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Corestore Collection - IBM System/32 5320 (2)

Yes, the Corestore has aquired another System/32, this one in much better condition than the first!

Serial number 19330

This machine was, presumably, as was often the case, leased: the tag next to the serial number proclaims it to be IBM property.

The System/32, model number 5320 in the IBM scheme of things, was a 1975 followup to the original System/3... seems to have fallen into a black hole in computer history; I'm not aware of anyone else having one in their collection, and there's virtually nothing on the web about them. If there are any other System/32 owners out there, please get in touch!

This chart I found in my Netscape cache (!) illustrates where the System/32 fits into the scheme of things:

9th June 2004... The second System/32 arrives! This machine came from a very nice lady called Loretta in Spokane, Washington. She had used it at work for many years, and when it was retired, she took it home and kept it in her basement! It was powered up regularly, and last used only a year or two ago. Moving house resulted in it becoming an undesirable heirloom, and it was extracted from the basement and placed in a storage unit in spring 2004.

I got to hear about it thanks to an email from Sellam Ismail of VCF fame, a couple of phone calls later the deal was done and I arranged to have it shipped from Spokane to New York (I like System/32s, but not enough to drive one from WA to NY!!!!). It came with a large assortment of disks, user & engineering documentation, some old decks of cards, and even a few odd tools, such a a floppy disk alignment tool. Unfortunately the shipping company (CTS) screwed up big time; it was collected from the storage unit on schedule, but nearly three weeks later, when I called to check the delivery schedule, it was 'discovered' that due to an administrative cock-up it was still in the warehouse in Spokane! Upshot was, the subcontractors at the Spokane end had to pay and arm & a leg for it go to New York by overnight air shipment.

On arrival at the Corestore Reception Facility (my garage). First thing: they didn't pad or protect it in any way, contrary to my instructions. So the right corner of the plastic keyboard surround was smashed and partially torn off. Bad news. Good news was it was insured for the cost of shipping, so the shipping didn't cost me anything at the end of the day! Better news, my first System/32 being such a basket case, I didn't feel bad about stealing the keyboard surrond from it to replace the damaged one. Of course, this means I no longer have two complete (at least cosmetically) System/32s. I also swapped the floppy disk surrounds; the one from my first system was in much better shape.

A quick clean, and the two parts mentioned replaced - *much* better!

Close up of the business end - keyboard, operator panel, printer, CRT.

Part of the impressive collection of documentation & software.

Backplane & harnesses seem to be in excellent shape... does the disk drive.

Other side of the disk drive (which WAS locked for transportation), rear of floppy, and CRT. Area entirely free of possums.

All doors open, PSU section looks equally good.

Closeup of power supplies. To the left, main breaker and, behind panel, the mucking great main transformer which weighs nearly 40lb! (S/32s had different types of power supply; this one is the ferroresonant version).
Behind the panel in the bottom centre is the 'AC board' which contains a small transformer, regulators, and relays. It is what is powered-up by the main breaker; it supplies power to the Power Sequence Card, which controls the power-up and power-down sequences. More on this later. Top centre and right are the 'multi-level' and 'dual-level' power supplies, which drive the logic & printer respectively.

An end-on view of the disk drive.

The CE (customer engineer in IBM-speak) panel.

The CRT mounts vertically; the box structure on top contains a mirror, letting the operator see the face of the CRT.

The printer, a 132-column band printer mechanism. A lighter-duty, slower dot-matrix printer was an option for these machines.

The 33FD floppy drive. 8", single-sided, single-density. A seriously significant device; the first read/write floppy drive to be produced. (its predecessor, the 22FD, was a read-only device used to load microcode on mainframes. There was no requirement for customers to be able to write these disks, they were only written under controlled conditions at IBM plants).

Closeup of the CRT module, and the rear of the FD33. Card to the left of CRT is the Power Sequence Card, which is presently causing me some grief...

Well... it looks good. Does it work? 'Nearly' is the correct answer. There's a power supply issue. For progress see the System/32 restoration page.

UPDATE: May 13th 2006 - a little more work, with the help of Henk Stegeman, and we successfully IPLed the machine at VCF-East 2006:

Henk looking slightly puzzled; we had (and still have) a problem with the printer - it fails to print with a 'printer open' message which doesn't exist, according to the documentation...

Still and all, the main thing is it IPLs, stays up (mostly; we had a couple of thermal checks), responds to the keyboard and runs programs.
Further issues to investigate:

1. The auxilliary +5V supply on the AC board is still bad; the regulator still gets pretty hot, even with no load. Henk suspects a shorted tantalum cap on the board, I tend to agree.
For the time being the machine is running with the auxilliary +5V supplied by an external wall wart power supply.

2. Printer issues - see above.

3. We couldn't IPL from floppy - made a few 'kerchunk' noises and failed with an error message. Either the floppy we were trying to boot was bad, or the drive was. Need to test just reading/writing data disks.

Any other System/32 owners, or former CEs, , *please* get in touch!

There's almost nothing about this machine on the web. is a link to a usenet post on Google which gives a fair bit of information about the machine is an excellent Italian page on the restoration of an IBM 3741 Data Station, a machine with several similarities to the S/32.