Phoebe PCB

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retroclinic
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Phoebe PCB

Post by retroclinic » Sun Jul 15, 2012 4:53 pm

Paid a visit to the TNMOC at Bletchley today, and they've got a Phoebe case, with the original PCB inside. I didn't know any of the PCBs were actually made, just the cases.

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DSC_1748 by TheOldChigwellian, on Flickr

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DSC_1745 by TheOldChigwellian, on Flickr
(Pic is available at very high res if you go onto Flickr, and choose Actions -> View all sizes)

Shame there has been the usual battery damage around the CMOS area, I advised Chris to get that old battery out ASAP.

Mark.
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Arcadian
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Re: Phoebe PCB

Post by Arcadian » Sun Jul 15, 2012 5:29 pm

Somebody clone it!
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Re: Phoebe PCB

Post by flibble » Sun Jul 15, 2012 5:31 pm

There were quite a few motherboards with FPGA based IOMD2 chips, and two motherboards with the real final silicon IOMD2.

That's one of the two, and I really hope it's not trashed due to battery leakage :(

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Re: Phoebe PCB

Post by nOmArch » Mon Jul 16, 2012 10:13 am

When I was there I asked if we could fire it up, alas the answer was no :(

Also did they also show you the ARM CO-Pro which was donated as a standard 'cheese wedge'
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Re: Phoebe PCB

Post by MarcT » Fri Aug 03, 2012 9:47 pm

Thanks for posting that Mark - that's great to see!
flibble wrote:There were quite a few motherboards with FPGA based IOMD2 chips, and two motherboards with the real final silicon IOMD2.

That's one of the two, and I really hope it's not trashed due to battery leakage :(
I've gotta ask - do you know what became of the other one?

Marc

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Re: Phoebe PCB

Post by northernbob » Mon Apr 01, 2019 2:34 pm

did the board have many advances over the last version?

or was it just a differnt form factor, case wise....cycnical i know.

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Re: Phoebe PCB

Post by SarahWalker » Mon Apr 01, 2019 4:28 pm

If by 'last version' you mean the original RiscPC, then yes - faster RAM, more video memory, PCI slots, faster IDE interface, improved audio hardware. Though not all of these supported in RISC OS at the time the machine was canned. And it wasn't enough to catch up with 1998/1999 PC hardware in any case.

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Re: Phoebe PCB

Post by benj » Mon Apr 01, 2019 5:10 pm

MarcT wrote:
Fri Aug 03, 2012 9:47 pm
I've gotta ask - do you know what became of the other one?
I think the other one is at the Centre for Computing History in Cambridge:

http://www.computinghistory.org.uk/det/ ... rn-Phoebe/

(assuming that it isn't the same machine that Mark saw at Bletchley). I'm pretty sure that they've had it running at various points.

Ben.

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Re: Phoebe PCB

Post by SarahWalker » Mon Apr 01, 2019 8:03 pm

The CCH Phoebe is now dead unfortunately.

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Re: Phoebe PCB

Post by gslug » Tue Apr 02, 2019 12:38 am

They really need to remove that leaking battery top right.

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Re: Phoebe PCB

Post by SarahWalker » Tue Apr 02, 2019 4:55 pm

It's much too late for that - it killed the TNMOC Phoebe a few years ago. And those were the only two Phoebes in existence.
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Re: Phoebe PCB

Post by gslug » Thu Apr 04, 2019 2:05 am

Sad.

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Re: Phoebe PCB

Post by vanpeebles » Thu Apr 04, 2019 7:49 am

It speaks volumes about these so calling computing museums.

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Re: Phoebe PCB

Post by trixster » Thu Apr 04, 2019 9:28 am

It’s a difficult one to judge on without knowing the full details of the pcb’s life. If they got it when the majority of the damage had already been done to the point where repairing the pcb was already out of the question.... then I can kind of see why they might consider just leaving it as-is so as to ‘preserve it’. I don’t agree with that POV but I can see why a museum might argue for it.

However, if the damage has occurred whilst under their watch (so you’ve gone from having something that might have worked to now completely dead) and they’ve just refused to remove it... then that’s pretty bad. I’d much rather have a none knackered and maybe working pheobe thats been altered to one that’s untouched but dead...!

I guess museums must have strict terms of reference on how much intervention they allow themselves to take.
Last edited by trixster on Thu Apr 04, 2019 9:28 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Phoebe PCB

Post by RobC » Thu Apr 04, 2019 10:45 am

trixster wrote:
Thu Apr 04, 2019 9:28 am
However, if the damage has occurred whilst under their watch (so you’ve gone from having something that might have worked to now completely dead) and they’ve just refused to remove it... then that’s pretty bad. I’d much rather have a none knackered and maybe working pheobe thats been altered to one that’s untouched but dead...!

I guess museums must have strict terms of reference on how much intervention they allow themselves to take.
Paulv wrote more on the fate of the two Phoebes in this post and there's more info in the rest of the thread.

As I said in that thread, I'm not sure things like Phoebe should have been put in a museum. I think something that rare that's still working is better in the hands of someone who can has the skill and time to take care of it properly. Obviously there are dangers when a museum tries to preserve anything (and there are plenty of examples of botched art restorations) but to leave such a rare item with a leaking battery seems a terrible waste.

In an ideal world, it would be great if the two museums could get together and see if it's possible to resurrect the Phoebe with video failure using the VIDC20R from the one with battery damage. I'm sure there's enough expertise in the community to at least attempt a repair.

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Re: Phoebe PCB

Post by BigEd » Thu Apr 04, 2019 11:35 am

It might be worth noting that anyone can call their building a museum: both TNMoC and CCH are presently seeking, or have recently been seeking, accreditation, which is what would make them a recognised museum with better access to resources from other museums and potentially to sources of funding. To gain accreditation they need to show their training and processes meet a certain standard, and that will surely include conservation work: when to do it, how to do it.

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Re: Phoebe PCB

Post by vanpeebles » Thu Apr 04, 2019 11:54 am

I wonder if some clever enthusiasts can make new boards for everyone. Or would it be better to just use a pi. :lol:

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Re: Phoebe PCB

Post by SteveBagley » Thu Apr 04, 2019 11:59 am

I think it comes down to what you are trying to preserve… I'd argue that you need to think about preserving computers as requiring many different approaches since they can be viewed in many different ways.

At one level, you can view them as a historic cultural artefact and left unmodified from that point, and so what is important is preserving that specific instance, regardless of whether it works or not -- the NeXT cube TBL used to create the world wide web would fit into this category, its not about preserving the NeXTCube, but rather that this is what was used to create the web. Although you could argue that you should do as much to preserve them from decaying, without modifying the original (see for example, the Mary Rose) -- and that you should make a copy of any data contained within the machine (Which I understand hasn't happened to TBL's Next).

On another level though, you can view computers as being like music, film or tv where it is important to preserve it so people can experience it. Here, the physical artefact is less important than the experience. You can argue that what you want to preserve is the computers in a form that people can experience and use.. If you take this approach to preservation, then you'll be happy to modify and repair the machines to keep them running -- in the same way that music, film and TV are migrated from format to format (fore example, no one would contemplate just archiving a 2" Quad video recording of a TV show -- not without transferring it to a more modern medium). You can also argue that both FPGA based recreations and software emulators (particularly cycle accurate ones), form part of the preservation of computer systems in this approach -- if not a vital one since all the original hardware will fail at some point.

Now for most computer systems, it is possible to do both -- preserve some important examples as historical artefacts themselves (e.g. Tim's NeXT Cube) while modifying and repairing others to keep the systems running, along with slicing and dicing others to scan under a microscope to best preserve how they work as software emulators etc.

The problem with the Phoebe (and other similar prototypes, such as the Atari ST Pad) is that you only have two working systems so you can't possibly do both. There's a strong argument to preserve them as a specific historic cultural artefact (they were the machines Acorn were working on when it went bankrupt, and also they were never released as an actual system) at which point it is the physical instance of the machine that is important rather than whether it works or not -- at which point, putting them in a museum makes a lot of sense since they are open for all to see. The trouble with this is that it doesn't preserve them as systems that people can experience and use… On the other hand, you could argue that preserving the experience is important, at which point you want to repair and modify it, at the cost of destroying the artefact that Acorn left.

I'd argue that what should have been done is to analyse the systems as much as possible non-destructively while they were working to be able to create a Phoebe emulator and an FPGA recreation so that you can create replica systems (even down to cloning the case), and keeping the existing Phoebe's as is…

Of course, it's only going to get harder now that our computers aren't just self-contained devices. How on earth do we preserve an iPhone/iPad/Kindle/whatever when so much of the system experience is dependent on the services it connects too…

Steve

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Re: Phoebe PCB

Post by fordp » Thu Apr 04, 2019 12:03 pm

The main ICs look a long way from the battery and if the ICs work then it is fixable. There are some very skilful people at repairing PCBs. Is there any point in having it running however is another issue!
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Re: Phoebe PCB

Post by BigEd » Thu Apr 04, 2019 12:19 pm

(Just one tiny point there Steve: Acorn didn't go bankrupt. They cancelled projects, they changed their name, they subsequently liquidated themselves. Their problem was that they weren't making money and they had lots of valuable ARM shares - the shares were valuable enough to override other concerns and cause the company to be dismantled.)

The Mary Rose is a good example, and any number of oil paintings similarly: they need conservation work done, which is invasive and partially destructive.

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Re: Phoebe PCB

Post by jonb » Thu Apr 04, 2019 12:41 pm

vanpeebles wrote:
Thu Apr 04, 2019 7:49 am
It speaks volumes about these so calling computing museums.
Well VP, CCH is a charity now, and it's kept afloat by donations and the efforts of its volunteers. They do not have infinite funds to pay for restoration work, and while there are volunteers who restore (such as myself) I don't think there are enough of them, or enough of a high enough calibre (not saying I'm anything special, but I have had some modest successes with help of the forumistas).

I've been round their store rooms and the scale of work required to restore everything is staggering. It was like some sort of Aladdin's cave of retro computers; if you can name it, it's probably there (several times over). A mind bending experience for an enthusiast like me, but I'm digressing.

Rather than be disparaging about their perceived lack of action in regards to the Phoebes, perhaps we should be grateful that someone is preserving them (per Steve's comment, whatever type of preservation is in order), and not for profit.
Last edited by jonb on Thu Apr 04, 2019 12:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Phoebe PCB

Post by vanpeebles » Thu Apr 04, 2019 12:46 pm

I stand by my comments, I think enthusiasts with our websites, clubs, blogs, fanzines etc. do these things far better. I don't see the point in them.

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Re: Phoebe PCB

Post by SteveBagley » Thu Apr 04, 2019 1:01 pm

vanpeebles wrote:
Thu Apr 04, 2019 12:46 pm
I stand by my comments, I think enthusiasts with our websites, clubs, blogs, fanzines etc. do these things far better. I don't see the point in them.
I think you'll find that it is exactly the same people as you describe above who are running the computer museums…

And what the computer museums provide is access for all -- making sure that the next generation are aware of the history of their computer systems. They also provide publicity that these things are worth preserving -- if there were no museums, I'm certain a lot more old computer tech would end up in landfill sites rather than being preserved in some form…

Steve
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Re: Phoebe PCB

Post by danielj » Thu Apr 04, 2019 1:13 pm

Museums make things available to all. Many hobbyists have a tendency to keep everything locked up. There's a very good argument that rare/unique things should be held in museums so they can be studied, rather than held in private collections.

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Re: Phoebe PCB

Post by vanpeebles » Thu Apr 04, 2019 1:17 pm

But then they just keep most of it locked away in some store room somewhere? Also not quite access for all as they are restricted to the locality as well. I'd love to go to Bovington tank museum but considering it's at complete other end of the country, it just not practical unless you made a holiday of it.

As I said, keeping two one off computer items covered in battery acid, sums them up.

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Re: Phoebe PCB

Post by danielj » Thu Apr 04, 2019 1:19 pm

The CCH one wasn't battery acid'd. If you wish to access items in store for study almost any museum will allow you to. CCH has been very happy to allow scanning of unique things, archiving of discs, etc in their collection...

d.

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Re: Phoebe PCB

Post by jonb » Thu Apr 04, 2019 2:13 pm

I'll add to that - the CCH actually began as a private collection. They have to keep stuff in storage because exhibition space is limited (in other words, they cannot have it all out all of the time).

CCH is active in promoting the use of old technology. One event I could mention (that I was not involved in) was a sort of "Computing classroom of the '80s" where they get a bunch of kids in to do some programming on a network of Beebs. They have at least 50 BBC Bs stacked on a bookshelf, side on. Most attendees came away with a positive experience (according to the BBC News article that reported it).

So, when are YOU gonna let a group of spotty teenagers loose on your collection?
Last edited by jonb on Thu Apr 04, 2019 2:21 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Phoebe PCB

Post by vanpeebles » Thu Apr 04, 2019 2:24 pm

jonb wrote:
Thu Apr 04, 2019 2:13 pm
I'll add to that - the CCH actually began as a private collection. They have to keep stuff in storage because exhibition space is limited (in other words, they cannot have it all out all of the time).

CCH is active in promoting the use of old technology. One event I could mention (that I was not involved in) was a sort of "Computing classroom of the '80s" where they get a bunch of kids in to do some programming on a network of Beebs. They have at least 50 BBC Bs stacked on a bookshelf, side on. Most attendees came away with a positive experience (according to the BBC News article that reported it).

So, when are YOU gonna let a group of spotty teenagers loose on your collection?
So, we can add cruelty to Beebs to the growing list of misdemeanours. :lol:

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Re: Phoebe PCB

Post by RobC » Thu Apr 04, 2019 3:01 pm

jonb wrote:
Thu Apr 04, 2019 2:13 pm
CCH is active in promoting the use of old technology. One event I could mention (that I was not involved in) was a sort of "Computing classroom of the '80s" where they get a bunch of kids in to do some programming on a network of Beebs. They have at least 50 BBC Bs stacked on a bookshelf, side on. Most attendees came away with a positive experience (according to the BBC News article that reported it).
Don't disagree that they do good work. We took the kids to TNMOC a few weeks ago and had a great day out.

I'm just not convinced that the museums should keep really rare, working items when they don't have the time and/or skills to preserve them.
jonb wrote:
Thu Apr 04, 2019 2:13 pm
So, when are YOU gonna let a group of spotty teenagers loose on your collection?
To be fair, many of us demo our kit (even rare stuff) at various shows and meet-ups and allow anyone to play with them. And some even take Beebs into schools...
Last edited by RobC on Thu Apr 04, 2019 3:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Phoebe PCB

Post by SteveBagley » Thu Apr 04, 2019 3:07 pm

vanpeebles wrote:
Thu Apr 04, 2019 1:17 pm
But then they just keep most of it locked away in some store room somewhere? Also not quite access for all as they are restricted to the locality as well. I'd love to go to Bovington tank museum but considering it's at complete other end of the country, it just not practical unless you made a holiday of it.

As I said, keeping two one off computer items covered in battery acid, sums them up.
It's probably worth pointing out that 'The National Museum of Computing' at Bletchley (with the battery leaked Phoebe), and the 'Centre for Computing History' (where the VIDC died) are two very different museums run by different people.

And if you want to know how CCH handles preserving unique one of a kind machines, you could do worse than watching this Computerphile* video on the ZX Spectrum prototype:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bq4NzvNZhc0

Steve
* In the interest of full disclosure, I'm involved with Computerphile
Last edited by SteveBagley on Thu Apr 04, 2019 3:12 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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