Subject: Re: Portable Vax :-)
To: None <port-vax@NetBSD.ORG>
From: John Wilson <>
List: port-vax
Date: 08/24/2005 12:22:01
From: "Schwerzmann, Stephan" <>


Hey that looks familiar!  Ages ago I worked for a company that did
3100-to-suitcase conversions.  This was Fornax Computer Corporation, in
Ewing NJ.  The 3100 job was before my time, we did prototypes for a VAX
4000 conversion while I was there -- I designed the 5V-to-3.3V regulator
board since 3.3V PSUs were still rare at the time and DEC's own PSU was
way too big, and I also did a smaller replacement for the halt/squeaker
daughterboard (which hangs off the corner) so the VAX's footprint would
fit inside the suitcase.  Unfortunately the customer for the 4000s (Dowell
Schlumberger) got understandably impatient with us (we were bogged down in
other work and the prototype took way longer than it should have) and the
deal never happened, too bad because they wanted 200 of them.

I was really impressed by some of the details.  The boss (we were a 3-person
company) was into trading favors with other small shops, and knew a sheet
metal shop that did all the metalwork including some very nice aluminum
mounting frames for the main PCB (with a square grid punched everywhere for
cooling, the edges folded up to match the shape of the board, and mounting
holes in exactly the right places).  And he got power harnesses made up
(that shop did a very nice job of copying my homemade rat's nest into
something really snazzy, with DEC's color scheme and everything tightly
bundled and just the right length).

The three little cooling fans had thermistors so they weren't too noisy.
The port labeling was just P-Touch labels (looks like that didn't last
in this one), jeez I don't think the suitcases even said "Fornax" on them
anywhere, and there were straps inside the lid of the suitcase to hold a
laptop which acted as the console.  Their main purpose was supposed to be
network troubleshooting, if I remember right.

I still have my Fornax pocket protector around here somewhere...

John Wilson
D Bit