Operation Speed Racer Was A Success

Thats right boys and girls.  Operation Speed Racer was about acquiring two, yes two, Kaypro “luggable” Computers.   I found out about the computers on Tuesday the 19th of September.  They were located over in Springdale Arkansas.  That being a drive of about two hours from Tulsa, I figured that it was worth the shot of seeing if they were still available.  To my surprise, since they had been listed for about two weeks, the were still available.  And best news yet, the prices was $57.  And that included not one, but two computers, and the documentation that came with the original software package (MS Basic, S-Basic, CP/M, Perfect Writer, etc.), but no disks.  :o(

I made arraignments with the owner to drive over and meet the owner on Saturday.  And hoped that someone didn’t pick up the computers from him/her while I was forced to wait due to work.  Friday came, and I emailed the owner to confirm that he/she would be available on Saturday, and very quickly I had a reply with a phone number and address.  Everything was looking good.

I loaded up my son after having worked part of the morning, and we hit the road headed to Springdale.  Once at the address, I called the number to confirm I was at the right location.  An older lady answered the phone, and told me she was coming outside.  She promptly came out and and guided me over to where she had placed the computer.  Showed me what she had, and told me the story of where these machines came from.

The story is that she was friends with the Widow of a Professor from the local university.  And that these computers were his babies.  She didn’t know exactly what he had taught.  But that he was supposed to be the original owner of at least one of the computers.  But she she wasn’t sure about the second.  She let me know that he had died about 15 years ago, and that the widow had eventually given these computers to her.  And after quite some time she figured they were just collecting dust, and decided to be rid of them.  After looking closer at the computers when I returned home there seems to be a name scratched into the keyboard G.L. Wheeler.  I’d love to hear about the guy if anyone knew him.

I explained that I collected older computers, and she seemed happy that they were finding a good home.  We exchanged money for computers, wished each other a wonderful weekend, and the boy and myself were back on the road headed home.

Several hours later we were unloading the car and bringing the computers into our home.  I made room on the kitchen table (i.e. My workspace), and began examining the computers.  I had noticed upon picking them up that one had a switch that had been placed internally.  I assumed it was for bank switching the ROM (it’s a pretty common thing to see this on older computers).  But I wasn’t entirely sure.

After an initial inspection i took note that both computers looked to be in ok shape.  However, the computer that had the toggle switch coming out the back vent hole appeared to be modified (I’m assuming to allow bank switching).  See below.

These ICs have been removed from the socket, placed into another socket, modified with bodge wires, and then reseated into the original sockets with a toggle switch running to the back of the machine, and a single wire running to the floppy header.  Interesting, but I have no idea what the owner was doing here.  It would seem that it would definitely have something to do with banking memory though.  Seeing as one of the ICs was connected to a 2732’s  A11 pin.  What I’m not entirely sure of yet is whether this is a character ROM, as the bios seems to be another chip towards the back of the board.

After inspecting the computers I tried powering them on. Now, the first computer, a Kaypro 2X, boots just fine from what I can tell.  However, I have no boot disk to confirm that it does in fact work.  And no way to currently make a boot disk. So I’m going to be stuck for a little while.

The second computer, a Kaypro II, did not boot.  And had a high frequency low volume chirp coming from the power supply area.  I probed around on the power rails for a few moments and noticed that there were no DC voltages.  So, it’s time to start unplugging things.  The first two things which seemed to be the easiest were the Floppy Drives.  After unplugging them, the chirping was gone, and the rail voltages read +4.8v, +11.8v, and -12.0v.  Ok, so now I have power.

However, there was still a problem.  First, obviously one of the drives has a problem (likely a shorted capacitor, not a big deal).  But more importantly, the CRT wasn’t showing any signs of life.

Rats.  I know nothing about CRTs.  The only thing I do know is that it did not appear to turn on.  However, looking at the back of the neck of the CRT while it was turned on it is clear it is getting voltage.  As there was a red glow coming from the back of the neck.  But, I’m deathly afraid of high voltage, so I’m not sure I want to mess with it.  It may be a job for an old TV repair man.  I’m not entirely sure there is even a video signal coming from the board.  I’ll have to break out my oscilloscope and see.  But that will have to wait until there is more time to tinker with it.

But until then, if anyone has any idea what could be going on, I’d love to hear from you.  Also, if anyone has, or can write, a boot disk for a Kaypro 2X I’d love to discuss it with you.

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