Hardware, Restoration

The Story Thus Far: 2018

By Daniel Seagraves on August 22, 2019 2 Comments

Since the early 2000s, I have been working toward making or getting a Lisp Machine. The fact that I did not have any practical experience with Lisp nor had I even seen a Lisp Machine in real life did not seem important at the time. To this end I developed 3 emulators, of which 2 survived to public release.

In September of 2018, following a harrowing recovery from horrendous storage conditions, I received three Lisp Machines in very non-working condition:

Lisp Machines in the driveway

Over the next year, I repaired what I could. The keyboards were thoroughly cleaned:

From this…
…to this!

All of the cables…

They left a ring in the bathtub.

The CADR was unwrapped and cleaned…

The CADR was so rusty the plastic wrap was stained.
It was a real mess.

Despite the horrible storage conditions, the power supply had survived and was tested OK. The machine was powered on, but we found that the bus interface board has issues and the machine needs further diagnosis and repair.

The CADR processor was OK.
This is the CADR’s “power” LED shining through the Lucite backplane cover.
The microprogram counter runs when a boot is initiated…
…but there’s stuck bits when we try to diagnose why it halts.

The Lambdas were in better physical shape. Between the two, one had a dead 5V supply and the other had a failing 12V supply, so the two were combined to make one that worked.

Lambda’s power supply tray.

The diagnostics processor was powered up…

The SDU is alive!

but it failed shortly after, and my spare shortly after that. I’ve stopped trying to run the Lambda until I can diagnose what is murdering my SDUs.

Neither Lambda had a working tape drive; One had a failed power supply, the other had two bad motors. The motors from the first were swapped into the second and a working tape drive was thus created. Neither disk drive worked; One went bang when powered on and the other is an open circuit. Those will probably have to be replaced.

Thus, hardware restoration ground to a halt toward the end of 2018 as test equipment and tools were purchased and the focus shifted to software restoration.

  1. Adrian W. Pasieka Ikane says:

    Lisp machines are back : ).

    Hello Mr Seegraves,

    I want to create a DATA CENTER based on the Lisp machines, which will be
    ultimately connected with the LEO-6G satellites using the Chaosnet
    protocols among the IOT-s.

    We need a school for the Lisp programmers:


    I am currently based in Poland, and this is for a reason, because we
    need to employ PROGRAMMERS, SCIENTISTS etc. who are available in Poland.

    And they are not available in the USA, where everybody wants to work for
    the Google or at the MIT etc.

    The IPO itself will take place in the USA, but we can achieve much more
    in Poland in terms of the R&D and the LEO-6G manufacturing, moving with
    a really high-tech part to work for DARPA, NASA in the United States.


    Would You know where to get the Lisp machines from, to run the LM-3 system on them?


    I realize that we are talking about an “ancient” technology, we would
    upgrade everything, including the software, but to have the working
    versions make all much easier, than starting from scratch.

    Maybe You could help.

    • Bogodyne is not related to the LM-3 project. We are based in the United States, so I am not aware of any lisp machine hardware available in Poland. Our system will eventually run natively on commodity hardware, but I don’t expect to have anything releasable for at least the next six months.

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