Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Conversation with former Entrex technician Bob Rooney

Thu, Apr 7, 2022 at 1:22 PM <robert rooney> wrote:


Sorry it’s taken so long for me to respond.  Just came across your site again.  It sure brings back a lot of good memories!!!

I started at Entrex in Burlington Mass in the summer of 1974 (summer job between jr and sr years of high school.  I then went back to work for them in May 1975 and stayed until June 2000!!

Yup, Entrex to Nixdorf to Siemens Nixdorf and Siemens.  They whole time working on the 280, 480, 600, 655 systems.  Each a successor to the prior system. 


Summer 1974 assembling data scopes and recently introduced data terminals

May 1975 back to work in the wave solder room - a single person hell hole!  If you can imagine, hot greasy, messy, etc.

That didn’t last long when a friend from the board test department started to show me TTL logic diagrams and I soon started troubleshooting circuits boards for many of the boards in the system and terminals down to the component level.

1977 Promoted to group leader of the data terminal assembly line – they wanted a tech to man the department because they were having too many failures in the field on new installs.

1979 Moved on to the ‘staging test dept’ where systems were configured with all the components (except the data terminals) the customer ordered and we would run them through tests, and alignments of tape and disk drives, etc.  let them run a few days before moving them to the shipping dock. 

Aside from the mentioned systems I also got to work on the Nixdorf made systems we sold in the US: 8850 8860 8870 8890

1982 Moved the ‘national support group’ where I provided hardware support for the x80 600s and 8850 systems to the US customers.

1984 Moved to the software side of ‘national support group’ Supporting the DPEX operating system and some DIDOS o.s. DIDOS was the German version of DPEX.

1987 As Unix started to make inroads and customers no longer wanted proprietary systems  DPEX  was ported to UNIX as an application called DCPA.  It ran on Siemens-Nixdorf RM risc based servers and also x86 servers – using SCO Unix, Unixware,

I had a big hand in developing the applications to convert the DPEX- based customer libraries (their editor programs) and data; output it all to tape and read it back into the Unix servers.  There were hundreds of customers that needed this done. 

1998 things started to slow down and they were actually letting people work from home at that time through a dial-up connection.  Colleagues were laid off, etc.  I was able to re-locate to my house.

I actually had two 8850s at my house and an array of Siemens PCs.  X86 servers where shipped to my house for staging, installing DCPA, and creating conversion tapes. 

June 2000  worked slowed and they were looking for volunteers for a lay off. 

Oct start at Lucent which became Alcatel-lucent and then Nokia.  Stayed until let go in Jan. 2018.

About 10 years ago I scrapped all the equipment. 

Please feel free to fire away; I’ll try to answer anything I can.

Have a great day,

From: <robert rooney>
Date: Tue, Apr 12, 2022 at 8:51 AM
Subject: RE: Ex Nixdorf
To: Forgotten Machines


This here are some answers [in BLUE].   

Please email with more questions.  I’d be happy to answer. 

Yes, we can even have a zoom if you want.


So, were you involved when this picture was taken, per chance?

I've requested that the person who owns the Nixdorf report booklet where
this picture was taken, scan a HQ copy for me, without the faces blurred.
Perhaps you might recognize some of your co-workers?

I’ve seen that picture and also wished the faces weren’t blurred out.
Wasn’t that from some one in Eastern Europe, which I thought was very
strange?  It is possible that I may recognize these people, but it also
could have been taken in Germany.   We used to ship system and data terminal
parts by the hundreds every week and they were assembled there.

I also think this photo was from the same site:   I know for a fact this
was from Nixdorf’s manufacturing plant in No. Reading (pronounced Redding),
Mass.  I worked in this area and know the names of the people in the
picture.  It looks like a staged photo for a brochure.

I think this photo was also from the same site:  I recognize people here
too.  I think this was taken in Building 3 in Burlington, Mass.  Before the
move to No. Reading and after Nixdorf purchased Entrex (I see the Nixdorf
logo on the smock in the foreground)  So 1977 – 1982.


So far, we've identified that the Entrex systems had 3 types of terminals
(or key-stations, or "Data/scope" as the documentation calls them)

  • The "In-Desk" Model where the base is counter-sunk into the surface of the table.
Yup, these were being phased out when I came along in 1974.  They are
called ‘data scopes’ and did sit inside the desk.  The pair of boards were
called TB1 and TB2 (Terminal Board) and possibly a third board which may
have been a power supply module; I just don’t remember.  Now that I think of
it, I believe the power supply was in the top of the monitor assembly and
the pair of boards were in the desk .  The monitors were actual small Sony
TVs that we did a slight modification to for use.   I remember we had the
instructions to reverse the modifications and turn them back into a TV.
Customers would send them back for repair and refurbishment.  We had a few
hanging around our area.  Some people even took them home.  But the menu was
burned into the phosphorous.  I don’t think I ever saw one in the desk but I
knew that’s how it was installed.

  • The Tabletop Model
1974 I was assembling these.  By the hundreds.  This was also called the
‘data scope’ but this newer one only had a single large circuit board
installed in the base and called the TB 4.  The base was made of some sort
of iron. I remember them being hefty.  There was a cable that ran from each
data scope all the way back to the system.  They were usually in the same
room.  The system could support up to 32 data scopes.  I think it was the
HEX controller in the system which controlled them.

  • And the newer "Trapezoid" Model:
Around 1977 these were introduced with the newer systems.  They now had an
8080 microprocessor chip in them!  They were daisy chained to one another so
only one cable ran back to the system.   A printer could also be attached to
each terminal – Diablo Hy-Type daisy wheel printers. 

You may have noticed the letters TP written on the id tag.  That stood for
‘terminal package’.   When first released if a customer had  a lightning
strike and a power surge then every one of the I/O boards would blow out.
TP designates that the fix was implemented.  It was a rather large fix.
Imagine 32 keypunchers idle in a sweatshop!  And they got paid by the
keystroke which the OS kept track of.

The controller in the system for the data terminals is called the ‘scanner’
It was the only board in the chassis with two edge connectors on the rear of
the board.  I don’t know why they were there. 

It is only the "in desk" model which we have never seen a real-life example of.
Perhaps they really are all destroyed by now?

A field technician, Barry King, told me that the "in-desk" key stations
(terminals) that I show actually had some of the circuitry in the back of
the pull-out drawer, instead of having it all inside the key
station/terminal housing.  Perhaps not all of it would fit?  Do you recall
anything like this?  While we have acquired several of the later-model
"desktop" key station models, we have never seen in person the "in-desk"
models, so we're unable to make a physical comparison.  But we DO have a
schematic book, which shows 2 different schematic sets for the
keystation/terminals, and the older/earlier schematic set shows 3 different
circuit boards, where the later schematics show only one main board in the
keystation.  All of the keystations we have are with this single master

Which terminal types did you work with the most?

Thankfully we have several examples of both the tabletop models and the
trapezoid models, so we are confident that we can eventually get some of
each style to work.  But there is still much to learn.  Everything you can
remember would be greatly helpful, and we may have more technical questions
if you can recall anything.

For example, the Trapezoid models have boards for Floppy Disk controllers,
and we can see dual 8" floppy drives built into the desk in this
advertisement.  Do you remember anything technical about how these
I do remember that the ‘data terminals’ did have a slot labeled for a
floppy disk but that never happened.  The two boards inside were the
processor and the i/o card.  I think the i/o card was replaced with a
different card if the terminal was on a dial-up line to the system.   What
you see in the picture was Nixdorf answer to Wang’s word processor called
the 8840.  It was a scaled down version of the 480/600 system.  The 8840
chassis only had room for 6

System circuit boards.  Again all based off of the DCC mini (Digital
Computer Controls  later purchased by Data General
http://www.simulogics.com/nostalgia/DCC/dcc.htm  [link dead, now on Archive.org only] )    (sometimes called the NOVA) architecture.  We went on to manufacture our own version of the NOVA MINI by 1977.  The operating system (don’t recall the name of it) but it was
a word processing s/w.  I actually had one at my office desk at one time.
The printer was directly attached to the data terminal at a separate

Software:  I believe the first operating system on the 280s to 480s was
called ADEX.

Then it became DPEX I, II, III, IV and V.

Applications were written in a Cobol-like format called the Editor
language.  Editor was an easy to learn language.  I learned it and loved it.
You could create a basic data entry screen in a mater of a few minutes.
These programs were stored on the system and were called Libraries.  The
libraries consisted of, record formats (screen design), field edits, File
edit, sort programs, command macros, macro procedures, and the Standard Job.
I may have forgot a few and some didn’t exist until much later.   The
standard job linked some of these together and there was no limit to the
number of jobs there could be.


Bob Rooney

No comments:

Post a Comment