Author Topic: SSL Computer Software - Development Documentation  (Read 6782 times)

Artur D'Assumpção

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SSL Computer Software - Development Documentation
« on: October 28, 2013, 10:05:16 AM »
Hi guys,

Do you guys know if SSL as ever released the SSL Computer development documentation or even source code to the community (even if privately)? If not, do you think this is something they will be willing to do given the right motivation?

I am looking for this information because I am planning to develop a software to backup and manage projects on the oldie floppy disks.  This software would enable you to read/write and manage the floppy data on a modern computer. If I had access to the implementation details I might also be able to to other fancy stuff, like editing the project data.

Of course this would be something that would be freely available to the SSLMixed community.

Cheers,

Artur



Dan Korneff

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Re: SSL Computer Software - Development Documentation
« Reply #1 on: October 31, 2013, 12:57:05 AM »
sounds interesting! sorry I don't have any info on the software source code

Artur D'Assumpção

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Re: SSL Computer Software - Development Documentation
« Reply #2 on: October 31, 2013, 09:36:46 AM »
I don't need the source code. But I would need to know the filesystem structure for the floppy format and files. If i knew that i could easily make a userspace driver to mount it on OS X or Linux and backup projects, view them and edit them. This would be really awesome.

Does anyone one here have an inside contact with SSL? Would this be something they would be willing to provide?

sintech

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Re: SSL Computer Software - Development Documentation
« Reply #3 on: October 31, 2013, 09:47:48 AM »
I don't need the source code. But I would need to know the filesystem structure for the floppy format and files. If i knew that i could easily make a userspace driver to mount it on OS X or Linux and backup projects, view them and edit them. This would be really awesome.

Does anyone one here have an inside contact with SSL? Would this be something they would be willing to provide?

You need to speak to Jim, he knows the guy who programmed the system software from the ground up.

Doubt SSL will be any help at this stage.

Artur D'Assumpção

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Re: SSL Computer Software - Development Documentation
« Reply #4 on: October 31, 2013, 01:39:35 PM »
I'll try to get Jim in this thread! :D

jimlfixit

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SSL software thoughts
« Reply #5 on: October 31, 2013, 04:55:55 PM »
Hi all. I wasn't involved with any software at all whilst at SSL (1980-87) but I do know that Paul Bamborough was the main person involved with developing the infamous SSL computer mix system.

I have memories of him working very late into the night, upstairs in their new building in Stonesfield in the early 80's. He was an eccentric but friendly character and had a new Porsche in the car park! I think Paul left when SSL merged with another company and then they were taken over by Charlton Communications. I think Paul now works with Dreamworks and when he left SSL, he got paid a royalty (apparently 1%) for each SSL computer system sold after that but I may be wrong.

Bear in mind that all this was done in the days when an SE Classic Mac was considered to be a ground breaking computer although all I saw of Paul's work was him working on an old PC type computer (presumably with Dos or whatever it was called!). Colin Sanders always liked Macs but they couldn't do the mix software task at the time.

After Paul left, Phil Cork took over software design and he eventually left to join up with Sean Fernback at Motionworks providing synchroniser based bolt on products for the SSL computer system.

Jim Smith was involved mostly with computer hardware and designed the 11u rack, 2u floppy drive unit, Real Time, Events and 3u synchroniser controllers. Graham Hinton was also a design engineer (683 programmable equaliser for instance) and may have access to the SSL computer coding system. He now has his own company, Hinton Instruments.

I have not been in contact with any of these people for many years but, if you type their names into search engines, maybe something will turn up. I doubt whether SSL would be interested in providing information as they seem to think that anything given out relating to their older consoles would affect their current sales!

Dramastic provided hope earlier this year by potentially offering a new alternative computer system but that seems to have gone quiet now? Maybe they would be willing to work with interested parties to get something sorted as the SSL computer system, as we all know it, is some 30 years old.

At this rate, and without a modern day computer system to match, SSL consoles may just be used for tracking purposes and not with the ground breaking mix software which made them famous very quickly within a few years resulting in 1 console every 6 weeks in 1980 rising to 13 each month by December 1983!

Hope this helps a bit and regards from 

Jim Lassen (www.profcon.co.uk). Also on FACEBOOK

Artur D'Assumpção

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Re: SSL Computer Software - Development Documentation
« Reply #6 on: October 31, 2013, 06:16:08 PM »
Hi Jim,

Thanks so much for the useful info. As always your posts are always filled with comprehensive background that we enjoy so much. ;)

I think in this situation it would be in the interest of SSL to provide this info, since it does not reveal any critical technology details of their current offer and it would help greatly their clients and users to maintain and keep these beautiful consoles working, keeping alive the SSL legacy. Also the cost of this would be none, since giving back the info to the community would be the same as giving the service manuals in past.

I can try to reach some of the names you gave me, but I can imagine that they would be bound to some kind of NDA and can't reveal that info. Anyways I will search, contact these people soon and try my luck.

I can also try the painful way... which is to try to reverse engineer the format. But this will take much more time.


By the way, since i don't have currently access to an SSL in the couple months, can anyone provide me with two floppy images taken out with the "dd" command line app, present in OS X and Linux OSs? That would be a good starting point:
- Formatted floppy with no projects
- Formatted floppy with projects 

Just out of curiosity, and thinking more ahead, have you guys ever thought of a floppy replacement, such as this:

http://hxc2001.free.fr/floppy_drive_emulator/index.html#SDCARDFloppyemulator

It seems interesting and worth the try?! :D

Cheers,

Artur

marcmozart

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Re: SSL Computer Software - Development Documentation
« Reply #7 on: October 31, 2013, 06:40:11 PM »
The geek in my just got very excited! I still got most of my parted out G+ mix-computer sitting here. Floppydrives sold, no CPU and memory. I wonder if it's ever gonna be in action again?
« Last Edit: October 31, 2013, 07:08:54 PM by marcmozart »
1992 SSL 4048 G-Series
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http://www.mixedbymarcmozart.com

Artur D'Assumpção

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Re: SSL Computer Software - Development Documentation
« Reply #8 on: October 31, 2013, 10:15:12 PM »
We should, as a community write a letter/mail to SSL to ask them to donate us the detailed documentation so we could support these desks in the future, within the community.

For now, my personal goal is to make this software manager for the SSL disks. But the crucial part is to be able to read the filesystem first. This can be accomplished in 3 ways:

1- I have access to the Filesystem specification and I will easily make a kernel or userspace driver to mount it.
2- I pull my hair and spend months trying to reverse engineer it
3- By a lucky shot SSL was smart and implemented an already sudo-standard filesystem of the time, which I doubt...

Either way, I would need those raw copies I mentioned on the previous post. If any one of you gentlemen could provide me that would be awesome! :)

Cheers,

Artur

marcmozart

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Re: SSL Computer Software - Development Documentation
« Reply #9 on: October 31, 2013, 10:23:34 PM »
You bring up something really important, Artur!

We are doing great work her to keep up SSL's heritage. Just like somebody who drives a classic Mercedes.

Daimler-Benz is more clever though. They know that the value of the brand has SO MUCH to do with that heritage. Thats why there is a Mercedes-Benz Classic Car Center.

Anyway, my point is that we should build a relationship with SSL. They are not supporting our consoles any longer - thats fine with me. But they can only gain from giving us access to documentation, etc.
1992 SSL 4048 G-Series
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Artur D'Assumpção

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Re: SSL Computer Software - Development Documentation
« Reply #10 on: October 31, 2013, 10:57:42 PM »
Yaps, that's what I'm talking about.

Anyway, although this letter could be written and backed up by the community I think that someone with a current or previous relationship with SSL (a known and friendly face) should handle this contact, like a community ambassador.

Artur

retrocores

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Re: SSL Computer Software - Development Documentation
« Reply #11 on: November 01, 2013, 10:38:30 AM »
The main E/G series computer was built around an off the shelf NM4 mini computer made by Computer Automation, with Total Recall handled by a Z80 based computer built be Research Machines.

I have a long term ambition to recreate the  E/G series computer (including TR) on an FPGA; technically fairly straightforward (its late 1970's technology after-all), the challenge is getting information on the NM4 CPU card, SSL used several models throughout the history of the E and G series starting with the LSI-4/30 and finally the LSI-4/100.

Does anyone with access to the computer service manual know if SSL included the schematic of the CPU card? This would be very useful.

The computer automation museum website  has a lot of information on earlier CA mini computers and some NM4 stuff, including the file system document which may be of use here. This dates from 1979 so almost certainly is how the earlier E series disks where formatted.

http://computer-automation-museum.org/ca/pdf/computer-automation/90-93440-00B0--NM4-Standard-Disk-File-Format/90-93440-00B0--NM4-Standard-Disk-File-Format.pdf

Hope this helps.

Steve.

 

marcmozart

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Re: SSL Computer Software - Development Documentation
« Reply #12 on: November 01, 2013, 11:18:31 AM »
Does anyone with access to the computer service manual know if SSL included the schematic of the CPU card? This would be very useful.

I'll check the computer service manual for that later today. Thanks for the info! Can't wait to see how we can develop these ideas further.
1992 SSL 4048 G-Series
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Artur D'Assumpção

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Re: SSL Computer Software - Development Documentation
« Reply #13 on: November 01, 2013, 12:23:38 PM »
The main E/G series computer was built around an off the shelf NM4 mini computer made by Computer Automation, with Total Recall handled by a Z80 based computer built be Research Machines.

I have a long term ambition to recreate the  E/G series computer (including TR) on an FPGA; technically fairly straightforward (its late 1970's technology after-all), the challenge is getting information on the NM4 CPU card, SSL used several models throughout the history of the E and G series starting with the LSI-4/30 and finally the LSI-4/100.

Does anyone with access to the computer service manual know if SSL included the schematic of the CPU card? This would be very useful.

The computer automation museum website  has a lot of information on earlier CA mini computers and some NM4 stuff, including the file system document which may be of use here. This dates from 1979 so almost certainly is how the earlier E series disks where formatted.

http://computer-automation-museum.org/ca/pdf/computer-automation/90-93440-00B0--NM4-Standard-Disk-File-Format/90-93440-00B0--NM4-Standard-Disk-File-Format.pdf

Hope this helps.

Steve.

 

Hi Steve,

Thanks so much for this information, this can be very very useful for my little project. I will start looking into the PDF today.

I think there's lots of information we could need to fully support and customize these consoles in the future. This will lead me to a new thread that I will post during the day that will be of interest to all community.

PS: someone send me those image files for the floppies please!

Cheers,

Artur


perfectsnd

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Re: SSL Computer Software - Development Documentation
« Reply #14 on: November 01, 2013, 05:30:20 PM »
Is there a reason one has to recreate what a 30 year old computer did? Wouldn't it be much more forward to think how can we integrate these babies into the new more modern work flow.  Shouldn't we be looking at how to integrate the recall into a Daw session or into just a modern program and how the automation of the VCA or Ultimation faders can be controlled from any standard DAW.  We all know that the automation of the SSL can easily be run by any current smartphone. It is creating the hardware to convert the data to a useable format that is the hang up although there seems to be progress on that front by Pelle and Dramastic.

Thoughts?