[vcf-midatlantic] A Tale of Two NeXTstations

Adam Michlin amichlin at swerlin.com
Sat Feb 3 23:47:28 EST 2018

Dear List,

As most of you know, VCF received not one but two NeXTstations as 
donations over the past months. We managed to piece together a working 
combination for museum display as well as hack into the administrator 
password without too much trouble.

Alas, about a month ago, the machine simply stopped turning on. This was 
diagnosed (thanks Ian!) at the most recent VCF workshop as a dead 
battery. At the same time, the hard drive appeared to be no longer 
functional (stay tuned for more on that). So I ordered a battery... 
oops, wrong battery. Oh well. Ordered the correct battery and it came in 
yesterday in a box with more warning labels than a one would expect on 
packaging for a vial of Bubonic Plague. I think lithium batteries have 
people just a tad spooked.

It had always bothered me that both the battery and the hard drive 
exactly at the same time. 30 year old computers.. sure, battery will die 
and hard drive will die, but at the same exact time? As the NeXTperts on 
the list will tell you, there was absolutely nothing wrong with the hard 
drive. Someone at NeXT just had the bright idea to default to network 
boot when the battery died.

So I installed the correct battery today and.. well.. nothing happened 
when it was turned on. Dejected, I went about other business but kept 
processing in the back of my mind at how replacing the battery didn't 
fix it. Bad leads? Did I put in the battery backwards (no, I was very 
careful)? Did I plug the keyboard in (for those who may not know, the 
NeXT uses a soft power on key on the keyboard... which, ugh, connects to 
the monitor).

We were about to leave for the day and I figured I would give it one 
last shot. So I checked the keyboard cable... all good. Then it hit 
me... was it even plugged in? Just about everyone on the list has 
experienced the answer to this question.

So I plugged it in, computer powered on. We looked up the key sequence 
to boot in to the ROM monitor and switch it to default to boot off the 
SCSI drive and all is well.

Now, what we still can't figure out is how to disable the ROM hardware 
password on the other machine (not the su password... please, everyone 
wants to answer this question with that how-to - been there, done that). 
The NeXT manual at:


Has this to say about it:

"Warning: If you set the hardware password, protect it carefully. If it 
should be lost, recovery is a complex procedure."

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated! And yes, we have asked the 
person who donated the machine (he can't remember).

Best wishes,


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