Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Vintage Entrex 480 DCC D116 mini computer, DG nova clone ("The Lost Entrex")

In the words of the original seller of this auction, May 2017:

Vintage Entrex 480 Mini Computer

There is not a lot of information in regard to this computer on the internet although  google search will net some information.   

This is the computer component of a larger Entrex data entry system from the early 70s.  This CPU is based on if not build by Digital Controls Corporation(DCC).   

It is physical appearance if very similar to the DCC D-116 (see the last photo).  Indeed it contains a DCC CPU board and a DCC Synchronous communications controller board.  

It also contains a Entrex Disk controller board and an Entrex Tape controller board.  

Finally it has 4 Entrex Core memory boards of 8K each.   Most likely a very rare computer.  

Original eBay Auction (If it still exists...)

Auction Archive on Google Drive

I have indeed confirmed that this auction was one and the same device that was discussed around Christmas 2016 in the forum. This is all taken from that post:

I couple of weeks ago I received a phone call from a friend of mine saying i needed to get to an estate sale will all kinds of vintage electronics in it. After returning several times to this sale I finally had to bring the following pieces back to my house in the hopes of saving them from the dumpster as no one seemed to be interested in them. 

This was all mounted in what I believe was a Raytheon PTS-1200 (that's what the tag said) rack about 4 feet tall. Not having anyplace to put it I had no choice but to leave it behind. I'm hoping that due to the fact that is a very nice rack it will get saved on its own merits.

In the top of the rack was mounted a Entrex 480 CPU. Here are a few pictures of it.

Not shown in the pictures are 4 16K core memory boards. I have those as well.

Next down from that was a Remex paper tape reader. I guess it was meant to be feed from a box to a box as there are no spindles for reels on it. Sorry I don't have a picture of this yet.

the 3rd and last item in the rack was a Diablo Model 30 disk drive. Unfortunately I couldn't find any cartridges for it (which struck me as odd)
So.. what the heck do I do with it? I've done my part in saving it all but outside the core memory I really have no ability to keep it. Its just too big and besides I have no ability/disire to get this running. Any suggestions welcome... 

MossyRock replied:

I did some digging and found that this system is a dedicated "CRT-to-disk data-entry system and verification system with magnetic tape output". I would date this system back to the early to mid-70s.

I checked and there is nothing archived for Entrex or Nixdorf, so I doubt that it would be possible for anyone to get this system running again unless they were incredibly lucky to find a disk cartridge with the system's O/S on it. If it boots from paper tape then it's even less likely. I have no idea if it would run any other O/S, like CP/M, but I doubt it.

It also appears that it used proprietary, specially-designed CRTs. If the interface is RS-232 then it *might* be able to use any old dumb RS-232 terminal.

Since you are dealing with a significant piece of history, it is best-practice to try to transfer the system to someone else as intact as possible. You could try listing the entire system on eBay, with a complete inventory of all the components and boards, along with their condition, if you are willing to go through that. Shipping it would involve a lot of care and expense, so if you live in or near a large metro area it would help as you could list it as "local pick-up only" and still get interest from a significant population.

If you choose to do that but get no buyers, you could sell the Diablo disk drive separately but include its cables and controller board from the CPU. The Diablo 30 disk drive uses an IBM 2315 type disk cartridge and is still highly sought-after by people interested in computer restoration. You should examine the drive's R/W heads carefully for any signs of a head crash, though, and report your findings there as well as the overall condition of the drive - i.e., is there rust/corrosion, damaged parts, etc.

Hope this helps

falter replies:

looks like it was a key to tape system? I'm guessing you didn't see any terminals for it there? I'd love to have something like that but no idea either what it'd be worth. I assume the terminals are proprietary so you wouldn't be able to do much with it without one? I'm sure shipping would be ugly.

Skipping forward, targeteye replies:

I've been chatting with a member about this system and he indicated he thought the computer was a DG Nova Clone. Sure enough it would appear that he was spot on about the Nova Clone. In fact this mini computer has a Digital Controls Corporation CPU card and the overall appearance is very similar to the DCC D-116 which is in turn a clone of the Data-General Nova 1200. Evidently DG sued DCC over the D-116.
Original Size & Source at:

In terms of Entrex an online article says. "Some users have found they are able to put a lot more applications on the upper-end Entrex systems, which have a Digital Computer Controls, inc. mini-computer. In fact, Entrex performs bill-of-materials processing on its in-house system, Feddersend said."

[I found this article: Computerworld Sep 10, 1975, page 67:  Source Data Processing on Rise]

The CPU and the Diablo will be on Ebay soon to try and establish if they have any value. One way or another they will be moved out of my garage into the hands of someone that can find an appropriate home for them (which is the biggest reason I saved them from certain doom).


And then my favorite (non-technical) comment & discussion on this thread, now going out of sequence, starts with Pski:

Man, did you read the summary on page 2 of that flyer?

"..we made it operator proof. Because the girl preparing data doesn't usually know much about computers. Or data processing. Or perhaps even the machine she is operating."

"And because it's so simple to operate, you can hire the operators on looks alone."

Sometimes, edgy marketing does not age well!


to which krebizfan replies:

I thought the cover was warning enough that presentation would be in questionable taste. I think Entrex went out of business fast enough that aging was not an issue for them.

....and that is the end of any value that I can extract from the thread.  I posted there as a few follow=ups, but as of the update to this page, nothing new or meaningful...

DCC = Digital Computer Controls
13 SCAN  (DCC D-116 Synchronous Communication Controller 400650)
12 PRINT (no board)
7  MEM   (Entrex 8k - many models to choose from)
6  MEM   (Entrex 8k - many models to choose from)
5  MEM   (Entrex 8k - many models to choose from)
4  MEM   (Entrex 8k - many models to choose from)
3  TTY   (no board)
1  CP    (DCC CPU)

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