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Quick Look at the AT&T 6300 PC (1984) with Lots of Photos

Why a quick look at what first glance resembles a generic IBM PC clone? Well, the reality is, this clone has a few special elements that you might find interesting. With IBM romping in the professional PC market since late 1981, it was only a matter of time before some other big companies would want a piece of the business pie. Enter AT&T, the powerhouse behind UNIX and C, and oh yes, the monopolistic phone company, who started their own rumblings in the industry when it was rumored that they would soon be entering with a stunning new mystery system or two. It turns out that instead of coming out with something truly radical, they merely decided to one-up the original IBM PC, with a faster processor (the 16-bit 8086 at 8Mhz versus 8/16-bit 8088 at 4.7 Mhz), extra proprietary 16-bit expansion slots and a built-in combination monochrome and color graphics adapter (versus one or the other). In reality, this was a rebranded Olivetti M24, a highly compatible IBM PC clone from Italy. The only area where it definitely wasn't compatible was in its ability to use IBM PC memory because of the Olivetti/AT&T's higher processor speed. It even passed the difficult "Microsoft Flight Simulator" test with flying colors, something that not every clone could say. AT&T's system could come with either a monochrome or color monitor and either two 5.25" 360K floppy disk drives or one 5.25" floppy disk drive and a hard drive.

With some of the preliminaries out of the way, let's take a look at the system in hand and some of its features:
[NOTE: I took the lazy way out tonight and didn't bother to do any photo corrections since the only purpose of all this was just to do an initial test of the system.]
After taking the system, monitor, keyboard, manuals and software out of the boxes, I cleaned everything up quickly, noting that when it was sent to me, the keyboard was smashed.
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This is the CPU. It's actually quite heavy. Apparently while its dimensions are significantly smaller than the IBM PC, it weighs about the same. I can vouch for that! That's one of the reasons why the keyboard got smashed - the seller put it right up against the heavy CPU in the box! As you can see it has the two 5.25" disk drives and to the bottom lower right is the reset button and power on indicator light.
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Right side with a mystery case cover slot near the bottom right.

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Left side.
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Rear. Note the generous fan. Bottom left is the proprietary keyboard connection. The first far left expansion card I noticed later on is the modem (possibly 1200-baud - I don't know), followed by a dual game port card, followed by the built-in (no slot) proprietary display connection on the far right, which both drives and powers the monitor. On the bottom, from right to left, are serial and parallel ports.
First things first, and that's to open this up and see what's going on inside before we plug it in. Supposedly flipping the CPU upside down and removing that cover gives you access to the motherboard. I'm not going to bother with that as I just want access to the top side.
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It took some effort and the two rear holding screws weren't in right, but I figured out how to slide the lid off. Nice! It's actually pretty clean inside, with minimal dust. It's very sparsely populated as you can see, with just the two after-market cards (modem and gameports).
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Note the Olivetti branding on the inside
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I closed it back up, taking more care than the previous owner with resetting the case properly and making sure the screws lock into place. Note the bag of smashed keyboard bits and mystery cover, the latter of which I can find no match for.

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I take the monitor and plug it in.
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Yep, just the one cord that does everything. This is a monochrome monitor. I was hoping it was black and white and would have shades of grey since it's displaying a color signal in monochrome, but it is a green monitor and has shades of green. Maybe someday I'll track down the proprietary color monitor. The tilt base was actually quite progressive for 1984.
The infamous keyboard with its aforementioned damage. It's not too bad actually, but disappointing nonetheless. I don't know what the mystery port on the thing is and can't seem to track down any info in my documentation. Perhaps it's for a serial mouse? The keyboard layout is pretty much exactly the same as the original IBM PC by the way, with the function keys along the side, which helps even more with early compatibility.
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Not bad, with only three connections for everything.

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The binders it came with, again, very much like the original IBM PC. The only original software this seems to come with is the test disk. Otherwise the rest of the software is mostly copies and generic to any PC compatible. The blue book in the lower left is a kind of newbie's guide to the system and I've had it for years. I finally have a mate for that book!
Time to turn it on.
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Obviously without a disk in the drive, it has nothing to boot to, especially without a hard drive. I noticed in the books that came with this that the previous owner did a BIOS upgrade from 1985 in 1989. He also obviously upgraded the RAM from 128K to the max of 640K.
Interestingly, the disk drives have what at first I thought were read/write protection sliders, but in reality, it just locks the drive door when the red is showing.
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A closer look at the on light and reset button.
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The lights on the keyboard flash red when the system first starts, then they turn off.
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The page from the aforementioned ROM BIOS update.
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I grab what looks like a good candidate for a boot disk and restart the system.
No dice. Hopefully it's just a bad disk and not a bad drive. I grab a Gabriel Knight boot disk from the box and try that.
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Hmm, I wonder if the previous owner had a hard drive in here or externally that he removed?
I try another disk, this one hand labeled as an updated DOS 2.11.
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Success! So at least drive A works.
I grab the disk for Where in the USA is Carmen San Diego (an original) and put it in Drive B.
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That drive works too.
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So overall an uninteresting test that doesn't really get at the system's personality, but at least it was a successful test.

I do have lots of miscellaneous old PC boards that I can try to work into this system at some point:
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Note the similarity to how IBM packaged their software.
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And the similarity of the better built and more responsive original IBM keyboard.
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Comments

Bill Loguidice's picture

RESTORED COMMENTS FROM GOOGLE CACHE

NOTE: Only Page 1 of two pages of content was able to be restored.

"If it weren't the aforementioned keyboard incident, my first response at looking at this would be "rugged." Man, they weren't kidding around when they build these things. Still, I am surprised that AT&T didn't come up with something more original or innovative. I'm constantly coming across that part about how their people came up with C and so on; clearly they did have the talent there for great things.

It's interesting how you're able to "reverse engineer" what people did as far as upgrading and modifying their systems go. It's rather like detective work, especially when you find oddly named chips and the like (thinking of your earlier review of the Bally). I'm guessing you're buying these not from the original owners?"

"Matt Barton wrote:
If it weren't the aforementioned keyboard incident, my first response at looking at this would be "rugged." Man, they weren't kidding around when they build these things. Still, I am surprised that AT&T didn't come up with something more original or innovative. I'm constantly coming across that part about how their people came up with C and so on; clearly they did have the talent there for great things.

It's interesting how you're able to "reverse engineer" what people did as far as upgrading and modifying their systems go. It's rather like detective work, especially when you find oddly named chips and the like (thinking of your earlier review of the Bally). I'm guessing you're buying these not from the original owners?

That seems to be the case, yeah. Often these sellers don't know much, if anything, about what they're selling. Obviously you try to find out as much as you can from them, but often-times you take a chance and bid or offer $$$ appropriately. Certainly something fully tested and documented is worth a lot more than something that is not. It seems clear that in the case of this AT&T, the original owner took very good care of it and knew what he/she was doing, right down to doing that ROM BIOS upgrade. It's also clear that this system had a hard drive associated with it at some point, either internal or external, but it's impossible to know what ever happened to it or whether this was reverted back as a spare during the original not-to-me sale. Certainly there are few like me who either had the forethought or opportunity to keep what they originally owned (not to mention maintaining the interest in it still). There were many times when my dad threatened to throw my stuff out. Certainly there was a lot I lost over the years to sales, trash or misplacement, but luckily there was some I was able to keep that was original to me. Now I have the opportunity to keep it all safe and sound, at least as long as we're able to afford this house (darn taxes are now over $9000 per year!).

The "reverse engineering" is definitely a lot of fun, as you can often find out fun things about a particular system. That C-128DCR I have is like that as well, since it already had a fan upgrade. I further upgraded it with switched JiffyDOS, so whoever gets it after I kick the bucket will have fun with that assuming it still works... There are quite a few other systems, both computer and videogame, that I still need to go through and investigate. It will only be a matter of time. Next thing I'm going to post about is my boxed computer software collection, which should be fun. I want to take requests once I get that posted and focus a bit on software for a while.

The AT&T engineers (and Bell Labs for that matter) definitely have a storied history as it relates to computing, much like Xerox. And much like Xerox they ultimately watched others capitalize on their early breakthroughs. I suppose the same can be said for IBM, as they're mostly in services these days, competing with a wide range of companies, including the last two that I've worked for."

"Olivetti was quite a big brand in the Netherlands, I can actually remember some workplace where we used this particular system.
But what are you going to do with it Bill?"

"Mark Vergeer wrote:

But what are you going to do with it Bill?

Good question. Beyond its few interesting characteristics, what were the reasons for me acquiring it? The fact that it's a high compatibility early clone is certainly one factor, though a small one. I have an original IBM 5150 PC and the original IBM Transportable, as well as several PCjr's, including one with a compatibility expansion system, so I'm more than set for early systems and the desire to run original software on the "real thing". The AT&T, with its enhanced speed is a good next step to run and test certain software applications and hardware scenarios prior to 286 and above systems. I also think it will be a very good CP/M-86 system, when I get around to monkeying with that. It will be particularly useful if I ever get the color monitor option or a hard drive (preferably external to keep it original). Also, as can be seen in the photos, I have a lot of unused ISA cards that can find a home in the AT&T and various other PC's. Regardless, I don't plan on getting any other clone systems regardless of vintage, as I have more than I'll ever need that are Pentium-class and above, and prior to 286 (I also have a few systems in the Tandy 1000 class, which are also fine mid-tier machines and were originally envisioned as PCjr compatibles). I may at some point get a Micro-Channel IBM and may eventually grab my in-laws old Gateway 486 PC, but obviously there is no particular rush or priority. I also have a few MS-DOS systems that are not IBM PC compatibles, like the Heath/Zenith Z-100 and Otrona Attache 8/16 (which also does native CP/M). The only other one in that class that really intrigues is the TI Professional, so that might be a future acquisition if the opportunity presents itself. Overall, the bottom line is always what interesting software I can run or things I can do. The more generic the system, the less interest and use it has. The AT&T certainly straddles that line, but obviously just made it to the "interest" side."

"Ah, this is what I was looking for: http://atarimagazines.planetmirror.com/creative/v11n6/32_ATampT_6300_cla...

A $150 mouse! And that's not even in today's dollars, which would be close to $300!"

"I routinely get the name confused with the AT&T 3B2. The 3B2 was a unix workstation."

"cdoty wrote:
I routinely get the name confused with the AT&T 3B2. The 3B2 was a unix workstation.

Supposedly the 6300 could run UNIX (Xenix), but I'm not sure if my particular configuration is capable (though I'd love to try). I've only used UNIX once for a few years in my life, and that was SCO UNIX System V on a Compaq server when I was a UNIX admin along with being a Technical Writer, among other things, at this one job I had in the mid-90's. It was horrible, obviously, to someone used to thing like DOS and Windows and all the other more traditional desktop operating systems. Outside of the command line, I primarily used WordPerfect 5.1 on it, which was functionally the same as the DOS version. That was also horrible to someone now used to windowing applications (at the time, Amiga and Windows), though I did eventually get the hang of the command structure out of necessity, writing thousands of documents with it. I always wished it had the X-Windows system on it, as I believe our license then allowed for that, but alas, it was pure text-based UNIX for us..."

"PINE

Do you remember PINE? Lol, that was one of my favorites."

"Matt Barton wrote:
Do you remember PINE? Lol, that was one of my favorites.

No, but there was something very similar - and hardly used - for internal office e-mails back in that same office I was in. Ugh. Our network was a mixed LANtastic network with DOS, UNIX and some Windows machines. Anyone remember LANtastic? Horrible times, with complex text files to configure the network that no one could really decipher. Things have become infinitely simpler now where even a novice can set up a fairly elaborate network, both wired and wireless, that does all sorts of nifty things. "
"Bill Loguidice wrote:
Horrible times, with complex text files to configure the network that no one could really decipher. Things have become infinitely simpler now where even a novice can set up a fairly elaborate network, both wired and wireless, that does all sorts of nifty things.

Damn, how true. I remember reading about something called "Token Rings" or some such back in the day and wondering, "How much knowledge does it take to set this up?" It looked pretty intimidating to get even basic intranets going. That may be one thing that helped the internet; it seemed infinitely easier just to use that than to bother with an intranet.

Networking was definitely one thing that really came of age on the PC. I remember the whole "Doom" and then the various LAN parties; that was something you just couldn't do easily on an Amiga; at least not to my knowledge."


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