DEC VaxStation 2000 / MicroVax 2000

VaxStation 2000

About 5 minutes after I touched my first computer, I lusted after the VAX. VAX machines created by Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC) were, and still are, the machines everyone thinks of when you say the word "mainframe". early VAX machines fill entire rooms, and many are running to this day.

VAX is an acronym meaning "Virtual Address eXtension", and was a name that came from the huge virtual address space the machine could make use of -- though with todays machines addressing gigabytes of RAM, the prowess of the VAX is debatable. Nevertheless, if you were connected to a VAX in 1980, you had access to virtually unlimited resources.

Introduced in January 1987, the Vaxstation 2000 / MicroVAX 2000 was the first "home use" VAX, produced for Universities or for VAX programmers who wanted to work from home. Don't be fooled by the small dimensions of the case, the machine is surprisingly heavy -- so they built in a carry handle on the back of the unit.

VaxStation 2000 Hardware Info

Relative Performance x VAX-11/780 (1 MIP)0.9
Number of Processors1
Maximum Memory Support 14 MB
2MB on Main Board
other RAM available via expansion board
Memory TypeParity
Mass-storage Capacity
Max. Local 4 Port Disk ControllersN/A
Max. Local Disk Capacity318 MB
I/O Bus Capacity
Max I/O Throughput 3.3 MB/s
LAN SupportOptional
Ethernet AdaptersOptional
BNC Ethernet connector on rear
Ethernet VAXcluster System SupportOptional
System Software OptionsVMS
Processor Features
Floating Point AcceleratorStandard
Floating Point Data TypesF, D, G, H

The VaxStation2000 can hold a single 5.25" full height MFM Hard Drive, which appears to take up half the machine's entire size. A program to format the drive is contained in the machine's ROM, a feature unique to this machine over all other VAXen. The formatter is present under the TEST 70 command.

This information from the VaxArchive:
It is very useful to have a VS2000 around, if only to format hard disks with.
For a MFM hard disk to work in a MicroVAX it must have a very peculiar format
written to it. The VS2000 and the Q-bus RQDX3 controller for the MicroVAX II
et al require this format to be present.

The VS2000 is the only DEC device that can write this format without expensive,
hard-to-get software: the formatter is present in the VS2000 ROM under the
TEST 70 command.

If the formatting of a disk you are using on a RQDX controller is damaged,
you can format the disk in a VS2000 and hook it back up to the RQDX controller,
the disk will work like new.

Click on this link to read how to format a disk in the VS2000.

Here's the rear of the machine, showing the handle for carrying, and the BNC connector for the ethernet. Also visible is the fan for the power supply. And where are the connectors, you ask? They are under the "lip" of the top section of where the handle unfolds towards. They are essentially hidden from view unless you tip the machine slightly when looking at it from the rear.

And here are the ports: this shot was taken through the carrying handle with the machine tipped onto it's face. What you'll see, from left to right is a DB25, a DB15, and a DB9 port, and a reset button. Now for the fun part. Though each port technically performs a different function, each port is also actually a serial port as well, and each port could (theoretically) have a terminal hooked to it.

The DB15 contains two different serial ports, as it functions as a combination Keyboard/Mouse connector (this machine uses the same keyboard as any DEC terminal). This same DB15 also carries the video out to the monitor. Hooking everything up to it is an unusual experience -- the monitor cable has connections in it for the mouse and keyboard, and then that all plugs into the DB15.

Hidden from view inside the machine is a SCSI connector, which is, as I understand it, really only useful for a tape drive, it's supposedly incapable of running a HD. Inside is also an expansion disk connector, and a few other connectors about which I don't have complete information on yet.

I have not yet loaded an OS onto my machine, mostly because I lack the desk space for it right now -- so many other computers populate my small apartment that it's difficult to find a place for everything!

VaxStation 2000 Hardware Links

VS 2000 Hardware Info
Vax Archive
VS 2000 info and documentation
VS 2000 Details
Please note that this page is still in progress. I've barely scratched the surface here, I'm just trying to get all my materials organized. Thanks for bearing with me!