The Collection

My collection started fairly innocuously. I participated in a sealed bid auction on a bunch of stuff and bid $26 on a pallet of two MicroVAX II's (it was the minimum bid) in order to see what they sold for. At this particular auction house they wouldn't tell you the winning bid unless you had bid, so I figured anyone who bid over the minimum would get them. Guess what? I won the auction and was suddenly the proud owner of two MicroVAX IIs. Since that time I've either been given, rescued (saved from being dumped), or actually bought several more. A couple of times I've gotten "all our old VAX stuff" and gone into "VAX mining" mode where you pick through to make sure the hard to find things are saved, you give away parts to people who need them, and generally you pitch the rest. This process has lead to me owning several VAXen. Generally, I try to stick to a theme of only Q-bus based VAXen. However, I've violated that them in a couple of places :-).

ChuckVAX -- My First VAX

ChuckVAX was one of the two first VAXen I got. It was a good find because it came in the BA123 cabinet and these cabinets are extremely friendly when it comes to adding drives, and putting in additional cards.

When I got this VAX the drives had been stripped out (it came from a government contracter that was under orders to physically destroy the hard drives) but it had been one of two on the pallet. The other was housed in a third party cabinet made by Sigma Information Systems. Between the two of them I had a couple of third party ESDI interfaces, 16MB of memory (in four 4MB boards), two CPUs, two TQK50 tape controllers, a Viking/QTO SCSI Tape controller talking to an Exabyte 8200 8MM tape drive. Both also had DELQA ethernet interfaces.

OtherVAX - The VAX after that

OtherVAX is a MicroVAX 3800, I bought it with a sibling at the same auction house. Unfortunately they had been "keeping other systems alive" with their body parts, It is in a BA213 cabinet

HalfVAX - Half a VAX is better than None

HalfVAX got its name because it started life as two BA23 cabinets mounted in a 19" rack. This is probably the bulkiest way to hold a VAX and I didn't have space to put a 19" rack in my "laboratory." So I moved boards into one BA23 and then moved that into the floor standing equivalent. Leaving me with half-a-vax. The model is the VAXStation 3200 and it uses the KA650 CPU.

FreeVAX - Is it really free if it costs $300 to ship it?

Of course not, but FreeVAX got its name because the very kind gentleman who owned it simply wanted it out of the building and demanding nothing more than help in loading it. I shipped it clear across the country because I had neither a VAX 4000 at the time, nor a BA440 cabinet. This met both of those wants quite admirably. Now, to find a faster CPU to have a really, really fast VAX.

FastVAX - But what is "fast" really?

FastVAX is something of a misnomer, its in the middle of the performance range (5 VUPs) but it is the fastest Q-bus only VAX you can build. Using the KA660 CPU it is a VAX 4000/200 and it had the distinction of being my only BA215 based VAX. However now I have both a VAXServer 3300, and this one.

TestVAX - Making NetBSD more useful.

TestVAX is a MicroVAX 3400 in a BA213 cabinet. The nice thing about TestVAX is that it has both a SCSI and an on-board DSSI controller. I can boot NetBSD from a SCSI drive, compile a new kernel, then boot that kernel to see if the DSSI drives are "visible." So far no luck, but the projects page shows what I'm up to.

BuildVAX - Workhorse in my NetBSD world.

BuildVAX is not a Q-bus based VAX at all, instead it is a VAXStation 3100/M76 that has proven to be extremely reliable. Its brother M76VAX  and it were at one time constantly re-building the NetBSD world. By starting them on 48 hrs apart I could  usually have a snapshot of NetBSD that is only 4 days old. (Yes it really takes four days to recompile the NetBSD system on one of these!) They were my fastest VAXen at the time, clocking in at about 7.6VUPS. Now I've got ZippyVAX which is a VAX 4000/90 that is roughly 5 times vaster than these VAXen.

TinyVAX/VAXStax - When one is not enough

TinyVAX was my first 4000/VLC. When my 10yr old daughter demanded a computer of her own, I gave her a VAX. She's learning how to program in C on it, and also spending way too much time on rogue :-) After getting the one, a bunch of these sort of showed up and now I've got a group of four that are part of the TinyCluster project. VMS' ability to cluster long before NASA showed off their Beowulf cluster has always intrigued me. This project is my most extensive use of VMS and fun in its own right.

ZippyVAX - Zooming through Builds

ZippyVAX is a VAXStation 4000/90. At roughly 40 VUPs it is a very fast VAX. Currently the fastest VAX I own it can build the entire NetBSD tree (sans crypto) in just over a day. Prior to Zippy I had upgraded BuildVAX to a VAXStation 4000/60 (12 VUPs) and while nearly twice as fast as the the 3100/M76 it pales in comparison to the VS4K/90. 

FunVAX - A VAX that goes both ways

FunVAX came to me in 2001 and it is special in that it is a desktop VAX that can talk to the Q-bus. This makes it really wonderful for testing out Q-bus boards but otherwise being relatively small. 

Collection Summary

This is the sum total of my VAX collection less "spares." Generally there are a couple of rules I abide by (although not always) in my collection, these are nothing that requires 220V AC to run, no peripherals over 50 lbs, and no MFM disk drives. The latter is due to their rather unreliable nature and extremely difficult to get these days. I do have some MFM drives that are operational but I don't know for how long they will remain so. I do not believe I can fix them when they break, thus I don't "take them for a spin" nearly as often as I do the SCSI based VAXen. Also I've got two 9 track tape subsystems, one is a TU-81+ and the other a Kennedy vacuum column job (needs work on the columns) These weigh way more than 50 lbs :-( but they give me 9-track capability.

The KA6xx VAX Series

The KA6xx series are the Q-Bus series from DEC. This collection fits into a small room (8 x 10) with a couple of the systems in 19" racks. One can quickly fill the room however with peripherals that would be common in a data center such as a high performance line printer and a couple of 9 track tape drives.

Name Processor Model Cabinet Performance
ChuckVAX KA630 MicroVAX II BA123 0.9 VUPS
TestVAX KA640 MicroVAX 3400 BA213 2.4 VUPS
HalfVAX KA650 VAXStation 3200 BA23 2.7 VUPS
OtherVAX KA655 MicroVAX 3800 BA213 3.8 VUPS
FastVAX KA660 VAX 4000/200 BA215 5.0 VUPS
FreeVAX KA670 VAX 4000/300 BA440 8.0 VUPS
TopVAX KA692 VAX 4000/700a BA440 32.0 VUPS

The KA4x VAX Series

The KA4x series of VAX were the "desktop" models, generally shipped in chassis that were expected to sit on your desk under your monitor. My fastest VAX to date is the KA49 which clocks in at a cool 40 VUPs,  this holds up to pretty well  today, certainly when I run VMS or NetBSD on it the performance is quite acceptable. There are of course faster VAXen but they are still in use mostly!

Another interesting (to me anyway) tidbit is that the Q-bus VAXen have a distinct "chassis type" and "cpu type" that are disjoint. It was very important in choosing module options to know which chassis you had. However, in the desktop VAXen this became fuzzier and fuzzier to the point that the 4000/60 is in a cabinet that has no external markings at all! Presumably its a BA46 or some such but the case doesn't identify it that way.


Processor Model Cabinet Performance


KA41 VAXStation 2000 BA?? 0.9 VUPS
MidVAX KA42 VAXStation 3100/M30 BA42 2.4 VUPS
M76VAX KA43 VAXStation 3100/M76 SPX BA42 7.6 VUPS
BldVAX KA46 VAXStation 4000/60 BA?? 12.0 VUPS
TinyVAX KA48 VAX 4000/VLC BA10 6.0 VUPS
T1VAX KA46 VAXStation  4000/60 BA46 12.0 VUPS
ZippyVAX KA49 VAXStation 4000/90 BA46? 40.0 VUPs
FunVAX KA52 VAX 4000/100a BA42 32.0 VUPs

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