BA213, the "Skunk Box" Cabinet

The BA213 was called the "Skunk Box" for some reason and it was the follow-on to the BA23 and BA123 cabinets for MicroVAXen. A labeled picture of one is shown below:

As you can see in the picture the cards are mounted vertically and have a metal "bar" along their edge. you can click here for a much bigger view of the cabinet (no labels though). 

Features of the BA213 Cabinet

There are several interesting features of the BA213, first is that the cabinet is 19" wide so if you take it out of the roll around pedestal it is in you can mount it into an equipment rack. DEC did this with the "Industrial" version. One difference on the industrial version was that the "door" mounted on hinges and actually opened. On the pedestal version you lift the door off the front. 

Another interesting feature is the dual switching power supplies. I originally believed this allowed for one to fail and the system to keep working however I discovered that this is not the case when one did fail. The green light goes out and the VAX turns off.

Note: The power supplies also need a minimum load to "light up" and regulate. There is a board (M9060) that plugs into this cabinet (usually on the far left) that loads down the power enough to get them to turn on. If you want to run a "minimal" system you may need to put a couple of big hard drives in it just to keep the supplies happy!

The top part of the cabinet has a couple of captive thumb screws at the top and captive phillips head screws around the periphery. You need to remove the faceplate, and then tilt down the front panel to get to the drives stored inside. Drives are mounted on special rails that also have thumbscrews. The process can be quite time consuming which is why the BA440 cabinets are much better in this regard.

Most of the cabinets I have found have had DSSI drives in them, one however had the necessary kit for connecting SDI (aka RA8x and RA9x) drives using that huge black cable. This seems to be more common in the chassis that were mounted in racks (the RA82 could be mounted in the rack as well) When used with a KA660 or KA640 CPU there is a cable that connects from the CPU and snakes its way up to the DSSI drives in the top. The KA650 and KA655 systems typically have another interface card (the KFQSA) that connects to the drives using a similar cable.

The door on the BA213 is kind of interesting as well, it has several "security" positions and the positions it can reach are controlled by how the "key" is turned. All VAX seem to use the same plastic security key to control access. When the door is on it has three positions shown below, if you click on the image it will show you a larger version of the image.

In the left most image (position number 1) the door is fully open which gives access to the power switch and sliding piece that locks the door on to the cabinet. This is the least secure position and allows someone to remove the door and get access to the insides. In the next image, position number 2 of the door is shown. In this position the power switch is unavailable and the door cannot be removed, but you can still get to the tape drive and the disk write protect/ready buttons. Basically you can cause a lot of trouble but you can't get the door off. Finally on the right is position number 3. Position 3 blocks access to the tape drive and disk controls but the smoked plexiglass allows the operator to see the indicator lights. It is the most secure of the three positions. Of course anyone with a screw driver could turn the key lock thing and get access but it will take them a moment to do so.

Something else to note is that when the door is on, the cables go down and under the cabinet. DEC has a whole series of right angled connectors for this cabinet, from Ethernet to video. Generally if you are using a transceiver on the AUI connector of the computer you can't run with the door on unless you have one of DEC's right angle Ethernet extension cables.

The final bit about this cabinet is that it requires a very special power cord. This is a 15 amp IEC cord and it is identified by a notch that is cut out of the IEC end. The German name for it is "Warmgeraetestecker." [thanks to Michael Kukat for that one!] I haven't seen one in the hardware stores but apparently it is a standard so they shouldn't be too hard to find. The big issue is that it has to have the right hand turn and fit under the case when the door is on.


The BA213 has 12 card slots that are wired Q/CD. This means they are Q-bus on the top two connectors and C/D wired on the bottom two connectors, this limits compatibility with quad wide cards that either expect another Q-bus slot on their "other half." This also means that even if you have dual width cards you can only put about 9 cards in the cage after the CPU and Memory. 

Behind the top there is space for four full height 5-1/4" drive units mounted on the special BA213 rails. I've seen one that had double rails that allowed for six half-height 5-1/4" drives but that was the only one of those I've seen so far. Generally the DSSI connector needs a DSSI terminator on it unless it is connected to an expansion chassis.  (at which point the expansion chassis will have the terminator on it. DSSI appears to be much better than SCSI at cable lengths with the standard DSSI expansion cable being about 6' or so.

Related Models

A related cabinet is the R213F which replaces the Q-bus card cage with space for more DSSI drives. There is a third version as well that is used as an expansion Q-bus cabinet.  The interesting thing about that version is that it doesn't have the run and halt buttons on the control panel but it does have space for three drives. 

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Copyright (c) 2000 by Chuck McManis, All Rights Reserved

NOTE: All images on this site are COPYRIGHT 2000, 2001 by Charles McManis, you may not use them without written permission from me! (Especially EBAY Auctions!) You may put a link to this site with a note that your system is "like" one of mine but you cannot use the images. Thank you.