Building a NeXTstation display cable

Posted on August 04, 2014

A friend recently gave me a NeXTstation (c. 1991) that he didn't want to take with him on his move across the country. In the decade since the computer was last used, he misplaced the DB-19 display cable. These cables are very hard to come by two decades after the machine was end-of-lifed, so I made my own. (The NeXT computers that supported color used standard DB13W3 cables.) I took photos of the build process and posted them on Flickr.

Starting with two DB-25 Male D-Sub connectors (RadioShack 276-1547), I used two pairs of pliers to twist until the shells separated, then pried them apart with a flat-head screwdriver. Inside there are two pieces of plastic holding the 25 pins. After carefully pulling these apart so the pins didn't go flying, I removed 6 pins on one side and put the plastic together creating a D-sub shaped 19-pin connector. I didn't have a tool handy at the time to cut the extra plastic, though I've since bought a off-brand Dremel at Harbor Freight for $10. Since the shell was destroyed, I taped the metal pieces back together.

Next, I cut 18 connecting wires roughly 8" long, as the monitor sits directly on top of the NeXTstation. You'll need longer wires to reach from a NeXTcube. I used standard 22-gauge hookup wire, although the connector accommodates up to 20-gauge. I first soldered in the two +12/-12 pins and pin 6 (power button), as that's all that's necessary to test the machine's power supply. After that checked out, I soldered the rest, using black for data, red for power, and green for ground. Obviously, use whatever colors you'd like.

After all the wires were in place I booted the machine again and was greeted with the NeXT ROM Manager. Unfortunately the hard drive failed, probably some years ago, but the cable carries video, audio, and key presses. May it serve well for the NeXT 23 years.