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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 POWER9
Talos II, so it's not as if I don't put vintage
machines in work environments. However, the Ethernet option 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.
It used to be a point of care system for a party store many moons ago, and
was a chance find on eBay. It is the first fully functional
Alpha Micro system I ever owned personally.
For a successor to this design,
see the Eagle 100 page.
For an even beefier Eagle,
see the Eagle 450 page.
Front of the unit as I first acquired it.
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 I later installed an Alpha Micro-branded
external Toshiba XM-5401B CD-ROM drive (picture at the end),
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.
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. The E300 accepts
AM-314, AM-318 and AM-318-10 serial cards.
Up and running at my old apartment, with an AM-65 terminal console at the
The same system today, serving you this very request,
now with a colour AM-75 console and an external AM-401
CD-ROM (see Potpourri for details on using optical drives with AMOS).
Other than having to replace the old AT power supply
a couple years ago (an off-the-shelf PC AT supply will do)
this machine has been highly reliable. The status LED is visible on
the black band along the front of the case and displays a "0" for "no error."
The AM-65 is now my spare serial console and is currently connected to
Benchmarked with SI.LIT on standard hardware with spinning
SCSI hard disk.
The E300 was a dramatic improvement over the AM-1x00 series and even
eclipsed most of the 68020-based beasts. Smaller, more powerful and
more economical: what's not to love? The E300 is even faster at some
tasks than the E100
which succeeded it, despite using the same CPU.
Computing Index (CX), relative to AM-100: 36.9
48 bit FP Index (4X), relative to AM-100: 36.3
Floating Point Index (FX), relative to AM-100/L: 5.6
Disk Index (DX), relative to ST-506: 15.3
- 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 that have them,
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
- Fx - processor fault (x varies on fault)
- 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
- 8F - display config (8F/01-16 - failed)
- 90 - internal cache test
- 91 through 98 - memory tests (9X/01-16 - failed bit 01-16)
- 9C - timer test (9C - no IRQ detected)
- A0 - serial test (A0/XX - loopback failure port XX, A1/XX - IRQ failure)
- A8 - Winchester hard disk test
[if installed] (A8 - interface failed/not found,
A9 - cylinder self test
failed, AA - find diagnostic cylinder failed, Ab - 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 - floppy diskette test [if installed] (b8 - interface failed/not found,
b9 - RAM buffer failed, bb - timeout, bC - status error, bE - parity error)
- C0 - 515 test [if installed] (C0 - failed restore operation, C1 -
no controller found, C2 - controller self-test failed, C3 - couldn't find
diagnostic cylinder, C4 - r/w test failed)
- C8 - 520/522 test [if installed] (C8 - failed restore operation,
C9 - couldn't find diagnostic cylinder; CA - write test failed; Cb - read
or verify failed)
- d0 - SCSI controller (d0 - interface failed/not found,
d1 - controller self test failed, d2 - drive not found, d3 - drive self
test failed, d4 - couldn't find diagnostic cylinder, d5 - r/w test failed)
- 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.
- If you are attempting to install a optical disk drive (internal or
relatively few devices are supported.
Alpha Micro sold the Toshiba XM-5401B CD-ROM drive
shown here in an external case as the AM-401,
but only specific ROM revisions are recognized
by the OS. So far the only one I've found it will use is a version 005 device
with ROM version MA51226.
If you list devices with SCSI, this particular device appears as
(CD-ROM) TOSHIBA CD-ROM XM-5401TA360512/26/95.
Although Alpha Micro didn't modify the device's
firmware, different ROM versions may not work.
If the device does not appear as (CD-ROM), it was not recognized
as an optical drive, and you
will not be able to mount any AlphaCD partitions on it.
Alpha Micro also sold the Yamaha 8424S and Yamaha 3200SZ SCSI CD-RW drives
collectively as the AM-402. Only the internal versions of these drives were
officially supported, though an external Yamaha works fine with my
E450 (in fact, the AM-401 won't work
on the E450). I am unable to determine if
there are similar limitations on specific supported ROMs as well. Alpha Micro
also sold a Hitachi SCSI DVD-RAM (and later a Panasonic IDE DVD-RAM with a
SCSI-to-IDE converter) collectively as the AM-403. I've never used one of
None of the Eagles are known to support booting from CD-ROM, only from tape
or hard disk.
- 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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