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Vintage Computers Any vintage computer systems, calculators, video games etc., but with an emphasis on 1980s and earlier equipment.

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Old 30th Apr 2018, 2:20 pm   #1
Pamphonica
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Default HP80 Series Computers (HP85, HP86, HP87)

I recently posted in "Wanted" for 5.25" disks for my HP Series 80 computers. Mike Holcomb was interested in more details so here we go:

The machines themselves are amply described here:
http://vintagecomputers.site90.net/hp85/
http://www.hpmuseum.net/exhibit.php?class=1&cat=9

I started using an HP85B a few years ago, to control test equipment via HPIB/GPIB for automated monitoring runs and calibration.

Inevitably I fell in love with these tough, usable old machines (c. 1980), with inbuilt display, tape and printer and Basic allowing easy control of HPIB/GPIB devices. I went on to explore add-ons, plotters, printers and disk drives. The inbuilt tape drives, despite restoration are still unreliable, so disks are a lot better.

The latest acquisition is a virtually fully working 5.25" disk drive unit, hence the original wanted post. I'm enjoying the nostalgic clunk-clunk of disk to disk copying.

There's a small but very knowledgeable user group here:
https://groups.io/g/hpseries80

My collection is partly shown in the attached photo. The printers and plotters are nearby.

I am still on the lookout for more expansion modules, ROMs etc for my systems if you find anything in "deep storage".

The HP80 is a real vintage computer, with no operating system, no start-up delay, no fan, and no viruses! It was not too hard to restore, and it's still working very well now, earning its keep. It's a credit to Hewlett Packard. All the original documentation, even service manuals are now available online.

Jeremy
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Old 30th Apr 2018, 5:48 pm   #2
SiriusHardware
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Default Re: HP80 Series Computers (HP85, HP86, HP87)

Nice looking machines, they remind me a little of the Sharp MZ80s. What CPU? what sort of OS?

Z80 and some flavour of CP/M?
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Old 30th Apr 2018, 6:02 pm   #3
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Default Re: HP80 Series Computers (HP85, HP86, HP87)

It's a custom HP CPU. In fact the only standard ICs on the HP85 processor board are the RAMs (4116 16K*1 DRAMs). The OS is essentially ROM basic (but a reasonable BASIC). There's also the HP9915 (not to be confused with the 9815) which is an HP85 repackaged into a half-width rack module, essentially.

The HP75 is a closely related handheld/portable machine with a compatible CPU. I know the source listings of the HP75 ROM are available (with some hilarious comments....) but I've never seen the sources for any of the HP85 family.

Another machine that looks similar is the HP9826 (I believe this was the replacement for the HP85). Built-in small CRT but with a 5.25" floppy drive where the tape drive would be, no internal printer, but HPIB as standard. That has a 68000 inside...
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Old 30th Apr 2018, 6:04 pm   #4
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Default Re: HP80 Series Computers (HP85, HP86, HP87)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pamphonica View Post
The HP80 is a real vintage computer, with no operating system......,
No OS as I said. It just runs Basic natively.
You type Print "hello"
and "hello" appears on the printer
or put in the line numbers and make it a proper Basic program.

There is a special CP/M module you can get which has a Z80 and runs CP/M from the FDD. But that spoils the sheer simplicity of it!

The processor is HP proprietary. It runs everything I need for controlling equipment just fine.

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Old 30th Apr 2018, 6:06 pm   #5
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Default Re: HP80 Series Computers (HP85, HP86, HP87)

Tony is the master on these machines. I cannot count the number of times I have looked something up in his carefully hand-drawn schematics!
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Old 30th Apr 2018, 6:59 pm   #6
SiriusHardware
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Default Re: HP80 Series Computers (HP85, HP86, HP87)

I count embedded BASIC as an 'OS' just as I do the ones found in mainstream home machines of the period, although I thought it might be able to use CP/M as an option, as indeed you have pointed out that it could.

CP/M was a good way to get access to a fairly wide 'universal' library of software, perhaps the widest available in the pre-DOS days, although everyone seemed to contrive to use as many different floppy disc formats as possible.

I assume you write your control software in the HP's native BASIC, or was there an assembler available somewhere for this ultra obscure HP CPU?
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Old 30th Apr 2018, 7:05 pm   #7
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Default Re: HP80 Series Computers (HP85, HP86, HP87)

Fair enough - I suppose there is an OS there. It cannot do anything but run Basic programs, but does have all the drivers to allow HPIB/GPIB equipment to communicate, and to manage "mass storage" on tape or disk.

I write everything in Basic as speed is not an issue with test equipment control, even with a CPU running at about 650KHz (NOT MHz!). The HP Basic is not extensive, but runs well, and can be enhanced with further ROMs, each of which adds more Basic keywords to those already available. For instance, a Printer ROM adds a "Printer is ..." command that lets you define on any external interface where to find the printer.
There is an assembler rom that you can slot in and assembler programs can access a lot of software calls in the existing "OS". I have never tried it.
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Old 30th Apr 2018, 7:36 pm   #8
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Default Re: HP80 Series Computers (HP85, HP86, HP87)

The crossover / intersection points between a 'monitor', 'bios' and 'OS' are sometimes difficult to define, but when you are at the point where you have text input (usually via a QWERTY keyboard) and output (usually to a screen) and some form of saving to and loading from a storage device even if it is just a cassette tape, then in my mind it firmly qualifies as an OS.

Many years after the Psion family of palmtops had waxed and waned I was still regularly using a Psion LZ64 'Organiser' - in reality a little handheld computer which had its own embedded form of BASIC - not called BASIC but it was BASIC in all but name. I used it, and a program written in that language, for on-site programming and control of the CCTV systems which it was part of my job to maintain at the time. Affordable, portable PCs were still some way off then.

If I was still doing that job, I would probably still be using the Psion (which I still have, actually) in the same way. So I applaud your finding a good use - not merely a demonstration, but an actual ongoing use, for those handsome machines of yours.
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Old 30th Apr 2018, 9:27 pm   #9
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Default Re: HP80 Series Computers (HP85, HP86, HP87)

I have one of these and it's one of my favourite machines. It has a simple elegance that most machines lack.

I don't have any functioning storage at the moment so I can only use what I can type in but I have the IEEE-488 interface and I'm on the lookout for for some disk drive or solid state drives so I can really make this thing dance.


Cheers,

Andy.
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Old 30th Apr 2018, 9:59 pm   #10
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Default Re: HP80 Series Computers (HP85, HP86, HP87)

For more HP8X action look at CuriosMarc's videos on youtube, he's got a few HP85's and a range of accessories inc. plotter, printers (inc. an original thinkjet), and RTR tape drive.
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Old 30th Apr 2018, 11:21 pm   #11
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Default Re: HP80 Series Computers (HP85, HP86, HP87)

Those videos by CuriousMarc are here. They are really useful if you are restoring an HP85.

As far as storage is concerned there are a couple of solid state drive projects available, using small processors and an SD card.
http://www.dalton.ax/hpdisk/
http://www.qsl.net/in3otd/electronic...PDisk_OTD.html
https://github.com/magore/hp85disk
But I am still struggling to get my HPDisk to simulate the older disk drives the HP uses. The protocol changed from "Amiga" to "SS/80" and only the latter types seem to be simulated reliably by HPDrive on an HP85, and the latter drive types require an extra (and rare) Extended Mass Storage ROM.

For those really interested in keeping these machines working well, in fully expanded form, there are also a couple of projects that simulate a range of very useful add-on ROMs on a single plug-in card.
http://vintagecomputers.site90.net/hp85/prm85.htm (By Bill Kotaska)
http://users.eastlink.ca/~phberger/86EPROM.pdf (By Paul Berger)
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Old 1st May 2018, 8:52 am   #12
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Default Re: HP80 Series Computers (HP85, HP86, HP87)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pamphonica View Post
But I am still struggling to get my HPDisk to simulate the older disk drives the HP uses. The protocol changed from "Amiga" to "SS/80" and only the latter types seem to be simulated reliably by HPDrive on an HP85, and the latter drive types require an extra (and rare) Extended Mass Storage ROM.
A minor correction here. The pre-SS/80 protocol was called Amigo, not Amiga. SS/80 was, of course short for subset 80 as it was a subset of CS/80 which stood for command set 80.
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Old 2nd May 2018, 9:11 am   #13
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Default Re: HP80 Series Computers (HP85, HP86, HP87)

Good to see another of these! I picked up an HP85 that a local medical lab found stashed away during a clear out - along with the strange mix of a CBM8032, Apple IIe, IBM PC 5150, Amstrad 6128, Compaq LTE4/33s and a disembowled 386 clone.

Mine is dead, but those links to groups will be very handy when it comes to the "surface" of my to-do pile.

Photo is pretty much as found, it's had a basic clean since then.
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Old 2nd May 2018, 10:06 am   #14
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Default Re: HP80 Series Computers (HP85, HP86, HP87)

That 85 looks good. A nice clean-up usually works wonders. Some new printer belts (always perished) and it may well be quite usable. (See HP80 group for links to belt suppliers)
The tape drives are a bit tougher, as the rubber coating on the capstan always turns to goo. But a clean-up with IPA and a new sleeve or two of heatshrink can work wonders. The only sad thing is that the actual HP media are by now usually pretty flaky - literally.
The best option is to add a little height to the capstan (2mm or so - I even use washers), so it can use the much newer QIC (1/4") tapes. That works well.
If you join the HP80 group (link above) you will find a wealth of expertise, and quite a few people with small holdings of spare bits from their own restorations.
Good luck - it's well worth having a go.
Jeremy
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Old 7th May 2018, 1:56 pm   #15
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Default Re: HP80 Series Computers (HP85, HP86, HP87)

Wow! If anyone wants to sell one so I can join the club let me know please.
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Old 7th May 2018, 2:18 pm   #16
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Default Re: HP80 Series Computers (HP85, HP86, HP87)

I am sure 'club' was just a figure of speech, but there actually still is a UK HP user club, the 'Handheld and Portable Computer Club'. While it may not be obvious from the name or their web pages, I can assure you that if you contacted said club, or came to a meeting, and started talking about the HP85 series you would be made very welcome.

And no, you don't have to own a machine to do that.
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