Why are we doing all of this?
Well, here's the long story, should you choose to read through it all:
The catalyst that got us started with this project was actually a friend who has owned his own company for years, and bought a MightyFrame to run his enterprise in late 1987.
In 1994, they had to abandon their current building due to earthquake damage, and left the MightyFrame behind. While the building was officially condemned, it still stands, and the MightyFrame was stored there, safe, dry and untouched, for all these years.
Years after 1994, at their new location, they regretted recently throwing out some paper records they kept for years, which contained information that predates the data they kept in their subsequent computer systems. He approached me to see if they could ever resurrect the data on their old MightyFrame, still stored in that building.
This was a year and a half ago, and that got me interested in these machines on a deeper level, because they are so unique and forward-thinking for their time in history. That, and we like hunting down really esoteric things for fun...I'm strange that way.
The hard drive that contains this data is a Maxtor XT-2190, and as far as we can tell, was the only drive in the MightyFrame when it was abandoned. It uses MFM communication/architecture. (the factory manual for this drive is linked on our http://MightyFrame.com site in the Manuals section)
The MightyFrame will not boot from the drive, and we are trying to dig deep into the hardware architecture and communications to see if we can figure out exactly where the failure is.
We wish we could find technical reference manuals for the MightyFrame, like we can for the AT&T 7300 UNIX PC / 3B1, but nothing yet. The closest we can find is "Writing MightyFrame Device Drivers" (also linked in the Manuals section).
That manual doesn't tell us what what we wish we knew about the hardware, but we still dig deeper and learn more about the way things were with this technology before I started my career with computers in the early 90s, and as a software automation guy, never hardware.
Every "data recovery specialist" we have ever spoken to simply believes that only that system can read the contents of that hard drive....or maybe they are too young to have ever understood MFM (ST506) data storage protocols.
Either way, we have decided one way or another that we want to both see if there is any recoverable data on this drive, AND see how these MightyFrame machines were designed to run from the factory, so that is the long story behind all of this.
As an unintended (good) consequence of our efforts, while this is not officially a Computer History Museum project, we am working closely with someone from that Museum, and he is also working on a newer version MightyFrame (the S-80). So, we are guessing that, indirectly, our efforts will ultimately be utilized for the Computer History Museum in one way or another.
Also, all of the results of our efforts (including extra hardware) we are offering freely to the Museum, and they are also helping us with this project, so it seems we are building a good relationship there.
They have accessed a partial MightyFrame backup tape, and archived the files, as well as a full dump of that MightyFrame's hard drive.
We are approaching this as a hobby, so it is easy for us to justify that it makes no sense, other than just because "we can and we want to". Sure, it has been and will continue to be ridiculously time consuming...but to us, that is what a hobby should be.