Restoring a Tulip System 1 (8086 PC clone) to its former glory

Discussion about old PC hardware.

Restoring a Tulip System 1 (8086 PC clone) to its former glory

Postby BogdanV » 2017-12-05 @ 23:12

Hello World!

tl;dr
So, what I'd like to ask is - if anyone has any knowledge, material, information about the Tulip System 1 or could get me in contact with someone that owns a Tulip System 1, that would help me a ton!
Right now I'm struggling to get floppy drive support working and I'm working blind here - I have no idea if my floppy drive jumpers are set correctly for use with the Tulip or if my adapter cable has to be a Shugart50-Shugart34 adapter indeed.

Getting this system to boot once more in 27 years would be a dream come true for me!


Its been a long time since I've posted in a forum but where are my manners, introductions are in order.
I used to be quite active on BetaArchive, doing all sorts of silly hacks such as porting NT4's explorer shell over on Vista.
I was also quite active in the C&C modding scene trying to recreate the ill fated Renegade 2 shooter based on Red Alert 2.

Apart from that, I've always been fascinated by computing history both on a software (hence BetaArchive) and hardware level.

Now for the topic at hand.
13323350_1116576425065422_5861762752678099487_o.jpg
Tulip System 1

I have this Tulip System 1 computer which was a Dutch donation to the Romanian Institute for Electronics Research (ICE) back in the '80s during Communism.
My father was a researcher at the Institute up until the late 90's when chronic lack of funds and corruption closed it for good.

This 8080-based clone was my first ever contact with the world of computing.
I loved spending time in my dad's office, it felt like being in Dexter's Laboratory but this computer was the highlight of that place!

Eventually, rough times came for the Institute and my father had to quit his job. While clearing office, I did everything a 6 year old could do in his power to convince my father to save the Tulip.
I hauled the entire system, piece by piece myself to make sure that the Tulip did not go to scrap.

Unfortunately, by the time I salvaged the computer from the Institute, it was no longer in a functional state: The PSU was cannibalized for parts and other projects and the dual floppy unit was missing its data cable.
After I salvaged that computer, I made a solemn vow that one day I will learn hard and gain enough knowledge to bring the Tulip back to life.

19264476_1521071271282600_2860483354646743794_o.jpg
On the operating table...err, floor

In 2012, before leaving to study Games Design in UK, I took a multimeter, a pen and paper and started mapping the motherboard's power connector pins to the VCC of known ICs in order to create a PSU for the system.
With help from my father and an oscilloscope, we managed to figure out the video output connector in order to create a video cable to hook the Tulip to the green monochrome monitor we had.
And the beast came back to life!
19390658_1524024970987230_4657414003821014889_o.jpg
Its alive!


After finishing Uni in 2016, I returned home and got back to my Tulip to restore it.
Unfortunately, its ROM contained no more than a system loader and monitor and I still had no functional floppy drive.
A boot entry in the system labeled "Boot MS-DOS from EEPROM" led me on a wild goose chase looking for an MS-DOS boot header through its EPROM chips with no results.

Eventually, I realized that the only way to get the Tulip to boot is by getting the floppy drive unit operational.
Now, here I had several problems.
The Tulip came with a dual 5" floppy drive unit... and the data cable was long lost to the Kraken.
To complicate things further, the floppy drives were Mitsubishi M4853 drives - Shugart-34 compatible.
The Tulip motherboard however, had a 50 pin floppy drive connector.

I made an educated guess then and assumed that the floppy connector on the Tulip motherboard was Shugart-50 compatible in order to maintain backwards compatibility with 8" floppy drives.
With this in mind, I then proceeded to create a Shugart-34 to Shugart-50 adapter cable which was an exercise in patience hahaha.

I got a hold of a PC-compatible 5" floppy drive that I hooked up to my trusty Socket 7 computer and wrote some MS-DOS 3.3 images on floppies for the Tulip.
I've hooked my Shugart-34 drive to the Tulip, inserted the MS-DOS floppy in it, powered on the computer and... "no disk found in floppy drive".

Messing around with the jumper settings on the floppy drive led me nowhere. I have a ton of 5" drives laying around so I tried different drives as well. No change.
Made sure the drive was clean, the contacts were clean... nothing.

Which brings me to the present day.

I've registered on this forum and shared with you this long personal story because I've noticed several mentions of the Tulip brand around here.
What I did up until now was pretty much solo work as I have no documentation or schematics and the only useful thing I could find up until now is a Dutch Tulip club and I have absolutely no knowledge of Dutch.

So, what I'd like to ask is - if anyone has any knowledge, material, information about the Tulip System 1 or could get me in contact with someone that owns a Tulip System 1, that would help me a ton!
Right now I'm struggling to get floppy drive support working and I'm working blind here - I have no idea if my floppy drive jumpers are set correctly for use with the Tulip or if my adapter cable has to be a Shugart50-Shugart34 adapter indeed.

Getting this system to boot once more in 27 years would be a dream come true for me!
Tulip System 1
Compaq Contura Aero 4/33

https://github.com/QuadlessPyjack/CanisMajoris
Open Source 3D Game Engine built using only spit and a 2D graphics library :)
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Re: Restoring a Tulip System 1 (8086 PC clone) to its former glory

Postby Predator99 » 2017-12-06 @ 10:34

Nice story and nice computer!
I am not familiar with this hardware. If you dont get the floppy running...what other connectors do you have (serial, parallel..?). Is there a socket for an option ROM? Maybe you can use XT-IDE with a serial drive?
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Re: Restoring a Tulip System 1 (8086 PC clone) to its former glory

Postby BogdanV » 2017-12-06 @ 10:59

Maybe you can use XT-IDE with a serial drive?

Unfortunately there are no ISA connectors on this board (so, I guess that doesn't make it a perfect clone). The form factor wouldn't allow it to be fair.

If you dont get the floppy running...what other connectors do you have (serial, parallel..?)

Well, there's serial and parallel support and a SASI port as well.

Previously I tried to boot from SASI using SCSI2SD (specifically, this one: http://amigakit.amiga.store/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=27&products_id=1264) plugged into the SASI port with a SCSI-1 cable.
I gambled that there was enough compatibility between the standards for this to work but nothing happened.

As for an option ROM... not that I know of. There is a character ROM which was meant to be replaceable but that's about it.
The fact that the loader has the "Boot MS-DOS from EEPROM" entry would suggest such a thing. Perhaps it came in a later revision or was never implemented, no idea. Unless there are contact points for an option ROM on the PCB so I could solder one myself, I doubt I can do much here.

There also seems to be an option for network boot (probably for connecting to a mainframe) but whatever connector was used is missing from the board (I presume it must've been a token-ring network, no idea).

I guess I could try to find a SCSI-1 hdd and see if I can get it to boot from that.
Tulip System 1
Compaq Contura Aero 4/33

https://github.com/QuadlessPyjack/CanisMajoris
Open Source 3D Game Engine built using only spit and a 2D graphics library :)
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Re: Restoring a Tulip System 1 (8086 PC clone) to its former glory

Postby Predator99 » 2017-12-06 @ 12:00

You dont need ISA. XTIDE has a feature to boot from a virtual drive via the serial port, but I never tried it.

I think its a good way to move forward with a BIOS extension.

I did not fully understand yet whre the message ""Boot MS-DOS from EEPROM"" appears? Is it displayed on the screen?

Did you make an image file of the BIOS? How large is it? Maybe you can - if there is some free space - include some additional code in the existing EEPROM?
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Re: Restoring a Tulip System 1 (8086 PC clone) to its former glory

Postby BogdanV » 2017-12-06 @ 12:52

Aaah, you're talking about the XTIDE Universal BIOS. Only knew about an ISA adapter card, didn't know they made a BIOS extension, that's awesome!
As for the message, the Tulip loads a startup program called "monitor" from ROM. This monitor offers a prompt with a limited set of commands. One of them displays a list of boot options. My bad, the option stated "Boot from EEPROM", there was no mention of MS-DOS there.

As for the BIOS, I have dumped the contents of each EEPROM to files when I flashed a set of backup chips. The dumps were all 4K in size apart from a single one which was 8K.
I think I used 16K EEPROMs when I copied the original memories so, in theory there should be anywhere between 8 to 12K available for flashing extra data.

Unfortunately, I have no idea how to create a custom ROM. If I were to go down that route, I'd probably need to do two things:
- fit a BASIC interpreter (maybe even CP/M? no idea if it would fit) at a known offset in the EEPROM
- extend the BIOS with a call to jump execution to the memory address where the interpreter/OS I flashed is
Or, would there be some way to analyze the dumps and see what does that "Boot from EEPROM" actually do? Like I said, I have no idea how to convert that binary data into assembly or something I can understand. I'd like to try though, sounds like an interesting project in and of itself.

I could also try to see if I can boot from SASI before attempting to mod the BIOS.
I'm not sure however if installing MS-DOS 3.3 inside QEmu and writing that image to a suitable HDD would work.
Tulip System 1
Compaq Contura Aero 4/33

https://github.com/QuadlessPyjack/CanisMajoris
Open Source 3D Game Engine built using only spit and a 2D graphics library :)
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Re: Restoring a Tulip System 1 (8086 PC clone) to its former glory

Postby Predator99 » 2017-12-06 @ 13:19

Exactly, XTIDE Universal BIOS. Its 8k in size for its Basic version. Maybe you can also use something else, dont know what is available.

I assume your Board can only access the data on the Original chips, so your EEPROM with additional space might be useless.
Maybe the single 8k chips contains this boot menu and can be replaced? You should try to power on without it and see what happens?

Yes, my idea would also be to include the XTIDE (or whatever) code somewhere and modify the original BIOS with a far jump to it (in case it isnt detected and initialized as option rom).

Can you post the eeprom-images? Maybe I have some time to take a look at it...but cannot promise.

Can you also post detailed photos of the mainboard (SCSI connector + chip; BIOS ROM and spare sockets) and a screenshot of the boot menu?
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Re: Restoring a Tulip System 1 (8086 PC clone) to its former glory

Postby Jo22 » 2017-12-06 @ 13:38

Cool machine and story! :cool: I wonder if this PC is an MS-DOS computer or an PC compatible.
Wikipedia says there once was a rudimentary IBM-BIOS-emulator..

Edit: Seems it has got a NEC 7220 CRTC installed, too. That's really cool!
It's way better than the typical Motorola 6845 that was used for CGA. ^^
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Re: Restoring a Tulip System 1 (8086 PC clone) to its former glory

Postby BogdanV » 2017-12-06 @ 14:43

I'm currently at the office but you can have a look over at the Nightfallcrew folks.
I just stumbled upon the work they did with their Tulip last year after I've already mapped the video-out signals haha.
Tried contacting them but no dice.

Anyway, their unit is identical to mine, so are the ROM dumps attached in that blog post (same version of the "Monitor" program at boot anyway).

http://www.nightfallcrew.com/24/05/2016/tulip-computers-compudata-tulip-system-1/
Tulip System 1
Compaq Contura Aero 4/33

https://github.com/QuadlessPyjack/CanisMajoris
Open Source 3D Game Engine built using only spit and a 2D graphics library :)
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Re: Restoring a Tulip System 1 (8086 PC clone) to its former glory

Postby Predator99 » 2017-12-06 @ 17:11

Took a quick look at this. The BIOS image are the 15 and 16 Files (Lo+HI). Combined you get the attached. Execution starts with

F000:FFF0 JMP FE00:03E2

But menu seems to be included here

Code: Select all
[i]B - Breakpoint
C - Copy
D - Dump
E - Eprom boot
H - Help
I - Input
J - Jump
M - Memory test
N - Network boot
O - Output
R - Read seg:off trk side sctr drive 5/8 r
S - Set
ESC - Load operating system
_
TULIP SYSTEM I
(c) COMPUDATA SYSTEMS_
Monitor version 1.31

RAM available until address: _
Bad RAM_
Try again_
No valid command_
Value error_   


**** WARNING : RAM ERROR DETECTED ! ****
_
Disk unit not ready_
Record not found_
Lost data_
CRC error_

Loading operating system _
No loader present on disk_from 5.25"_from 8"_from hard disk_______CDATA2.0
[/i]

In the other 2 Files (1+3) I do not see any meaningful data, so maybe this can be used as option ROM? You should try to start the Computer only with the 15+16 Chips installed and see if you can replace the other 2.
Attachments
TULIP LH.zip
(4.87 KiB) Downloaded 7 times
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Re: Restoring a Tulip System 1 (8086 PC clone) to its former glory

Postby Kamerat » 2017-12-06 @ 18:21

BogdanV wrote:I got a hold of a PC-compatible 5" floppy drive that I hooked up to my trusty Socket 7 computer and wrote some MS-DOS 3.3 images on floppies for the Tulip.
I've hooked my Shugart-34 drive to the Tulip, inserted the MS-DOS floppy in it, powered on the computer and... "no disk found in floppy drive".

Messing around with the jumper settings on the floppy drive led me nowhere. I have a ton of 5" drives laying around so I tried different drives as well. No change.
Made sure the drive was clean, the contacts were clean... nothing.

Did the floppy drive show any kind of activity? I wonder because of what I read at nightfallcrew, but I guess you allready took that in account that it uses different number of sectors on the disk.
nightfallcrew wrote:It included a SASI hard disk interface (a predecessor of the SCSI-standard) and was optionally delivered with a 5 MB or 10 MB hard disk. The floppy disk size was 400 KB (10 sectors, instead of 8 or 9 with the IBM PC) or 800kb (80 tracks).
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Re: Restoring a Tulip System 1 (8086 PC clone) to its former glory

Postby Megantonneke » 2018-1-06 @ 16:42

Hi there, I was doing some research on Tulip computers and came across this thread. As a dutch native speaker I already read parts of the former Tulip usergroup website. In their download section there is this system1.zip file with a lot of background on the system I in dutch. I read it and there are some thing I would like point out as they seems relevant for this thread. I hope its help.

First of all the system I is not fully IBM compatible (different interrupt structure) this is reflected in the need for:

PROGRUN.SYS to able to run certain IBM compatible programs.
It uses ANSI.EXE which differs from IBM ANSI.sys

but more interestingly the system I can only read and write IBM compatible (360Kb) floppies using:
IBMDRV.SYS. It is not able to format them to IBM format.

Kamerat already quoted:

nightfallcrew wrote:
It included a SASI hard disk interface (a predecessor of the SCSI-standard) and was optionally delivered with a 5 MB or 10 MB hard disk. The floppy disk size was 400 KB (10 sectors, instead of 8 or 9 with the IBM PC) or 800kb (80 tracks).


So it seems that the tulip system I requires a 400 KB 10 sector formatted system/start-up disk. Officially only DOS 2.0 was supported but there are modified versions of DOS 2.10 and 3.10 made by users.

The EPROMS in left bottom corner of the motherboard (PSU in left top corner) are only for the different text and graphic character sets.

I hope this is useful, I which much succes with reviving this piece of computer history!
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Re: Restoring a Tulip System 1 (8086 PC clone) to its former glory

Postby iamcamiel » 2018-1-19 @ 13:57

BogdanV wrote:Eventually, I realized that the only way to get the Tulip to boot is by getting the floppy drive unit operational.
Now, here I had several problems.
The Tulip came with a dual 5" floppy drive unit... and the data cable was long lost to the Kraken.
To complicate things further, the floppy drives were Mitsubishi M4853 drives - Shugart-34 compatible.
The Tulip motherboard however, had a 50 pin floppy drive connector.

I made an educated guess then and assumed that the floppy connector on the Tulip motherboard was Shugart-50 compatible in order to maintain backwards compatibility with 8" floppy drives.
With this in mind, I then proceeded to create a Shugart-34 to Shugart-50 adapter cable which was an exercise in patience hahaha.


Your educated guess was off ;-) I have a Tulip system 1 with working floppy drives, and the cable to the computer is a 34 conductor one; on the 50 pin connector on the main board, pins 1-16 are not used, and then it's straightforward, so pin 1 from the cable goes to pin 17 on the connector.

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