Ancient History: Sperry/Unisys 5000 Unix Servers

When I started actually getting paid to be a computer geek, I started as a system administrator/database administrator on Sperry/ Unisys 5000 mini-computers. These were about the size of a small refrigerator, and were designed for mostly serial I/O with dozens up to hundreds of serial ports in the back. They were based on 40 MHz 68040 CPUs and ran a proprietary port of ATT System V Unix. We used Oracle version 6.0.36 (and later Oracle 7) on them with our own proprietary character based financial, logistical, and personnel applications. If you want to see what one of those looked like, enter the U5000 Memorial.

  1. We had a suite of U5k’s at TAFE (College) in Perth West Aust in the late 80’s to mid 90’s. The main student system I was intimately familiar with first as a student then years later when it was disposed off at Ross’s sales and auction service in Maylands.

    It was a Unisys 5000 system, model 5085. It had dual 25Mhz 68020 CPU’s with 16Mhz 68881 FPU’s. 4+4+2Mb RAM, and four 290Mb ESDI disks and a proprietry QIC tape off another ESDI controller which was damaged prior to my ownership. This system was patched into the TAFE DECnet network so you could connect to it via DECServer 200MC’s, or the campus VAXen. It used to service about 40-60 concurrent students who were mostly doing C, Fortran, COBOL, Assembler, and learning “UNIX”. As a student system, it was rooted frequently but without damage. The Ops (Hi Manuel if your still around!) used to be quite open and only mildly annoyed when students would say “hi. I’ve got root. This was how”.

    I had this system until around 1998/1999 when the system was destroyed by a lightening strike which was *VERY* thorough.

    The system seemed to be badge-engineered by Unisys, from a possibly french company called “Arete”. The OS always described itself as “ARIX v2.0r3”, which was mostly a very vanilla SYS-Vr3.5 port with SMP. Many fond memories of this system.


  2. Was doing some research to find the date we migrated to the U5000 and came across this. Just seeing your name brought a smile and memories! Great pics in the morgue, like you I was fond of the old kludgey boxes, just glad we have good hardware now,

    • Ken MacTaggart
    • April 13th, 2014

    HI, I just ran across this post too. They were manufactured by Arete which I believe means in Latin “Excellence of any kind or excellence in all things” and latter named ARIX as a merge with the word Unix for the OS. They were designed, assembled and shipped from ARIX but not sure about the board manufacturing. Also not sure where or hos Unisys received them. We purchased one direct form Arete. They had one or more 68000 or better on every board which was a unique early multiprocessor of the day. Address was ARIX Corporation 821 Fox Lane San Jose, CA

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