage13.gif] [MathSavage60.gif]
6/2/2011 Another update of Sim900al-NT-R: Version 1.3 has changed behaviour upon the 15 7168 instruction (terminate interrupt) of the 900 series: If encountered at base level, operation continues at base level. This allows the simulator for the 12 bit machines (like PEC) to be operated within the 18 bit simulator even with single stepping. I used this to learn how the 1971 MECSL floating point library has to be used.
6/23/2011 Speaker attached to the PEC-Panel (Yes, computers of those days always had a speaker to hear what is going on and allowing trained technicians to hear what the problem is) and implemented code in one of the CPLDs to convert PEC's memory transfer signal to an audible signal sounding similar to Terry's 920 whose sound I recorded during my visit in 2010.
Here is a recording from today what PEC sounds like in compiling software: For the first fraction of a second (0.0s-0.9s) you hear background noise of the SparcStation and me pressing the Enter key. This makes the first/old Transputer writing the inital instructions into PEC (0.9s-1.2s) and launching them. Now PEC starts loading the assembler (aka SAP, the Symbolic Assembler Program) from the virtual paper tape being simulated by the second Transputer within the new BlinkenLights (finished at 4.3s) which is automatically started afterwards. The assembler now waits until the operator places the first source tape into the reader (of course in my setup the BlinkenLights Transputer does this automatically) and acknowledges this by toggling key 11 on the word generator. This waiting leads to a regular sound (4.3s-5.8s) until I manually toggled the switch on the panel. From than on, PEC reads the source tape for the first pass until the very end of the recording.
To compile larger software the operator would have to feed in all source tapes one by one acknowledging each by toggling key 11. After this, all tapes have to be fed in again in the same order for the second pass during which the binary is simultaenously written to the punch. This binary tape usually contains a loader and thus can be loaded via the initial instructions as was the assembler before.
On the rear side of the PEC-Panel, one can see the new Transputer (top-left) with the selfmade CPLD interface which will finally take all functions from the old Transputer PCB (Lower-right PCB shown here). But for the time being, both Transputers are needed - but this poses no problem at all. The mainboard with the bunch of PCBs plugged in is the interface which connects the Transputer to PEC via Altera CPLDs (MAX7192SQC-15 and -7) and which is doing the hard real-time stuff.
[PEC-OMP-Guts.jpg] [PEC-OMP-1stTest.jpg]
9/29/2011 Together with a friend we had placed a bid on an eBay auction on a big lot (1000kg+) of Rolms, cables and related parts. On this day we met at the sellers warehouse south-east of Munich and apportioned the haul. I got two additional Rolm 1602s (plain ones, i.e. not -A or -B models with the 5605 CPU set but with the CPU made of 9 cards full of TTL chips) and some cables whereas my companion got lot of -B models and cabinets.
Apparently the seller's father had bought these Rolms (originating probably from the German Marine) via VEBEG. Together with the 1602 I imported from the US and which had been in use at the NASA's space flight center in Goddard, three 1602s are waiting to be inspected and fired up.
[RolmGitterBox1.JPG] [RolmGitterBox2.JPG]
10/22/2011 Started reverse engineering of the WFG1, the graphics generator driving the two CRT displays in the rear cockpit of the early Tornado aircraft. Probably the German birds still use those?
The setup consists of a sparc station 20 connected to a CPLD via a printer port SPI link. The CPLD is programmed to generate the bit-serial, differential data words sent to the wave form generator. Several wires are connected to the guts of the WFG1 monitor the incoming signals and the resulting internal activity within the circuitry. Upon sending random datagrams there is lot of activity (not only electronic signals, but also on modified TV monitor connected to the output).
Internally to the waveform generator are several subunits, several euro card size PCBs each, being responsible for characters, circles, lines and tables. But there is NO DISPLAY memory, i.e. all graphical elements are computed as the electron beam moves across the screen!
It will be fun to figure out the "language" the engine of the waveform generator will understand to generate meaningful output!
[WFG-Abgriffe.jpg] [WFG-RandomDatagram.jpg]
Video -> <- Video
12/10/2011 Finalized the design of a housing for PEC-OMP (PEC-Operator and Monitor Panel) using CAD system Pro/E: The housing will consist of two parts: A lower one taking a 500W inverter built around a motor AC drive followed by a homebrew sine filter. The upper part will take the panel, Transputer and interface electronics and will be protected by a glass cover. Now search for a carpenter willing to make the cabinet from my drawings will start (This will not be easy as I need only one unit and they all have plenty of work).
12/17/2011 First success on deciphering the WFG1's language: After some painstaking experiments and analysis of the WFG's reaction to bombardment with random bit patterns it now is obvious that there are 5 command groups and one of the groups drives the text engine. 64 different characters can be displayed simultaneously on the two screens and one 32 bit command is able to write 3 successive characters onto the screen. 8 bits are used per character, but only 6 bits encode the character whereas 2 encode the attributes "size" and "reverse". The trains of characters can be placed arbitrarily onto the screen by giving line and row numbers, where the next train is to be placed.
The waveform generator has got a busy output, but text is processed immediately and thus characters can be moved around in breathtaking speed!
Video -> <- Video




2/20/2012 Together with the other lucky Rolm owner we visited the PWA electronics in Seligenstadt: They supported the European Rolm systems until they where taken out of service. PWA supplied us with some spares and valuable information on the 1602s - many many thanks! My friend even got a complete MILTOPE floppy disk drive...
Although we did some work on his Rolms we have not been able to bring the drive up this time.

3/3/2012 Completed design and assembly of a paper tape simulator for the Rolm 1602: The simulator is being plugged between the Rolm and a printer port, simulating a Centronics printer on the PC side. In my setup I use a Netgear PS101 Ethernet print server to access the Centronics port via TCP/IP and thus the simulator shown essentially is a TCP/IP interface to the Rolm's paper tape input.
Using this setup I successfully ran Fig Forth on the smallest of my 1602s (8k, no extension cabinet). But I still wonder whether there is any useful program which can be ran on this Forth?
Getting more familiar with the Rolms I realized, that I have got the microcode extensions for floating point commands (Hybrid Memory, option 22) and the access protection module (Hybrid Memory, option "special"). The latter comes with an additional module (called APM for the CPU set: Hey, this provides memory-protection, IO-protection and introduces a super-user mode for the 1970ties Data General computer architecture!
[Rolm1602-PTRsim1.jpg] [Rolm1602-PTRsim2.jpg]
[Rolm1602-RunningForth.jpg] [Rolm1602-Setup.jpg]
4/17/2012 Final release of the simh binary for the Rolm (sorry, only IRIX tardist at the moment): This binary contains a bugfix to the Nova "boot cpu" command and includes the original boot code residing on the 1621 "Hybrid Memory" modules marked "option 6" of the early Rolm 1602 (not -A or -B variants). Using this version, realistic testing of code compiled for stand-alone Rolms is possible.
6/12/2012 In March there has been a big lot of Tornado surplus from the Bundesluftwaffe for auction on VEBEG. Included have been 27 TV/Tab displays (NSN6625-12-186-7800, Cage Code K0 656, Part Number V22.498.85). The electronics dealer against "throw-away-ism", Helmut Singer Elektronik, got the whole lot. In this way I acquired a TV-Tab display which has a NATO list price of more than 33852,64EUR ;-)
This display will match the WFG1 perfectly and hopefully the winter will give me more time for reverse engineering its command set...
[TV-Tab-1.jpg] [TV-Tab-2.jpg]
8/14/2012 The housing of the PEC-OMP was completed by the carpenter and together with my father in law we went to Landsham and picked up the empty PEC-OMP. Mr. Huber from Holz Design Huber really did a great job - Thank you very much! [PEC-OMP-1.jpg] [PEC-OMP-2.jpg]
9/22/2012 Populating the PEC-OMP cabinet with the 400Hz three phase inverter I ran into trouble with 15kHz noise of the PWM inverter being injected into the ground line. The crossfeed is caused by the Y capacitors being part of the EMC protection within PEC's power supply and causes the personal protection switch to interrupt mains. I did not discover this earlier since during pretests an isolation transformer was always used.
Another problem is that without galvanic isolation, the sine filtered output is either centered around ground potential (good case) or is "riding" on the phase potential (bad case) depending on the orientation the mains plug is inserted. In the latter case and together with remaining noise from the PWM signal, the isolation of PEC has to withstand 500V to ground which gives me the creeps.
After several requests and quotations I ordered a custom made 3 phase isolation transformer to be added to the inverter cabinet hopefully solving both issues within the next 6 weeks.
[PEC-OMP-Inverter1.jpg] [PEC-OMP-Inverter2.jpg]
9/24/2012 Mr. Hans Kiening, who got aware that I am interested in the moving map displays by looking at this page, called me via telephone: He invented the digital machinery and algorithms to expose the movig map films for the Ferranti displays used in Tornado (and maybe others).
On 12/2 we met and I learned a lot on the "story" of this development as Mr. Kiening presented pictures of the setups and cameras used to rectify the paper maps and check the resulting films. Given, that it was in the 1980ties and that most machines up to this time where purely mechanical, e.g. using complicated motion links, this was a huge step forward.
Inspired by this I started to look into the details of the RPMD projector from the Tornado's front cockpit. This projector is a box full of synchro-resolvers, delicate mechanics, optics and some electronics. There is even a lamp magazine allowing the lamps being automatically changed on the fly without any intervention.
A good starting point to learn more on Mr. Kiening is the web page of his company KODIKA or to have a look at his ingenious patents.
[Kodika-PVG-400-0.jpg] [Kodika-PVG-400-1.jpg]
[Kodika-PVQ-400.jpg] [Kodika-Kopierstation.jpg]
11/6/2012 Together with a friend (we call ourself the "FINner"s to express our interest in the Ferranti made Inertial Navigation systems) we suceeded in firing up the Ferranti inertial navigators. Of big help was a test set we happily obtained from a VEBEG auction. This was an awesome whole-day session which culminated in running one of the platforms removed from its normally gas filled enclosure. This gave us the unique possibility to observe the holy grail of inertial navigation: The Gimbal-Flip. Video showing me moving the
running FIN1010 platform:





2/5/2013 Second visit to Mr. Kiening from KODIKA (see 9/24/2012) - this time I carreid a roughly working RPMD with me to test it on some vintage experimental film strip and it worked great. It was quite tricky to insert the film as I had pulled out the "helper strip" by accident. Many thanks for this nice afternoon, the lot of lessons learned and for the test film! [Kodika-Meeting.JPG]
[RMPD-SynchroTest.JPG] [Making-of-RPMD-Films.jpg]
2/9/2013 An other avionics enthusiast from Leipzig (now also a FINner) gets in touch with me after having seen this page. Now we are three people interested in vintage inertial navigation kits (especially the FIN1010/1012) actively working on the units. An idea starts to emerge: Why not building a device doing the following jobs: Reading the information sent by the FIN1010/FIN1012, logging it to SDcard (or whatever) and displaying the current position e.g. via NMEA and a suitable map software on some attached device?
Of course my additional goal is to drive one of the moving map displays from this device!
4/20/2013 The analysis of the WFG1 is completed and control of all elements via the Panavia link is possible now (3 circles, 20 lines, tabular characters, random characters in two sizes and the grid parallel on either display 1 or 2). The initial fear that there may be something wrong with the WFG was eliminated by testing a second WFG which Simon Green from Hayward and Green Aviation sent me on 3/10/2013. I just had not fully understood how lines are generated and there was a bad solder joint in my setup.
Many many thanks for this help to Simon and hopefully the Bavarian Weissbier tasted good ;-)
The next project in this line is the analysis of the TV-Tabs to connect them to the WFG ... to be started on the next weekend with bad weather.

Short Video
showing characters, grid and
circles in action!

5/4/2013 The PEC-OMP's panel gets populated. PCBs, power supply, fan, Transputer and SCSI-Transputer-Interface get mounted. As the original 902, the PEC-OMP gets a speaker allowing to hear what the unit is currently doing. To ajust the volume an additional potentiometer had to be added to the machined front panel as I had forgotten this in the design. [PEC-OMP-Assembly0.JPG] [PEC-OMP-Assembly1.JPG]
[PEC-OMP-Panel.JPG] [PEC-OMP-Speaker.JPG]
6/16/2013 It's christmas again as a delivery from Helmut Singer arrives: We FINners receive new toys which are compatible to the FIN1010/1012 systems. So the Ferranti test set, the display units and our homebuilt tools work right out of the box. On 6/27/2013 one of these toys has had its first ride in a BMW to proove that it is working ;-)
Ideas what the logging device is to look like and the features are recorded and developed using a shared document. The plan is to have NMEA output, touch screen control and display, logging to SDcard and on board GPS, magnetic sensors and MEMS inertial senesors for reference. A bluetooth output will provide map display on any smart phone.
[LINSonline-CDU.JPG] [LINS-Opened.JPG]
8/18/2013 Analysis of the TV/Tabs is complete. The CRT based one had an internal fault which had to be fixed first, but now the original CRT TV/Tab and the later MLU version from the scrapped ADVs work on my WFG1. The mechanism how keyboard data can be read out is analyzed, too.
To achieve the ultimate goal of connecting this graphical subsystem to the PEC, a special setup for cooling the WFG and a stronger power supply has to be set up if WFG shall be operational for longer periods driving two displays (WFG+2*TV/Tab will needed around 450W of 3 phase 208V) .
[TV-Tab-CRT-OnWFG.JPG] [TV-Tab-CRT-TestBench.JPG]
[TV-Tab-Comparison0.JPG] [TV-Tab-Comparison1.JPG]
[TV-Tab-TFT-TestPattern.JPG] [TV-Tab-TFT-OnWFG.JPG]
10/14/2013 Terry Froggatt sent me a new program to run on the PEC!
There is a prehistory to this: After I ported Terrys and Dons simulator for the 18 bit Elliotts to modern gnat Ada and made this public, Terry told me that he wrote a BASIC interpreter for the 920 decades ago. He donated me a version of this interpreter to be run within the 920 simulator by end of 2012 (many thanks!).
This made me very happy and therefor I ported a vintage game (Tic Tac Toe from the well known book "101 Computer Games") to this BASIC in March. Having sent this over to Terry he ran it on the original machine which was way slower than in the simulator and requires minutes to play ONE game of Tic Tac Toe.
So Terry ported the game to the 920's 18 bit assembler (called SIR) and to 12 bit SAP, which is somewhat different. Of course he had no hardware to test the 12 bit version, and I was deeply impressed that it worked perfectly on the original hardware in the second attempt - precisely on the afternoon of 10/20/2013.
Many thanks and high esteem for this achievement - a new and useful piece of software written in assembler for a 50+ year old architecture indeed is a rarity!
6 min video:

Sorry, it's not a good
video, but it pays tribute
to Terry! Thanks!




1/25/2014 The freshly restored Rolm MSE/14, which had a problem in the base memory on the 1820 CPU board is completely up and running. It successfully booted the IDMS menu from a 7300 EPROM board and some programs from paper tape via a paper tape simulator. Running the 1553B diagnostics revealied, that even one of the MIL-STD-1553B boards is still working and transmitted datagrams showed up in both of the redundant links.
Next step is to replace the old defunc lead batteries in the power supply by GoldCap capacitors to have memory backup after power loss - at least for some minuts. A future application of the 1553B probably is reading the Ferranti LINS (see 6/16/2013) via this interface, too.
[MSE14-Setup-201402.jpg] [MSE14-Rolm1602-PTRsim-201402.jpg]
[MSE14-GoldCap-201402.jpg] [MSE14-1553B-Xmit.jpg]
2/2/2014 Test drive with a boot mounted FIN1010 connected to the now 80% completed logger interface, generating logs of the FINdata along with a GPS track. The challenge was to get the 300W power out of the car's electrical system without blowing the fuses. It worked nicely until we ran into an over temperature problem with the FIN. Accuracy was quite impressive for a over 30 year old system! [FIN-CPLD-PCB.JPG] [FIN-Logger0.JPG]
2/21/2014 On eBay I got hands on the original "User Interface" for the PEC, i.e. the original cockpit panel from the Tornado's rear cockpit. The panel arrived on Tue/20 and since yesterday parts of the circuit are already reverse engineered: The digital serial link of the panel seems to match the PEC's slow link and the own PEC-TOS (PEC-Trivial-Operating-System) now has an interrupt driven driver for this link which sends arbitrary data to the panel. The next days will be exciting as powering up, testing and connecting the panel to PEC are impeding! [AECM-Panel-Gr.1.jpg] [AECM-Panel-Marked2.jpg]
[AECM-Panel2.jpg] [AECM-Guts.jpg]
4/9/2014 My automated eBay search sent me an alarm as suspicious PCBs showed up. They looked very similar to the ones I know from PEC, although they are not completely identical. I bid on some of them and contacted the seller: He actually sold me the complete box for a reasonable price and this is how I got hands on 6605-99-525-8290, "DIGITAL COMPUTER UNIT" containing the following 12 PCBs: 6605-99-529-2339, 6605-99-529-2338, 6605-99-529-2323, 6605-99-529-2323, 6605-99-529-2324, 6605-99-529-2337, 6605-99-529-2336, 6605-99-529-2336, 6605-99-529-2335, 6605-99-529-2322, 6605-99-529-2334, 6605-99-529-9118. Unlike PEC the DCU uses software stored in ROM and has semiconductor RAM. Therefor this unit is not freely programmable.

From an expert I got the information that the box was used on the NCS1 gyro compass system. It is indeed an other variant of the 12/12 processor and by 2014 some are still in use.

Two great finds (1) a different 12/12 and (2) the 12 bit Elliott 900 series is still alive around 54 years after the first 900 machine was built!

[NCS1-DCU-3.JPG] [NCS1-DCU-PCBs.jpg]
12/12 (NCS):    12/12 (PEC):
[NCS1-Unit-TimingPCB.jpg] [TornadoUnit-Timing.jpg]
5/3-4/2014 Participation in the Vintage Comuter Festival Europe ( VCFe 15.0) in Munich with poster and a talk.
As preparation the homebrew tiny operating system for PEC got some updates and the code was cleaned up. An up-time clock with improved timer handling is added (the timer hardware within PEC really is a bitch) and the AECM panel can be used to start the user processes (currently just one using the plotter to plot a demo graphics). Version of the trivial operating system now is 1.11!
But most important, all equipment survived the transfer to the festival and the two days of demonstration: PEC (Serial 129), Rolm 1602 (Serial 235) and Rolm MSE/14 (Serial 130). The exhibition was awarded the third price by the visitor's election at the end of the festival.
pec-tos V1.11

[AECM-Connected.jpg] [AECM-Connected2.jpg]
[AECM-LampTest.jpg] [AECM-Panel-in-Action-20140309.jpg]
[TornadoCockpit-AECM-Marked.png] [VCFe15.0-CoreOnRolmModule.jpg]
[VCFe15.0-Exhibition.jpg] [VCFe15.0-Explaining.jpg]
[VCFe15.0-PEC1.jpg] [VCFe15.0-PEC2.jpg]
[VCFe15.0-PEC-TOS-Demo.jpg] [VCFe15.0-Talk.jpg]
[VCFe-Exhibition1.jpg] [VCFe-Exhibition2.jpg]

6/23/2014 For several years two boxes sit in my shelf: They have identical footprint and one is called Scot Rate Gyroscope (Light gray color, Part. No. 229-057594) containing three mechanical rate gyroscopes whereas the other one is from Astrium (Black, NSN 5985-99-663-7691, Part. No. ARS-BA322) containing three vibrating structure gyros from BAe systems. Analysis showed both have the same differential analog current mode outputs and that the later one has an additional RS-232 port, broadcasting turn rate and temperature.

The mechanical one is really lousy regarding performance, but with the Astrium box one can after statistical data evaluation be sure that the Earth is still turning at 1+/-0.3 revolutions a day - Thank goodness!

[RateGyros-Plug.jpg] [RateGyros-Testing.jpg]
9/17/2014 During all past experiments it was always a challenge to get enough 400Hz 115VAC power for the various devices to play with. My home-brew sinus inverter is maxed out at 100W and even less if the load is not a purely ohmic one.
Today the new 1500W power inverter is completed and operated one of the TV/Tab displays and the WFG simultaneously. It consists of a standard PWM inverter (e.g. a SV-iC5, capable of 400Hz at >15kHz PWM frequency) as for example used in metal working machines. This is followed by a sinus filter (e.g. 3AFS400-007.400, suitable for up to 400 Hz) and an isolation transformer to give 115VAC single phase, 115VAC three phase in star configuration or 208V three phase into a triangle (The 400Hz and Dy5n are important. The star configuration is necessary for many avionics devices, e.g. the LN-3). The transformer was custom made by the Tauscher company to my own specification. The new inverter also supplies 28V essential DC needed by some units. Last but not least the very nice wooden housing was a birthday present from my father-in-law: Many thanks therefore, it its a great machine now with an extremely nice front panel!
I took advantage of the situation to harmonize my 400 Hz connections: All devices use the same AB05 plug as used on PEC now, so all inverters/supplies can be interchanged now only one type of extension cable is necessary.
[Inverter1500-Testing.jpg] [Inverter1500-TopView.jpg]
[TVtab-Test20141015.jpg] [Inverter1500-Housing1.jpg] [Inverter1500-Housing2.jpg]
9/30/2014 On the VCFe, Andre showed his experimental Nova HDD simulator and together with the experimental cabling I prepared, we have been able to write and read the MSE14s memory from Andre's simulator on the second day of the VCFe.
So we decided, to start a joined project of building a rather capable simulator together where Andre would be the software man, Guenther is responsible for the housing and I am going to take care of hardware. Development progressed extremely smooth (better than in any company I know) and after just four months first hardware works.
10/20/2014 The HDD simulator advanced quickly and for the first time my mil-spec eclipse booted into RDOS right from the SD card within the hard disk simulator as did a 1602 with 32k of core memory. The HDD simulator also offers a TTY1 interface and PTR/PRP which are routed to sockets on an Ethernet port. This feature makes data exchange between the real machines and simh highly comfortable.

By this occasion I checked my various memory chassis and repaired a 8k and 16k expansion chassis which I got from Guenther on the VCFe - many thanks therefore! My 1602 runs nicely in short- (8kW), med- (16kW) and long-body (32kW) configurations now.

[EB-Rolm2-HDDsim.jpg] [MSE14-CPU-Arithmetics-Memory.jpg]
[MSE14-CPU-Microcode-Integer.jpg] [MSE14-Eclipse.jpg]
[EB-Rolm0-32kW-NASA.jpg] [EB-Rolm2-08kW.jpg]
[EB-Rolm2-16kW.jpg] [EB-Rolm2-32kW.jpg]
10/31/2014 On a trip to Guenther near Frankfurt I visited the PWA electronics where the CEO kindly offered me to go "shopping" in his remaining Rolm stock before the PWA will part with it. I picked some of the most interesting things for me: Some documentation, spare IO PCBs, paper tapes and a PC called the "Rolm-Mother" (see later). There have been enough parts to compile a very complete 1602B including spares, which I sent to Andre on the other end of Germany distributed over three very heavy parcels.

Guenther supplied Andre with a blinkenlights panel and since beginning of December Andre has got a working Rolm 1602B. The remaining Rolm parts from PWA have been distributed between the RuAG, some former PWA customer in the UK and a collector at the Computer Cabinett in Goettingen.

[RolmHaul2014.jpg] [Rolm1602B-for-Andre.jpg]
11/1/2014 On the way back from Frankfurt I visited Guenther where we set up his HDD simultaor and now there are three running HDDsim`s throughout Germany and probably the only still running 16 bit Rolms on the world: 2*1602B one in Bremen and another in Frankfurt, MSE14 in Munich and 1602 in Marktoberdorf.
Guenther's Rolm 1602B has a somewhat strange IO plug configuration so we had to make some special cabling "on the fly".
11/17/2014 From PWA I got the "Rolm-Mother" - an ordinary PC which was used in the Rolm factory for checking new and repaired machines. Plugging special IO-PCBs into the machine this PC allows booting the Rolm into the IDMS (Integrated Diagnostics and Maintenance System) and running any diagnostics available. Together with IO- and Channel-Test-PCBs nearly all IO-PCBs and processors ever supplied by Rolm can be tested. Today the MSE14 booted successfully into IDMS and executed most tests with positive result.
Only the mapped memory shows an error (hence only 32kW mounted on the CPU available, but none from the external 1861 PCB -> no mapped RDOS for now).
Now I have some diagnostics in form of paper tape from this year's visit at PWA and of course after reading in and lauching them, they appear to be identical to what the IDMS offers in an extremely elegant way.
[RolmMother-PC.jpg] [EB-MSE14-Motherboot1.jpg]
[EB-RolmTapes.jpg] [EB-RolmTapes-Reading.jpg]
12/6/2014 During my visit at Guenther he donated me a big PCB with many cables attached and quite some LEDs. This weekend I analyzed it and I am sure now that this is a microcode development kit for the 1602: It replaces the processor's microcode PCB (position CPJ of the nine cards making up the processor). It supplies the same microcode PROMs as the original one, but additionally has RAM to fill the upper BANKs of the microcode address space. It offers micro break-points and micro-single-stepping and I already built a small control panel for it.

Programming of the microcode RAMs was almost surely done using a second Rolm processor being connected to two of the cables (two-plug IO connection type). I fixed some obvious defects, but still the board draws a lot of current and freezes the processor it is plugged in. So repairing this, figuring out how microcode is programmed and writing a microcode assembler will be a major task for the future.

Nevertheless this is a highly interesting and unique artifact from the 1970ties: I do not know of any microcode development kit (hardware) for any architecture from that era that survived. Contact me to prove me wrong ;-)

[Homebrew-MicrocodePanel.jpg] [RolmMicrocoder-BlinkenLights.jpg]
[RolmMicrocoderComplete.jpg] [EB-HDDsim-on-1602-w-Microcoder.jpg]
12/15/2014 Using IDMS and a 3761 PCB obtained via eBay, the MSE14 passed the 1553B diagnostics: The mil-spec 1553B network implemented on the 3761 sent and received packets at 1Mbit data rate. This implementation of the 1553B is especially interesting as the 3761 is a complete processor built from AMD bit slice chips and it is using the main memory of the host via DMA. So here we have an early form of multi-core with shared memory and up to three of these PCBs have been supported per processor, making such a machine a quad-core beast ;-)

I also replaced the dead lead batteries in the MSE14's power supply by gold cap capacitors. These give memory backup for around two minutes of power outage and are an elegant solution to the problem of leaking batteries.

[1553B-ModuleTest-in-1602.jpg] [Rolm3761-1553B-PingPong.jpg]
[MSE14-AccuReplacement1.jpg] [MSE14-AccuReplacement2.jpg]




1/20/2015 On eBay I hunted a cockpit voice recorder (CVR, PartNo. 125250-3, NSN 5835-21-881-9325) from the early tornado. These are tape drives using standard music cassette to record audio from both pilots. An additional function was that the mission data (way points etc.) prepared in advance had been fed from this unit into the main computer - a function called data entry. Studying the recorder is complete and I can record and replay audio data now: The track format of the tape is rather strange as both sides of the tape are used simultaneously, i.e. the tapes cannot be flipped as usual audio cassettes. Additionally in data entry mode the tape runs at twice the recording speed replaying a complete C-60 tape in around 15 minutes.

One of the gearing mechanisms was completely destroyed so restoring this unit was a funny job and I recycled gears from a model locomotive to restore the recorder. It will be a nice "mass" storage to be added to the PEC later...

A video on YouTube (time reference 2:13-3:10) shows, how the CVR of the early Tornado is used to transfer way-point data from the briefing room into the memory of Tornado's main computer. It is really amazing that automatic low level flight below 300ft was safely possible using the 1970ties navigation suite and the terrain following radar system (look at the e-scope showing the radar data from the terrain following system at 5:20 min on YouTube).

[Leigh2.jpg] [LeighCVR.jpg]
[LeighHead.jpg] [LeighLaufwerk.jpg]
[LeighMotors-Ritzel.JPG] [LeighRitzelvergleich.JPG]
[LeighType.jpg] [Leigh-VCRwithTape.JPG]
[MotorPutt.JPG] [RitzelPutt.JPG]
2/3/2015 MSE14 for the first time boots a mapped and specifically SYSGENed version of RDOS7.6, but only little memory remains free due to the defunct 1861 memory extension. Many thanks to Bruce Ray for supplying this version of RDOS which was not an official release. Additionally the HDD-sim got its final housing which Guenther made from original aircraft aluminum sheets. The simulator is very nice and complete now with the following features:

  • Simluation of DKP0-4, images on SD and compatible to simh
  • TTY1 and PTR simulation via network sockets
  • Debugging facilities for the IO bus
  • Analog In (for joystick) and out (for x-y-CRT)
  • Push buttons for boot and mother-boot.

The "Rolm Mother" (see also 11/17/2014) supports a lot of diagnostic procedures for virutally any hardware ever built by Rolm - see this list extracted from the software using a hex editor. The diagnostics are booted on the target machine using a special version of the 3310 TTY card. But without the corresponding program listings, these routines are of little help as the comments in the listings usually tell you, what the problem was.

For reference I also compiled a list of Rolm parts I have got or I am looking for (items marked by orange background, especially in the lower part of the list).

[EB-HDDsim1.jpg] [EB-HDDsim2.jpg]
2/15/2015 After fixing the memory array of my Eclipse MSE14, the unit executed a mapped version of RDOS7.6 in full memory configuration. Given the amount of a whooping 128k words, now even multitasking with two RDOS consoles on TTY0 and TTY1 was a joy to play with. [HDD-Sim-TopView.jpg] [Rolm1861-192kMemoryArray.jpg]
2/28/2015 In the Flugwerft Schleissheim the ATTAS aircraft was opened for visitors for the first time. This aircraft is highly interesting as it was a test vehicle for the DLR to simulate the flight characteristics of future aircraft online using computer software running on Rolms. The aircraft was retired in 2012 and it is full of Rolm machines interconnected by serial fiber based MCA (Multiprocessor-Channel-Adapter) and more than eight Rolms have been working together during flight to e.g. do an online simulation of an A-380 years before its first flight. [ATTAS-FinalApproach.jpg] [ATTAS-ExperimentalRackLeft.jpg]
5/12/2015 After rigorous analysis of the RPMD display (Repeated Projected Map Disply, Part. No. 3892/75500/02/010, NSN5826-99-5731589) from Tornado's front cockpit I designed an additional PCB for the FIN logger capable to drive the display and read the switches etc. Analysis of a test film with some maps, supplied kindly (many thanks!) by Mr. Hans Kiening, led to a mapper function correlating film coordinates to latitude, longitude and scale. All this is now programmed into the logger device with some other goodies to give a rather complete navigation subsystem with the following features:

  • Reading the INS or LINS at 3 Hz minimum
  • Internal GPS and micro mechanic IMU for reference
  • Logging to SD card
  • Driving the RPMD online, in demo mode or showing cities selected from a list
  • HUD view mode using data from the INS with over 20 Hz update rate
  • Bluetooth output for external map software or input for debugging
  • Auxilary synchro output for connecting a directional indicator
  • RS232 port for connection a map plotter

Since this project is rather complete now, with the logger consisting of three home-brew PCBs, there is a movie (at the moment just low resolution version on YouTube) showing all the stuff in action. Things to do are building a nice housing and testing the whole system on board an aircraft ;-)

Components seen in the video are the Ferranti Intertial Navigator FIN-1010 or FIN-1012 with part numbers 3854/37012, 3854/36001 or 3854/37010. There exist various different control and display units (CDUs), which can handle different configurations - I have seen these on eBay: For one navigator (INCDU, Ferranti 3854/36701/01/003), two navigators (DINCDU, Ferranti 3854/78001/01/002) or for two of the later LINSs (DINCDU, Ferranti 3854/78501/01/001) - all of them work also with one or two "old style" navigators. The RPMD is also from Ferranti, NSN 5826-99-573-1589 or 6610-99-787-8922 and equivalent part number 3892/75500-02-010.

Index of the FIN-RPMD-Explorer YouTube-movie:
  00:00 Intro
  00:39 How intertial navigation works
  01:20 Uses of the Ferranti gimballedf platform
  01:40 Spotlight on the RPMD
  02:10 How map films have been made
  02:50 Internals of the RPMD
  04:20 Focus on the FIN101x
  04:55 Platform in action: Gimbal flip
  05:30 The homebrew logger explained
  08:31 Starting the laser based INS
  09:51 Turning on the RPMD display
  11:00 RPMD controlled by the inertial navigator
  11:40 Supersonic flight over Germany
  13:00 Additional features of the logger setup

Additional reference: If you have got a working FIN or LINS and a CDU and you are crazy enough to have the desire firing them up, I have my pinout of a basic cable to connect the devices (No warranty for the cable working for your hardware!!).
This shows the RPMD of a German IDS during a very low level flight in Labrador at time 3:28-3:36. Even within a narrow valley, low level flying was practiced where I do not know whether this footage (after 3:00) was taken during automatic flight via terrain following radar and FIN or whether it was manual flight. In any case it is amazing that automatic low level flight below 300ft was safely possible by the FIN and the terrain following radar system (see e-scope radar image for example at 5:20 in this movie).

Thanks to the other FINners (Alf, Klaus and Florian) for the regular FINners (i.e. dinner with FIN related activity), the discussion and the cool joint project.

Now I have finally to repair one of my two defective FIN1010/FIN1012s, NSN 6605-99-251-6563 or 6605-99-795-0104 - but this will be the most challenging project for a long time due to their enormous complexity.

[RPMD-Display.jpg] [RPMD-Display-Type.jpg]
[Logger1a.jpg] [Logger1b.jpg]
[Logger2.jpg] [Logger3.jpg]
[RPMD-Analysis-Development.jpg] [AUX-Synchro.jpg]
[HUD-Mode.jpg] [LINS-RPMD-Logger-Setup.jpg]



Third vintage computer/avionics biased visit to the UK with (in chronological order):
  • Tech talk with Peter in Milton Keynes including sightseeing in Linford Manor Park and a visit to the local pub.
  • Excursion to the RAF in Marham - the "Home of the Tornados": Really outstanding experience as I have never been within such a facility and that close to fast jets. Terry and I had a "walk around" and "climb onto" with many explanations by our very kind guide!
  • Visit of the "Centre for Computing History", Cambridge - Home of one of the six currently operational 18 bit 900 series Elliott machines restored by Terry.
  • Inspection of the analog mechanical guidance computer on board the HMS Belfast open to the public on river Thames.
  • Meeting with Terry and Valerie in Fleet including a walk in Calthorpe Park and a visit to Blackbushe airport.
  • Sightseeing together with Terry, Valery and Michael in Oxford (including various Colleges with lovely gardens and astonishing buildings).
Many thanks to all who made the stay an exceptional, unforgettable time: Michael, Peter, Rob, Sue, Terry and Valerie!
[CambridgeWithTerry2015.JPG] [HMS-Belfast-ElliottMechComuter2015.JPG]

[HMS-Belfast-GyroCompass2015.JPG] [LondonBigBen2015.jpg]

[OxfordBigHall-2015.JPG] [OxfordLevelyLandscape2015.JPG]


11/21/2015 Lot of mechanical work for the inertial navigator and RPMD completed:
  1. The logger got the final housing made from acrylic sheets 8mm thick. Mounting holes for the fans and the various plugs had to be milled and the both side covers are made from Aluminum to allow cooling the driver stages for the six resolver outputs to the RPMD and the built in direction indicator.
  2. An addition to the logger is a GPS-splitter with bias-T: An active GPS antenna can be connected to the logger which is powered from the logger. The RF received is split where the first half is directed to the logger's GPS receiver and the rest is supplied to external users (e.g. the LINS's GPS) and this GPS output does not carry any DC voltage.
  3. As the alloy of the platform is sensitive to humidity and shows whitening of the surface after only two days of exposure to air, a nice looking protective can was needed. I approached a lighting shop here in Germany to get an appropriate "can" with holder which I initially used to store the platform in during breaks in repair work. As it looked really nice, this remained the platform's home since than and it is great for demonstrations as well!
    Structures within the can to securely fix the rear plate of the platform have been glued to the can using UV curing adhesive.
The complete setup is rather mature now and pictures of the platform and the logger during the VCFe 18.0 in Munich can be seen below...
[LoggerHousing.JPG] [LoggerFront.JPG]

[LoggerRear.JPG] [PlatfomCan0.JPG]

[PlatformCan1.JPG] [PlatformCan2.JPG]

[PlatformCan3.JPG] [PlatformCan4.JPG]

[PlatformCan5.JPG] [PlatformCan6.JPG] [LoggerRPMDsetup.JPG]




2/29/2016 Via eBay I got hands on NOS (=new old stock) gyroscopes of type 125: Ferranti, part number 3812/07063, Type 125-011-005, NSN 6615-99-651-9981. These are the gyroscopes as used in the FIN1010 and FIN1012 and the three ones will serve as spare parts and perhaps for some experiments.
The gyroscopes are of rate integrating type and have been used in many other applications in all fields of aerospace (including satellites and telescopes). Thorough tests regarding endurance (>10 years under space conditions) and noise have been done for these applications, see "Gyro Noise Measurement and Analysis" by Bosgra and Reumers at the NLR, report NLR MP 81057 U.
The gyros are obviously selected for the direction the vector of gravity is to be expected as they are marked with position to use them (XY or YZ). I have no idea yet, how the gyroscopes are to be aligned within the azimuth cluster as they can be rotated freely around their output axis during mounting them...
[125gyro-NOS.JPG] [125gyro-Schematic.gif]





This is a diary of the repair of my defective FIN1012, 3854/37012, serial #1085 to working condition, including a nice housing for the platform for demonstrations and protecting the special alloy from degrading due to humidity from exposure to open air. This story covers many months of work and learning - so it may be quite boring to most readers:
  • Initially the unit reported a computer failure (RH status "8"). After some digging into the bit-serial beast it became obvious, that machine instructions referencing memory locations do fail. Replacement of a faulty 5404 solved the problem, allowing the unit to enter IPI (initial position input).
  • During the tests there was a problem with the power supply: Replacement of a shorted capacity within the 40V supply solved the issue.
  • Switching to ALN (align) did not lead to any action of the FIN - there was a bad wire wrap connection on the base board - some soldering lead to alignment activity.
  • Altough the unit now completed coarse alignment quickly and after 5 minutes of gyro compassing (in rapid alignment setting) achieves the final alignment level "0", the heading remains rater unstable (jumps by up to +/- 0.3 degrees) and alignment level reverts to "3" or "4" in some of these excursions. In NAV (navigation) mode substantial speeds and heading errors accumulate within 15 minutes -> Probably there is increased noise in one of the sensor's channels (accelerometers or gyros)?
  • After some measurements not revealing any abnormalities, the FIN refused to start again - 400ms after switching from Standby to IPI, the automatic fault detector removes power again. Disabling the "auto shutdown" to do some measurements lead to smoke emanating from the azimuth cluster!
  • Further debugging shows that there is a problem with the fine heaters within the azimuth cluster which cause the emergency shut down. Hopefully the smoke was from this part of the circuitry - anyhow, removing the azimuth cluster again is mandatory.
  • In checking the slip rings, a screw escaped into the azimuth cluster. Even severe shaking did not help in getting the screw back so I now finally decided to remove the cluster from the gimbals - several hours of micro-mechanical work followed, all using microscope and gloves. I successfully removed the screw, fixed the fine heaters and reinserted the cluster. After all the problem was a short between two slip rings in the inner roll gimbal.
  • As the rapid heaters use up many slip rings and I do not use them, I rewired one of these slip rings to replace the shorted one.
  • Again electronics problems on PCB1 in the rack: Had to replace a R, a C (which was the root cause) and a T.
On 10/4/2016 I got the first stable alignments to level "0" in this FIN which since than is quite stable and serves as my main demonstration device. The FIN1012 is definitively the most complex unit I ever worked on to repair and understand! There must be several hundreds of man-years of development and experience within this unit; without dedicated tools (to be built!) to test subcomponents of the platform and to do an aligned assembly, a repair (esp. exchange of components like gyroscopes within the cluster) to achieve the full specifications probably is completely impractical. I'd be really keen on learning how the platform was assembled and especially how the components on the trimmer board used by the analog computer to compensate for certain imperfections (cross talk between rotation and acceleration, an-isoelasticity,...) have been determined!

CAUTION: Although the different FINs (3854/36002, 3854/37010 and 3854/37012) all look identical, there are subtile differences I had to learn during repair of Alf's FIN1010 and 1012. Hence the following hint: Do not interchange PCBs between the different variants; you may not be able to achieve alignment or even cause damage to the unit. One harmless difference e.g. is that the FIN-1010 can operate at 1/3 gyro speed, not being implemented in the FIN-1012, preventing proper gyro-compassing due to wrong earth rate compensation.

Many thanks to all with whom I had discussions during this project so far: Peter, Steve, Chris, Rob, Alf, Florian, Klaus, Jan Dirk,...

[FINrepair-BITEproblem-DesignBug-IC.jpg] [FINrepair-BoardSwapping.JPG]

[FINrepair-Creplacement.jpg] [FINrepair-OpenResistor.jpg] [FINrepair-PowerTransistorFailure.JPG]

[FINrepair-PowerTransistorReplacement.jpg] [FINrepair-RelaisStuck.jpg]

[FINrepair-SlipRing-rewired.JPG] [FINrepair-SlipRingTooling.JPG]

[FINrepair-SupplyDebugging.jpg] [FINrepair-TracesDefective.JPG]

[FINrepair-TransistorFailure1.jpg] [FINrepair-TransistorFailure2.jpg]


9/16/2016 I just received a new acquisition from eBay: The auction claimed, that the unit is a computer from the Jaguar aircraft named 920ME, part number 75D28482, serial 140 and it should be in serviceable condition. As I was in search for the big 18 bit brother of my Programmer Electronic control (PEC) for many years now, I could not resist to buy it.

A fist inspection shows, that the unit is complete with power supplies and 16k words of memory. The implementation is centered around the AMD minicomputer chips of the AM29xx series and store is implemented using CMOS rams which are buffered by a battery. Checking the memory organization there is even a parity implemented in this unit.

Probably this unit had been sitting in store since 1988, i.e. for 28 years now and I am keen on firing it up again and to complete my collection of the Elliott 900 series!

[920ME-eBay2.gif] [920ME-eBay1.jpg]

[920ME-ConditioningLabel.jpg] [920ME-Memory8k.JPG]

[920ME-16kStore-CompleteMachine.jpg] [920ME-BlackBox.JPG]

6/23/2016 The bulbs within the RPMD are standard tungsten lamps as used in film and slide projectors of the 1970ties: Osram, XenoPhot, 12V/50W. As I had only one intact lamp remaining, action had to be taken:
  1. Destructive removal of the old lamps from the red holders. Cleaning of the holders and preparation of the contacts on the rear side by grinding.
  2. Use of cement (Sauereisen S33 kindly supplied by Seppzeug in Germany) for fixing the newly aligned lamps.
  3. After initial drying for 4 days, oven curing at temperatures increasing from 40C up to 110C finishes the process.
  4. Establishing of electrical contact to the holder using spot welding. Many thanks here to Jochen and Prof. Dr. Wintterlin for the chance to do this in the work shop of the University of Munich in Martinsried!
Following the procedure I have got two "magazines", i.e. six working new lamps for the next years to come ;-)
Of course, replacing the bulbs by a single high power LED would have been an option, too. But I learned lot more doing it this way...
[RPMDbulbs-broken.jpg] [RPMDbulbs-HolderRecycling.JPG]

[RPMDbulbs-replacements.JPG] [RPMDbulbs-Cementing.JPG]

[RPMDbulbs-Curing.jpg] [RPMDbulbs-NewSets.JPG]

8/27/2016 As an addition to the Ferranti inertial navigator (FIN) some more displays would be great: Therefore I acquired a horizontal situation indicator (HSI, WL330RNA-MS3, SerNr 1100, 6605-99-1264298, Smiths Industries) and a servo pneumatic altimeter (Apparatebau Gauting, AOA4670, Supplier D1227, NSN 6610-12-170-6551).

Getting a plug for the altimeter was quite simple as a standard AB05 plug type 6027 perfectly matches, but in case of the HSI although the outer shell also is compatible to the AB05 series, the inserts of the series do do not fit (linear pin order on HSI compared to circular one on AB05 inserts) - so it will be a challenge to get hands on plugs for the HSI.

The HSI combines mechanical displays of direction and deviation from the glide scope with a digital range display and a electromechanical bearing display. Several flaps indicate validity of the information displayed.
As the HSI came with a small bag with parts attached (screws and probably a magnetic clutch), I opened it to check the internals and it is a masterpiece of highly integrated mechanics and electronics. Unfortunately some parts obviously have been removed and/or are missing.
So for the time being I just repaired the broken glass with UV adhesive and set the HSI apart until a cheap and complete one crosses my way and the right plugs show up somewhere.

The altimeter on the other hand seems to be in good shape and its reading changes with atmospheric pressure. Will start logging the barometric pressure and the reading from the device on a daily basis to learn whether everything is OK.

[HSI-Alti-201608.jpg] [AOA4670-Plug.jpg]

[HSI-Display.JPG] [HSI-FlightManual1.gif]

[HSI-Disassembled.jpg] [HSI-GlassBroken.JPG]





1/4/2017 Received a backup altimeter and cockpit voice recorder to have spares for the future - this is a good idea if a substantial amount of time is to be spent into reverse engineering of such a device.
An additional control panel to cannibalize for spares (especially the tungsten lamp based displays are very rare) also was within the parcel. Up to date I know of 5 different panels to control either one or two of the FIN1010/FIN1012 and/or the later LINS. All panels seem to work with the FIN (although marking is not right of course if using a LINS panel on a FIN), but not all FIN panels can properly operate a LINS:
  1. 3854/78521-01-001: Dual LINS, with green filter (night vision?)
  2. 3854/78001-01-002: Dual FIN, bare displays
  3. 3854/77521/01/001: Single LINS
  4. 3854/36701-01-003: Single FIN
  5. 3854/78501-01-001: Dual LINS (special version?)

First steps to build an interface to drive the altimeter in remote servo mode and ultimately connect it to the FIN's digital output are done:

  1. Pinout of the altimeter is analyzed/clear and plug/cable are ready.
  2. The altimeter can be switched to servo mode and Using a synchro, the altitude indicated can be varied by turning the synchro.
  3. A first attempt to realize a low power and low cost 24V->115VAC inverter by using an amplified PWM output of a Arduino to pass it through a choke failed as the cheap audio amplifiers do not like massively inductive loads at their outputs. Therefore, the PWM has to be filtered to a sine wave before amplification.
  4. The lighting of the altimeter uses 5V and the flap can be engaged by pulling a pin to GND.
  5. The altimeter has got an integrated shaker which is automatically turned on in barometric mode (STBY) to simulate continuous tapping the barometer.
  6. An external signal can be used to force the instrument to barometric mode (i.e. there is a "input valid" signal).

In summary, the altimeter contains a barometric part which indicates correct altitude if pressure at sea level is set correctly by the lower left knob (=stand by mode, STBY indicated). If switched to servo mode (right lower knob), the altimeter is controlled by a synchro-input to display the altitude. Upon internal errors, power loss or strongly inconsistent values over longer periods, the instrument automatically reverts to barometric, i.e. STBY mode.

Remark: Even if in servo mode, the sea level setting is taken into account, so the synchro input essentially is a "measured pressure" input.

CAUTION:Supplying the altimeter with extreme data (e.g. -30000ft) via the synchro input while in servo mode destroys the mechanics - the indication of my first altimeter is wrong by >1000ft now :-( Hence it was a good idea to buy a second one ;-)...

[AOA4670-eBay20161027.jpg] [AOA4670-Pretest-Inverter.JPG]

[AOA4670-Pretests.jpg] [AltiBaro-ADC-Inverter.jpg]

[AltiBaro-ADC0.JPG] [AltiBaro-ADC1.JPG]

[AltiBaro-ASC-Stack.JPG] [AltiBaro-Plugs.jpg]

1/15/2017 For the upcoming VCFe I wanted to have a platform, the spectators can play with to experience the different degrees of freedom. So it was good luck that an inertial platform from Litef, the European counterpart of Litton/US which is now part of Northrop Grumman Corporation showed up on eBay: "Gyroscope Platform Assembly", part. no. A3379-713300-1 Rev G, NSN 6610-15-006-7286. Probably it was part of the SHAR system also from Tonrado, but it may be from a other application as well. Anyhow this platform is a descendant of the platform used in the LN-3 inertial navigation system which made Litton world leader in such systems in the 1960ties.
After receiving the platform, I noticed a severe imbalance in the aerobatic platform and disassembly of the azimuth cluster showed, that one gyroscope was missing.
Some weeks later, I obtained such a two-axes rate integrating K250 gyroscope via eBay (Part Number A3379-713305-1). But after unpacking I noticed, that the oil had leaked out of the gyro and so it was a perfect opportunity to open the already defective gyro, gaining great insight into its configuration. Especially the springs for signal transmission to the float made from gold are very fragile and it is quite astonishing that only a very small amount of the fluoro-carbon oil is needed to fill the floatation chamber. To install the broken gyro within the cluster, I had to make some holders using a lathe, but after the "operation" the platform was quite well balanced again. Although definitively not operational, the platform made a nice exhibition piece in May 2017 during the vintage computer festival.
[Litton-PlatformAcquisition.JPG] [Litton-SHAR-Platform.jpg]

[Litton-Platform-ClusterRemoved.jpg] [LittonPlatfoem-K250leaking.jpg]

[Litton-PlatformExamination.JPG] [Litton-K250-GyroscopeConnections.jpg]


2/19/2017 Andre modified the DG StarWars! game and fixed some bugs. First the frame rates obtained using the DAC within our HDDsim was quite low due to the way we had to write the DACs. After applying a patch which required rerouting some signals between DACs, ADCs and the FPGA using a piggyback PCB, the SpaceWar! game now runs on 1602, 1602B and MSE14 (Eclipse) without problems and with frame rates of well over 40Hz on my vintage Russian scope in x-y-mode.
My next idea with this game is to extend it to use the MIL-1553B interface cards available for the Rolms to give it networking capability hand have two (or more?) players on different Rolms play against each other. Probably it makes sense to add an additional machine taking care of some planets circling the sun and being the 1553B bus-master. But first of all I need to get hands on additional working 1553B boards (Rolm part number 3761).

During his clean out, Guenther parted with a Rolm 1626 IO processor and a IO chassis 2149. My Rolm/Loral collection of processors now covers nearly the entire 16 bit offering:

  1. 1602 (plain TTL, 54xx CPU set of 9 PCBs), 8k core, extended by 8k or 24k module; one processor with microcode FPU (Was in service with NASA/Goddard) and an other one with the very rare access-protection module (APM), an early form of memory- and IO protection hardware: All working.
  2. 1626 (AM2901 based CPU two-PCB sandwich), 32k words of CMOS memory. Not tested yet.
  3. MSE14 (LSI based CPU with hardware multiply), 128k words of mapped memory. Fully working and e.g. running multitasking RDOS from HDDsim.
The IO chassis 2149 expands the number of IO slots of any Rolm processor. It has got an own power supply and accepts ten additional IO boards. The connection to the processor is done using a 55 pin cable and a driver PCB within the processor called IO-Externder 3561 and a similar board within the chassis called IO-Repeater 3563.
IO priority lines are routed through the chassis, so up to three chassis where maximum for any processor. This huge IO capability together with the lot of different IO boards available was one of the reasons why the Rolm/Loral machines got so popular from 1975 to 1985.

Many thanks to Guenther for sending the 1626 and 2149 for my collection!!!

[HDDsim-DAC-Patch.JPG] [HDDsim-Joystick.jpg]

[RolmSpaceWar-Debug.jpg] [RolmSpaceWar-Setup.JPG]

[SpaceWar-Treffer.jpg] [Rolm1602collection.JPG]

[Rolm1626-IOprocessor.JPG] [Rolm2149-IOchassis.jpg]

3/13/2017 First analysis of the 920ME showed, that the ME's supplies both deliver 5V to two different nets on the backplane. One of the supplies did not work and I had to fix it - herein I noticed, that it contains a manual patch, changing its output from 3.3V to 5V - so probably the chassis of the ME is adapted from an other application where a processor with 3.3V CPU voltage was used.

After some reverse engineering I had identified data- and address busses to the RAM as well as the control signals; I connected a logic analyzer to these signals, showing that after power up there is indeed activity and that the machine starts at 8177 (octal) as is expected from a 18 bit 900 series machine starting without initial instructions (II) engaged.

Of the three front plugs, only SKH has got an easily removable cap which can be "parked" next to the plug. So my assumption was, that this must be the plug for a loading unit and hopefully the machine provides a paper tape interface there. Again after some reverse engineering I identified 8 digital input lines, 8 digital output lines and a hand full of handshake signals. Experiments showed, that one of the signals forces the microcode of the unit to write II to store right after power up and to launch them at 8181. Via two other signals one can send data byte per byte to the initial instructions. After initial excitement I noticed, that after three words got written to store the machine runs havoc.

Investigation showed, that during execution of the II, the instructions are not read from store (although having been written there during startup), but access to the II is trapped by microcode. After the first three words have been written to store, the II transfer control to the newly written words at 8177 and this failed as reading from store did not work correctly (For an explanation of the II in the 900 series, see PAGE7). After a longer search I discovered defective 54138 chips in the memory controller. Later I found an additional such chip in an other subsystem causing problems there and as all had the same date-code I assume that there was a problem unique to exactly this series of the part. Anyhow, after fixing this, loading software worked well for some small self made examples ran nicely! I discovered, that SKH also serves for paper tape punch and teletype in/output via the additional handshake signals.

In the weeks following and in preparation for the CCSs visit, I built an interface emulating a paper tape station and teletype via the 920ME's SKH plug offering hard coded paper tapes one can select from, an USB interface with parity/telecode conversion for teletype and an additional RS232C port for a real paper tape device. This makes my 920ME an complete 900 series 18 bit computer now!

[920ME-BateryReplacement.JPG] [920ME-Debugging.JPG]

[920ME-Interface-20170316.gif] [920ME-LoadingConnector.JPG]

[920ME-LogocAnalyzer-Interface.JPG] [920ME-Repair0.jpg]

3/18/2017 The Ferranti FIN1010 provides analog output of attitude information to external sources (e.g. the pylon mounted "devices"). There are three channels of pitch/roll synchro signals and reference outputs. To make use of these, I acquired an attitude indicator (abbreviation ADI or ATI) allowing external control (in contrast to an internal gyro based ones like the FH7Z8 from Ferranti) via eBay: Smiths Industries, 6610-99-763-5176, Serial 216-87, Part.No. 9994-01. The device looks like new!

Measurements on the standard AB05 plug showed that the pinout is very similar to the MS27150-1, an indicator made by Sperry and used quite frequently e.g. in the Phantom F4B aircraft. The only deviation my measurement showed is pin V, which has a high resistance vs. GND and M, N having a strange impedance. Experiments powering up the indicator first failed: Both axis started rotating slowly with pitch running against an internal stopper at 85. This happened whatever signals where applied to the synchro inputs.

As the indicator was probably in use in Tornado, my suspicion (and hope) was, that it accepts an external reference (which the MS27150 does not) being necessary as the FIN's outputs do not run in sync to the 115VAC supply of the aircraft. But applying a reference signal to the only unused pin V did not change anything. Klaus repeated the experiment in his ADI, where it worked: Due to limited courage, the voltage I applied to pin V was to small - the ADI requires more than 15VAC to accept it as reference input. After increasing the reference voltage, the ADI moved according to the applied synchro inputs.

After this, making a cable and an improvisational experiment on the LINS was easy and it immediately worked! Here is the final pinout of the Smiths 9994-01 ADI: A:GND; B:115VAC; DEF: Roll-Synchro; HPR: Pitch-Synchro; J: Flag (pull to GND); KS: Lighting 5V; V: Ref.Input min. 15VRMS.

For debugging purposes, the ADI supplies its internal error signals of roll and pitch to the plug on pins M and N.

[ADI-Smiths.jpg] [ADI-Pretest.jpg]

[ADI-Doku.jpg] [ADI-LestWithLINS.jpg]

[ADI-Plug1.jpg] [ADI-Plug2.jpg]

6/4/2017 - 8/4/2017 A delegation of the Computer Conservation Society (CCS) visited Munich after they met Horst Zuse in Berlin. I had the opportunity to join them for dinner on Friday and in a guided special tour in the Deutsches Museum. It was great to get in touch with many highly skilled computer experts - the achievements of the CCS in preservation, spreading and reconstruction of vintage computers in the UK are indeed outstanding!
On Sunday Terry (also CCS member) visited me in Aubing, where we played with PEC and after a demonstration of the FIN1010 inertial navigator we focused on working on the 920ME:

Terry had prepared some clever tests to find out whether the 920ME has additional commands implemented (i.e. 905 command set), how the Q register is treated, whether the memory is OK, what side effects there are in instruction 14 (shift) and he also had some nice demos with him. During the tests we had to discover, that there still is a memory problem if there are plenty off accesses to store. So the memory test failed and e.g. the solver for the count down game being a popular television series in the UK fails giving wrong answers! In summary, the 920ME does not have got the 920 ATC command set implemented and it does not have the floating point or stack extensions within its microcode. But it obeys all 920M commands correctly making it a direct replacement!

So the session was a full success, leaving me with some homework to do and lot of new software to explore. Looking forward to get the original 900 series BASIC Terry wrote in the late 1960ties running on the ME...

[CCS-DtMuseum1.JPG] [CCS-DtMuseum2.JPG]

[Setup920ME-X3tests.jpg] [TerryErik-WorkOn920ME.JPG]

4/21/2017 ADI1 After the first experiments with the Simths attitude indicator (ADI) on the LINS, a test on the FIN-1012 showed, that the roll outputs of the navigation systems slightly differ (+/-5). Whereas there is a knob on the lower right on the ADI to have a correct pitch display for all angles of attack, there is no compensation facility for roll.
The solution is an extension of the cable with a small interface box containing fuse, AC-DC converter to supply 5V for lighting and a potentiometer (270R in the line to pin E of the ADI) allowing slight adjustments to the roll display. Of course a synchro transformer would have been the correct way, but a potentiometer works as well ;-)

In this configuration the ADI works nicely on FIN and LINS and it served well on the VCFe one week later together with the RPMD. Open issue: Whereas the LINS correctly controls the flap of the ADI indicating proper attitude display, the "attitude ok" signal on my FIN seems to be broken and this needs investigation...

[ADI-AdapterTrimmer1.jpg] [ADI-AdapterTrimmer0.jpg]

[ADI-AdapterTrimmer2.jpg] [ADI-CDU-RPMD.jpg]




Participation in the Vintage Computer Festival Europe 18.0 in Munich. My contribution to this festival was "Inertial navigation - cutting edge technology of the 1970ties".

I gave a talk there explaining inertial navigation and the highlights of the FIN1010/1012. Additionally on the booth there was a poster showing the history and the various applications of the inertial platform with different kind of computers attached. Last but not least, during the three days I had 7 live demonstrations of the full system, including the moving map display and the freshly attached artificial horizon. To my big surprise all components survived the event without major issues!

Thanks to all who contributed to this project - who are in no special order: Chris, Rob, Klaus, Alf, Steve, Jan Dirk, Mr. Singer, Mr. Kiening, the company SELEX SAS and the RAF Museum in London where a substantial amount of technical documentation is available for "classical research", i.e. paper work during visits...

Poster -> _ [pics/Ferranti-INS-VCFe-20170525.jpg] _ VCFe 18.0 _ [pics/FIN-Demo-VCFe-20170525.jpg] _ <- Slides

[VCFe18.0-AccessroyDemo.JPG] [VCFe18.0-Demo0.jpg]

[VCFe18.0-Demo1.jpg] [VCFe18.0-DemoSetup.JPG]

[VCFe18.0-FIN1012-Logger-Demo.jpg] [VCFe18.0-FINonVCFe.jpg]

[VCFe18.0-Preparations.JPG] [VCFe18.0-Talk0.jpg]

[VCFe18.0-Talk1.jpg] [VCFe18.0-Tornado-RPMD-MovingMap.jpg]

5/20/2017 Although working well in barometric mode I noticed, that the altimeter shows a pronounced slip stick effect in servo controlled mode. The problem was friction within the delicate mechanics. So I disassembled the unit, cleaned the gears, jewel bearings and clutch repsonsible for servo mode and used an instrument oil (TK2213, kindly supplied by Dr. Tillwich GmbH) to carefully lube the few critical locations. Now the servo mode operates as desired again!

CAUTION: In disassembling the instrument, be prepared, that the front knob controls setting of reference pressure for (1) the servo mechanism, (2) the pointer needle and (3) the numerical display. Removing the front section will usually bring those out of sync and care has to be taken during re-assembly to get all three right (esp. if one of the mechanisms was moved while the front portion of the instrument was removed!!). News on the electronics/interface side:

  1. The second iteration of the low power inverter for the altimeter now works as desired, delivering up to 20W of 115VAC to the altimeter.
  2. The software on the Arduino Due measures the current true pressure (hPa).
  3. Using a GPS, the software automatically determines the sea-level reference pressure, which later will be necessary for driving the altimeter correctly. GPS is just necessary after turn on and if automatic alignment is desired.
  4. MEMS gyros, MEMS accelerometers and a magnetic vector are read.
  5. The Arduino generates datagrams to be sent to the FIN with current height and magnetic heading datagrams - untested yet.

At some time in the future this will be the basis for a ADC/SHAR input to the FIN1010/FIN1012 to ease and speed-up alignment (magnetic heading input) and probably increase accuracy (height input to FIN). This project is also a precursor for a properly designed PCB to replace this setup, also capable to control the HSI.

Meanwhile I compiled a document giving the pressure-vs-indication data of the last months for my AOA4670 altimeters and it also shows the angle necessary on the synchro input to achieve a certain reading.

[AOA4670-Cleaning.jpg] [AOA4670-MechanicsRepair.JPG]

[AltiBaro-FinalTest.jpg] [AltiBaro-InverterComplete.JPG]


5/22/2017 In hunting the memory problem of the 920ME computer I discovered, that it needs an additional supply voltage to drive the memory subsystem (during all experiments until now, this supply was just 1.5V instead of 5.0V simply cross-fed via the protection diodes within the address driver chips of the memory subsystem). As I did not want to connect a 3rd 5.0V source, a simple bridge using a 15R resistor now supplies the circuitry.

Although in my opinion it is a design flaw, that the machine starts without this voltage being present, I am happy that it is now working perfectly: Several hours of memory test do not show any issues any more and the software I got from Terry works simply great: BASIC, a solver of the count-down game and CORAL programs compiled externally run if loaded via my paper-tape/TTY simulator interface.

So the 920ME is a machine being compatible to the 920M (with some additional not yet clear functionality) running at the speed of the later 2us-store version of the 920M from the later 1960ties. Although using rather new components (e.g. 2901 as DG Eclipse) the "ME" machine is one of my slowest computers as microcode reduces speed to be compatible with the original 920M.

Probably this machine was designed as a replacement for the Jaguar's NAVWASS system to eliminate the need to support the aging DTL technology of the 920M any longer.

Many thanks to Terry Froggatt for his steady and highly appreciated support with this project - it was and always still is great to learn from him! Thanks also to Allen Vernon from the Bentwaters Cold War Museum where he works on the restoration of Jaguar XX741.

[920ME-AUXsupplyPatch.jpg] [920ME-InterfaceFinal.jpg]

[920ME-RunningBASIC-SavageBenchmark.jpg] [Elliott900implementations.gif]


6/9/2017 Two additional HSIs (Horizontal Situation Indicator) from Tornado's front cockpit arrived in reasonable good shape from TDM Electronics - so connecting them to the FIN will be a future project after the flop with the first HSI. Just the two special plugs matching the 602GB connectors on the HSIs need to show up now...    ;-) [HSI-MoreUnits201706.jpg] [HSI-RearSides201706.jpg]

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