Xerox 500 series

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The Xerox 500 series was a line of computers from Xerox Data Systems (XDS) introduced in the early 1970s as backward-compatible upgrades for the Sigma series machines.

Although orders for the Xerox 530 were deemed "encouraging" as of January 1974, [1] the systems had failed to gain traction by the time Xerox sold its Data Systems Division in 1975. The buyer, Honeywell, Inc., continued to support existing 500-series systems until 1984 but discontinued manufacturing.[2]

Binary integer arithmetic was standard on all models; floating-point was optional on the 530, and standard on the 550 and 560. The 560 also supported decimal arithmetic. The 550 and 560 included one or more "system control processors" (CPs) to handle interrupts, diagnostics, clocks, direct I/O, and operator communications. Systems were clusterable, with multiple "basic processors" (BPs), I/O processors (IOPs), and "system control processors" (CPs) sharing busses and memory.[3]

16 bit systems (Xerox 530)[edit]

The Xerox 530 system was a 16-bit computer aimed at upgrading the 16-bit Sigma 2 and 3 systems. The 530 was the first system of the line introduced in early 1973.[4][5]

The 530 supported memory sizes of 8 K to 64 K 16-bit words (16 KB to 128 KB) with a cycle time of 800 ns.[6] The memory protection feature protected the foreground (real-time) program from the background tasks.

When IBM dropped the 16-bit IBM 1130, Xerox began marketing the 530 as a possible successor, including mention of COBOL[7] and RPG.[6] Both the 1130 and Xerox 530 had Indirect addressing and 8-bit relative addressing.[8]

Although the IBM 1130/1800 world did know of tape drives, they were only available as a special feature - RPQ (Request Price Quotation), whereas Xerox offered a choice of a 45-ips or a 75-ips tape drive, and it was physically possible to attach one of each.[9]

32 bit systems (Xerox 550, 560)[edit]

The Xerox 550 and Xerox 560 systems were 32-bit computers introduced in 1974.[10] The 550 was aimed at real-time applications and intended as an upgrade for the Sigma 5. The 560 was aimed at the general-purpose Sigma 6, 7, and 9 upgrade market.

The systems were microprogrammed and constructed using large-scale and medium-scale integration (LSI and MSI) and magnetic-core memory.[11] They featured independent Input/Output Processors (IOP), and "Direct Control" instructions for direct input/output of a single word via a parallel interface[12]

The 550 and 560 supported 16 K to 256 K 32-bit words (64 KB to 1 MB) .[13] Main memory cycle time was 645 ns. Virtual memory and memory protection were standard features.

A 590 system was designed but never built.[2]

Operating systems[edit]

Much as IBM's Job Control Language was known for its "//" (Slash-Slash), Xerox's used an exclamation point, which it called "Bang."[14]

The 530 could run either the Basic Control Monitor (BCM) or the Real-time Batch Monitor (RBM) operating systems.[12]

RBM could run a combination of real-time and general-purpose batch jobs running at the same time.[15] An example of this could be RJE to a larger machine while running local computing.[16]

The 550 ran the Control Program for Real-Time (CP-R) operating system.[17] The 560 ran the CP-V operating system.


  1. ^ "Xerox 530 orders "encouraging"".
  2. ^ a b Calkins, Keith. "The COMPUTER That Will Not Die: The SDS SIGMA 7". Retrieved Sep 23, 2014.
  3. ^ Xerox Corporation (1974). The Xerox 550 Computer Reference Manual (PDF). Retrieved Sep 24, 2014.
  4. ^ "Xerox Announces a Computer for Companies with more Data than Money (advertisement)". Computerworld. Feb 7, 1973. Retrieved Sep 23, 2014.
  5. ^ "New Xerox Mini-Computer". The New York Times. January 29, 1973.
  6. ^ a b Rank Xerox. "Rank Xerox 530 Computer" (PDF). Retrieved Sep 23, 2014.
  7. ^ "Xerox 530 supports COBOL". ComputerWorld. December 26, 1973.
  8. ^ "Real Machines with 16, 32, and 30-bit words".
  9. ^ "Scanned from the 1975 book "FORTRAN IV for Business and General Applications", by Harice L. Seeds. More at""Xerox 530 with magnetic tape and printer".
  10. ^ Xerox Corporation. "XEROX OFFERS TWO MODELS OF A NEW COMPUTER LINE" (PDF). Retrieved Sep 23, 2014.
  11. ^ Xerox Corporation (Jan 1974). Xerox 560 Computer Reference Manual (PDF). Retrieved Sep 22, 2014.
  12. ^ a b Xerox Corporation (Sep 1973). Xerox 530 Computer Reference Manual (PDF). Retrieved Sep 22, 2014.
  13. ^ Xerox Corporation. The Xerox 560 Computer (PDF). Retrieved Sep 22, 2014.
  14. ^ "Operating systems list".
  15. ^ "Rank/Xerox 530 Computer, 1973 ca" (PDF).
  16. ^ "Xerox Program Availability List" (PDF). SIGMA 3 TO 1108 REMOTE JOB ENTRY
  17. ^ Xerox Corporation. The Xerox 550 Computer (PDF). Retrieved Sep 22, 2014.