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Alpha Micro Phun Machine @ Floodgap Retrobits
AMPM: Alpha Micro Eagle 300
My favourite Alpha Micro computers are the 68K Eagles -- they're "old enough
to be interesting but new enough to be useful," as they say. No, this isn't
saying an AM-1000 isn't worthy or able to do useful work, and I have a
Commodore 128 next to my Power Mac, so it's not as if I don't put vintage
machines in work environments. However, the Ethernet port on the Eagles is
a huge plus, and they're small enough (passing for boring beige box PCs at
first glance) to fit into any server room. That's why there's one in mine!
The Eagle 300 is the first of the line, making it a landmark model.
In addition to its other evolutionary hardware features,
the '030 CPU is a big plus and gives great processing oomph --
especially since AMOS works so efficiently even on the
lowliest 68000. You can imagine that this box screams by comparison to
These are pictures of the very E300 that is serving you this very page.
For a successor to this design,
see the Eagle 100 page.
Front of the unit. Notice that it resembles an oversized PC tower case, but
it has no 3.5" bays (instead it has four 5.25"). The AM-626 tape streamer
(actually a Tandberg 3820) and 2GB Seagate Hawk ST31051N
drive were factory-installed. The AM-626 takes standard QIC-525 cartridges.
It is unusual given when this particular Eagle was manufactured (1997) that
a CD-ROM was not standard equipment ...
... but an external one can be connected easily to the rear SCSI port, and
in fact after these pictures were taken I installed an Alpha Micro-branded
external Toshiba XM-5401-TA CD-ROM drive, and replaced the AM-626 with an
AM-628 (Tandberg 4200) so I could use 2GB cartridges.
is also an RJ-45 Ethernet port (available also as an AUI port, but they are
the same interface), two DB-25 parallel ports, and "eight slots" (actually
four, more in a moment). This unit has 16 serial ports installed. There is also
a second fan but I did not see this in the E100;
presumably this is due to the split board design (see below).
You can't see it here, but the official model number is AM-3500-E300;
that I have seen are officially "AM-3500" series models. I presume
that '040 Eagles are AM-4500, and so on, though I'm not sure what the ColdFire
Eagles would be.
Inside view, showing the AM-319 I/O sideboard and the AM-172 CPU
motherboard. This dual board design is probably why there are two fans.
The AM-172 motherboard has
several chips of note; the large black one with trim closest to the bottom
left corner is the 68EC030, and the chip behind it is the Symbios Logic 53C710
SCSI controller. The board copyright is 1993. Click the picture for a larger,
different angle (150K).
The AM-319 I/O sideboard only has four slots for serial "SIMM module"
cards, but each card splits into two groups of four ports, so with two
slots populated we have our sixteen. The SIMM cards are AM-318-10s, with
Super I/O acceleration under AMOS 2.x, and the actual ports are AM-90
Lightning boards which contain built-in surge protection to retard damage
to the computer from the terminals connected to it.
Up and running, with its AM-65 terminal
console. The status LED is faintly visible on
the black band along the front of the case and displays a "0" for "no error."
- The E300 was designed in part by Rod Hewitt, who created the I/O board
(Joshua Stumpf did the CPU). One then-unusual feature of the E300, not
seen on other Eagles, is that the I/O board logic is programmed dynamically
on bootup, meaning reprogramming the logic is as simple as reprogramming
the boot ROM. Rod says, "That saved my butt a couple times!" Later Eagles
used a fixed common logic set.
- On the rear are the main/alternate boot switch settings. Like a commodity
PC, you can configure an override boot device (the "alternate") which falls
back to the main device if there is no bootable media or image.
The toggle switch settings (for all 68K Eagles, including the E300) are:
- The boot terminal is usually 19.2kbps (8N1) on these models.
- The LED boot codes are as follows (where x is the device number, either
2 for alternate or 3 for main). If a code freezes, there was a problem at
that boot step. This applies to most Eagles too.
- F - sizing memory
- 20 - booting from PROM
- 21 - loading PROM to RAM
- 22 (32?) - checksumming RAM copy of PROM (2E - failed)
- xF - bad boot device selected (check the switches!)
- x3 - checking device
- x4 - reading device Master File Directory
- x5 - finding [1,2]
- x6 - finding BADBLK.SYS (on supported devices)
- x7 - loading BADBLK.SYS
- x8 - finding [1,4]
- x9 - finding AMOS monitor image in [1,4]
(tape: finding label block)
- xA - loading monitor
- xb - executing monitor
- xd - timeout
- 12 - can't find AMOS32.INI[1,4]
- 10 - bad TRMDEF interface driver line (referenced
.IDV not found in [1,6])
- 11 - bad TRMDEF terminal driver line (referenced
.TDV not found in [1,6])
- Upon bootup, here are the run codes for the LED:
- 0 - no error
- 4 - out of queue blocks (increase the QUEUE line in
- 8 - A/C power failure
- 9 - memory parity error
- The self-test is triggered, as in all Alpha Micro systems, by holding in
the reset button as the computer is turned on. If there is a console
terminal attached to a serial port, wait for "5b" to appear on the LEDs and
then press the space bar repeatedly until the baud rate is sensed. Messages
will then appear on the console as well as on the LEDs; a blinking code
indicates an error. Code XX/YY indicates an alternating error code.
The self-test LED codes are as follows:
- 80 - initial config
- 90 - cache test
(9X/01-16 - failed bit 01-16, 8F/01-16 - display config failed)
- 98 - interval timer test (98 - failed)
- A0 - serial test (A0/1-16 - loopback failure port#1-16)
- A8 - hard disk test (A8 - interface failed/not found,
A9/11 - cylinder self test
failed, AA/11 - find diagnostic cylinder failed, Ab/11 - r/w test failed)
- b0 - VCR test [if installed] (b0 - interface failed/not found,
b1 - RAM buffer failed, b2 - r/w test failed, b3 - handshake failed)
- b8 - diskette test [if installed] (b8 - interface failed/not found,
b9 - RAM buffer failed, bb - timeout, bC - status error)
- The RAM stick is a single 72-pin 60ns FPM SIMM. Parity is supported
and strongly advised!
Up to 64MB can be installed; there is no RAM on the mo'bo'.
This is the data
sheet for the component RAM chips in my model.
- The correct AlphaTCP Ethernet
driver for the Eagle 300/400/500 is the AM-319 (the relevant
TCP:CONFIG. line on debi reads ifconfig ec0 am319).
For the Eagle 100/200 with the AM-366 Ethernet board option, use
am366e; for the Eagle 550, use am319s. If you have the
wrong driver, the machine will crash when you start TCPEMU, so
don't put it in AMOS32.INI until you are sure it is operational.
- By default, the parallel ports are not in AMOS32.INI. Lines like
this should do the trick:
In the printer initialization file, use DEVICE=EPPn: where n is the
printer number. (For Eagle 100/200, use EGP0 and EGP.DVR
instead; for Eagle 550 "Super Eagle" systems, use SEP0,SEP1,SEP2,SEP3
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