I recently picked up what was said to be a Telefunken Telecomp5200 machine in an unknown state. I drew a complete blank when it came to finding out about this machine but the price was right and I though worth a punt. First of all there is a big 70s/80s style terminal but the vendor said that this was the system itself – curious. Then a pair of 8 inch disk drives in an enormous box and an analogue joy stick.
There were also some disks and manuals. My fist suspicion was that there was a computer in the disk drive cabinet and the terminal was just that. The disk cab has a 25 way D-type connector often used as a serial connector on systems of this vintage so it could be possible. However, a quick look inside the case shows that it just contains disk drives and a PSU. Hmmm. At this point I should point out that there is a technical manual but it is in German and I am not.
Next I removed the front cover on the Terminal (labelled Terminal-52 on the back – a VT-52 emulator perhaps?) and revealed a large card cage stuffed with cards, CPU RAM, disk controller etc. A big clue is the name Ontel on most of the cards. Haha, Ontel made 8080 based business computers in the ’80s and ’90s and did OEM deals with the likes of Telefunken. So this is most likely a Telefunken badged Ontel OP-1 but which model? I’ll work it out soon.
Next, time to try powering it up. At this point I didn’t have a cable for the disk drive so that wasn’t in the picture yet, so just the main unit to try. I know that these old systems can get eggy over the years and the capacitors in the PSUs go skywards when pressed so I wasn’t taking any chances.
I put the unit on a stool in the garden before giving it some power. I wasn’t scared of physical harm, I just don’t want my kitchen smelling like someone has died. Anyway, flick a switch, there’s a beep and the fan starts. Whoopee – it’s alive-ish. So far I just get a raster and some vertical lines suggesting the size of the character cell. Not a bad start for kit that’s not been on for 20 years. Having read through a few hastily translated bits of the technical reference manual I felt that I knew enough to try and get the floppy drives connected. I wasn’t given an original cable but looking around the back of the card cage and at the drives themselves it looked likely that they needed a 25 Way cable (the manual didn’t say). What about disk drives? Fingers crossed.
Powering up the drives without the cable seemed OK though they did sit spinning. 5 1/4 drives don’t start until they are needed (usually) but I don’t know what 8 inch drives generally do. Switched everything off. Plugged in a cable. Disks on. Main unit on…. Drive light comes on for a bit and then goes off. Whoopee. This is repeatable 🙂 I have since tried a floopy in the drive and get the same behaviour. I can’t get it to boot but I’m delighted to have got it this far.
Changed the caps.
Next I worked my way through the boards in the card cage replacing the electrolytic capacitors on all of the boards, twenty five in all. It’s quite common for old age to get to them and it won’t do any harm to change them. A little more progress. took a closer look at the Telefunken and noticed a burnt track on the logic board. As it goes under one of the logic chips (4 to 16 line decoder) that chip is going to have to come off in order to repair the track.
I’ve been wondering whether or not the machine should put up a short message on boot up. Mine doesn’t and I don’t know if it’s because its broken or because I don’t have the drives attached. An entry at old-computers.com shows the BIOS as only
occupying 256 bytes or memory, enough to boot from floppy. Would they waste some on “Hello and welcome”?. The Amstrad PCW series doesn’t say anything until it has booted so it is a possibility. Scanning in the manual I have started scanning in the German technical manual. I really need some clues and that seems to be the place to start. The plan is to scan it, OCR it and then translate it into English. So far I have about two thirds scanned. The scanner is part of a Brother MFC-J8250 multi-function scanner/printer/copier. It can scan to PDF file on a memory key and works really well.
I’ve found OCRTools on the Apple App Store which can OCR from a PDF file but not only that. It can also translate from German to English at the same time. An amazing little piece of code. Not only does it work really well but it’s incredibly cheap at just £1.99. Amazing.