Data General AViiON AV/530

AViiON logo The Data General AV/530 is a deskside tower workstation with a video framebuffer supporting 8-bit color at 1280x1024 resolution on a huge, fixed-frequency 20" color DG monitor or a 21" fixed-frequency grayscale DG monitor. This machine came to me with half the RAM slots populated and a single CPU card with a Motorola 88100 RISC CPUs running at 33 MHz, a Tandberg QIC drive and a 300 MB SCSI HDD. I started with two of these, but the I/O board died on the second (a common failure mode of this model) so I transplanted its RAM and CPU card to this machine, more or less doubling its capacity. I also added more HDDs as the operating system itself occupied most of the 300 MB disk.


I used this machine as my home desktop computer for a number of years in the mid '90s for its ample HDDs and 128 MiB RAM, huge monitor, backup tape drive and network interface. It replaced my 33 MHz '486 desktop with a 15" monitor and 16 MiB RAM — an amazing upgrade! Better still, as a dumpster rescue, it cost me nothing. Eventually PC performance, storage and price overtook the utility of this recycled computer. Once I figured out how to drive the huge fixed-frequency monitor from a Matrox video card in a dual-chip Intel Celeron PC overclocked to 550 MHz, the AViiON began its life as a full-time museum exhibit.

The second AV/530 noted above served as my original WolfeDen.Org Internet server, co-located at my ISP until it suffered a catastrophic hardware failure.

Like the AV/4000 this AV/530 suffered a loss of its boot firmware when the allegedly non-volatile boot memory battery failed. My recovery attempts did not succeed. I have long considered replacing the innards the chassis of this AViiON's twin with a modern PC motherboard or filling it with a cluster of embedded Arm boards. I prefer to rack mount my main desktop PC with audio components and a UPS, so this tall tower is an inconvenient form factor for regular use.

A NetBSD port to m88k AViiONs started while I was actively using these machines. If they were still functional I might see how I could help. Instead I offered as much of the documentation I had in three-ring binders.

Instead, I ran the only operating system available at the time: DG/UX 5.4R3.00. This was a port of the genuine AT&T Unix System 5 Release 4 to the m88k AViiON platform. Data General also provided a GCC 1.42 toolchain, X11 and Motif development libraries, their own volume management software (including RAID 0-5) and I also had an install tape for an early version of FrameMaker for DG/UX that came with the machines. (Even Frame' from the 1980s is superior to modern MS Word in most ways despite its awkward UI.) It provided a valuable education and comparison of SVR4, the pinnacle of commercial Unix.