Old Iron at Home

dflood Computer History 0 Comments

Newsgroups: alt.folklore.computers,comp.sys.dec
Path: spies!sgiblab!swrinde!sdd.hp.com!crash!ryptyde!scott
From: [email protected] (Scott McClure)
Subject: Old Iron at Home Stories (List)
Organization: Ryptyde TimeSharing, San Diego, CA
Date: Wed, 17 Mar 1993 04:21:43 GMT
Keywords: old iron, pdp, dec, hp, mini
Lines: 1245

Greetings all,

Here are the stories I recieved in response to my post about those
brave souls who have actually taken "Old Iron" systems home with them.
If you missed the original post and what to contribute, please reply via
email and if I get a large enough response, I'll include them in a later 
posting (or at some anonymous ftp site ... suggestions, anyone?)



[BEGIN story list]

From: [email protected] (Al Kossow)

> - What kind of system?
a Xerox Dorado

> - Why did you do it?
i'm single

> - How did you get the equipment?
with my truck

> - How did you find the space for it?
threw out a roommate

> - What did you do about the heat problem?
opened the window

> - How did your neigbors react to the loss of television reception in the
> area after you got it up and running?
they don't know it's me

> - How can you possibly afford the power bill?
i can't, I steal power from the house next door

> - How do your neigbors react to the brown-outs during a boot?
better than when they find out i'm stealing their power

From: Douglas W. Jones <[email protected]>

I was brousing through the junk at the U of Iowa surplus store last summer
when I came across three somewhat battered PDP-8 computers. I couldn't
resist, so I bought two of them, along with RX01 disk drives for $10.
My wife wasn't terribly happy when I asked her to drive over to help haul
them home, nor was she happy to have them sitting spread out all over the
floor of our study.

I went to Minneapolis later in the summer when I heard (over the net) about
a relay rack that needed to go from someone's apartment. It happened to be
an original DEC rack that had once housed a PDP-8 of similar vintage, so I
hauled it home (a 12 hour drive), and went to work rack mounting one of my
two systems.

Back at surplus, I bought the third PDP-8. It was battered, but it had
an RX8E interface in it that I needed if I was to hook an RX01 drive to my
machines, and besides, it only cost $7. I kept what I needed and shipped
the remainder to Charles Lasner in NY. Later, for $40, I picked up another
surplus DEC relay rack so I could get everything up off the floor and nicely
rack mounted.

Fortunately, the University department that junked the -8 systems was more
than happy to let me rummage looking for missing parts, and fortunately,
the old-iron community on the net has been helpful in finding documenation
I needed to get the things running.

Now, I have 2 rack mounted PDP-8 systems in my study. They take up space,
but it's not too bad. People joke about heat problems from old machines,
but a PDP-8 doesn't even draw as much power as a toaster. It does come
close, I admit. That means that the heat is no problem at all, although I
don't need to run a toaster during the hot part of a summer day.

So far, I haven't got any evidence of radio frequency interference. My old
ADM 31 terminal that I've used produces more than the PDP-8.

Why did I do it? Because I like computers that look like computers, with
lights that blink, rows of switches, and other good things. The instruction
set is remarkably simple, you really can program in binary, and 8 inch
floppies are wonderfully anachronistic.

Doug Jones
[email protected]

From: [email protected] (Jeff DelPapa)

I have helped with a few old iron moves. 10 years ago, I helped move a
de-commissioned (university) KA-10 into a friends 10'th floor
apartment. Unfortunately he didn't ever get a functioning disk drive,
and I don't know what happend to it.

Back when I was an undergrad, some of my classmates (ex DG field
service sorts) had nova's and eclipses that they had built from the
scrap bins. 

My younger brother bought several of the de-commisioned MIT CADR's. We
hoisted them up to the back bedroom of the top apartment of a triple
decker... We ran the power wiring ourselves. He also had an old HP
(very sturdily built, and HEAVY) and assorted pdp-11's... He has
mostly gotten rid of them since, at my sister-in-laws insistence --
tho I bet my nephew was one of the first kids to have an 11/40 front
panel as a crib toy...


From: [email protected] (Megan B Gentry)

>-What kind of system was it? 


>- Why did you do it?

Because I really love pdp-11 hardware, known it fairly
intimately from a software and hardware standpoint, and
I had to opportunity to get it.

>- How did you get the equipment?

I never thought I would have a pdp-11 of my own, so when
digital offered a refurbished one for $1000, I jumped at
the chance. I got a loan and then got the computer. After
that I was able to get a discarded 19" rack, disks, tape
and extra memory. The machine had come with a VT52
terminal, so I was all set. All I needed was a modem and
I was then able to do work from home as well as begin
getting involved with the net (via MIT-AI, before it
went away).

Digital used to have a procedure for employees to buy
old/obsolete/out-of-rev/broken hardware for greatly
reduced costs. I bought lots of stuff I was able to use
for my 11/10, but I started acquiring q-bus boards in the
hopes of someday putting together a 'more up-to-date'
pdp-11 (at the time, it was an 11/2). More parts, more
boards, more sources and many years later, I have pdp-11
including an 11/83, all built from parts. (I still have
the pdp-11/10, standing like a soldier in the corner. I
do 'PM' on it once in awhile and power it up just to
make sure it still works. It does.

>- How did you find the space for it?

I made the psace in the corner of the living room, that
became my office away from office.

>- What did you do about the heat problem?

What heat problems, when the 11/10 was on, the heat wasn't.

>- How did your neigbors react to the loss of television reception in the
> area after you got it up and running?

Never got any reports of problems

>- How can you possibly afford the power bill?

By not running them for the same amount of time a day as
a company might.

>....and anything else you'd like to include.

Oh yes, all the machines in my apartment except for the
11/10 are on thinwire ethernet, running software I wrote

Oh, BTW, I used to work as a developer of RT-11 at
digital. It was sometimes joked at work that if our
machines were unavailable (read - 'being worked on by
field service') for us to do a baselevel build of RT-11,
we could probably do it at my place, where I had more
than the iron required to do it.

Megan Gentry

From: [email protected] (Al Kossow)

..the bit about the power was a joke.. I do have a Dorado, tho.

From: Rob Hutten <[email protected]>

I have a PDP11/23 with 2 RL/02 10meg removable platter hard drives-
here's the scoop:

>- Why did you do it?

'Cause old computers are cool. :)

>- How did you get the equipment?

Bought it from a friend of a friend.

>- How did you find the space for it?

It's in my brother's living room at the moment, pending my moving to 
a larger apartment.

>- What did you do about the heat problem?

No heat problem because the machine's been idle- something got
bumped around inside when we moved it (ever lug a 450lb computer
up half a flight of stairs? Thought not) and since then it doesn't
recognise input from the console. As soon as I get it moved into 
my place I can fix it, but I haven't anticipated how I'm to deal with
the heat problem.


From: [email protected]

Well, it depends on what you call Old Iron, but I run a PDp11/45 at home. 
I was given it (not complete, but mostly working) by Cambridge University,
the year after I left. Along with it came the circuit diagrams, and some
spare boards. I spent the next couple of years getting peripherals and
spares fro it, and generall getting it to work again

Finding space was trivial - just find a bit of floor that could be cleared
(like by putting a couple of micro's on top of each other), and plonk the
rack down. The start fitting all the bits together again. No real prolems
with power - these old machines are a lot more tolerant of power glitches
than most micros, and since over here in England, we have 240V, there is
no glitch caused by the machine at switch-on either

Also, the extra heat from my system (about 2kW), is welcome in winter, and
in summer, the machine doesn't seem to mind the extra heat. It may be
spec'd up to 90F, but it goes well above that with no problems. All you
have to do is make sure that the windows are open, so that you don't overheat.

There are few problems to keeping such a machine running. The worst is
people assuring you that nobody runs such a mchine at home (the makers
normaly !)

-tony 'PDP11 Hacker' Duell
[email protected]

From: [email protected] (Richard Chapman)

>- Why did you do it?

I'm interested in all sorts of old things: cars, radios, etc, as well
as computers. I'm finishing a PhD. in computer science, so it only seemed
natural. For a big nerd like me, having a VAX 750 at home is kind of like
owning a mint condition '57 chevy might be to someone else. 

>- How did you get the equipment?

Bought my first machine at a charity benefit for the Ithaca
Science Center for $5. Since then, I've poked around University loading
docks, scoured the net, read the classified -- these things turn up

>- How did you find the space for it?

I didn't, really. About half of an 1800 sq. ft. apartment is now filled
with old machines. My wife is not happy about that. 

>- What did you do about the heat problem?

I don't run them continuously. In winter, I just turn off the heat in
the machine room when I do run them . In summer, I use a 5000 BTU window air
conditioner for that room, which works fine.

>- How did your neigbors react to the loss of television reception in the
> area after you got it up and running?

No noticeable problems except with my own VHF ham radio gear (most of the
old stuff has massive metal cases)

>- How can you possibly afford the power bill?

I don't run them that much. However, it should be pointed out that a 
lot of old equipment requires 2 or 3 phase power, not just a 120VAC outlet. 

>- How do your neigbors react to the brown-outs during a boot?

I only blow my own circuit breakers, and I've just about figured out
which subsets can be safely run on a single 15A circuit. However, I do
sometimes program in the dark just to free up a few more watts for the
machines if things are close to the limit. 

>....and anything else you'd like to include.

A description of the collection, from oldest to newest: 

1968: pdp-8/L with 4k of 12-bit words of core, asr-33 teletype. Some
paper tape software. 

1972: pdp-11/20 with 32K of 16-bit words of core, 2 1-meg removable-platter
hard drives, diode bootstrap ROM, high-speed paper tape reader, and
asr-33 teletype, runs RT-11 operating system. 

1978: pdp-11/34 with 128K 16-bit words of MOS memory, 2 10-meg
removable-platter, 1 70-meg fixed-platter, 2 8" floppy drives, 1600
bpi 9-track mag tape, running RSX-11 operating system.

1984: pdp-11/23 with 4meg RAM, 2 1-meg 5.25 floppies, 1 70meg micropolis
hard drive.

All lined up, they make quite the display through about a decade and
a half of DEC products :-)

Richard Chapman 

From: [email protected]

Hello, read your posting in alt.sys.pdp8. I had the following systems
at home, at one point:

DG SuperNova

> Interesting details might include:
> - Why did you do it?

The main attraction was with the front panel. I was young at the time,
and the flashing lights were very "Star-Trek" like. I was able to
learn to program with minimal "additional" hardware, just keyed the
stuff in through the f/p.

> - How did you get the equipment?

Most of it was scrounged. I'd constantly hassle people with lines like,
"say, are you guys gonna throw that thing out in the garbage? Gee, I'll
take it!". Usually I was able to get it, though sometimes they decided
that perhaps my parents would be more upset with them, so they threw it

> - How did you find the space for it?

With the above systems, except for the 8/I, space was not really a problem.
The 8/I I had hidden under the stairs (being a 4 foot high cabinet).

> - What did you do about the heat problem?
> - How did your neigbors react to the loss of television reception in the
> area after you got it up and running?
> - How can you possibly afford the power bill?
> - How do your neigbors react to the brown-outs during a boot?

None of these were problems with the sizes of the systems.

Hope this helps!

_ _ _ _ ([email protected]) 278 Equestrian Dr.
__\ |_) ^ |_) ( |_ SOFTWARE Kanata, ON K2M 1C5 +1 613 599 8316 (fax 8317)
/ | /-\ | \ _) |_ DEVICES UNIX/VMS/WNT/QNX C/ASM86 Contract Services

From: [email protected] (Roger Ivie)

> - How do your neigbors react to the brown-outs during a boot?

I had a roommate who complained until I got out the manuals and pointed out
that I'd have to start _two_ RL02s simultaneously to equal his 1500 watt(!)
blow dryer.

Roger Ivie "My God! That computer is full of Pentium!
[email protected] It's a wonder that you haven't been turned
into mutants!"

From: [email protected] (Alan Wm Paeth)

>- Why did you do it?

My first program was on a PDP-8 in High School in 1972. The first installation
I ever got my hands on was a PDP-11 -- the null job strobing out the front
panel in "pong" fashion. So DEC systems with core memory appeal to my Youth.
(Incidentally, it was Bill Gates who drove me out to Seattle Pacific College
for a tour of the 11).

>- How did you get the equipment?

I refused to pay money so traded an IBM/PC monochrome adaptor worth $35
for a mint condition PDP-11/20. I think I wound up with fewer transistors.
I picked a 20 because it has core memory and a discrete processor -- if you
drop bit 4 of the PC you know just where it lives. Mine was sitting idle at
the transmitter site at WQED Pittsburgh (world's first public television
station), where it had previously been used in real-time video production.
So it has had a very colourful past.

>- How did you find the space for it?

Fits in a desk with the ASR-33 on top. BASIC stays in memory when it is not
running. Probably almost as useful as an HP-25CV, but not as portable. "Gosh
grandpa, they had continuous memory back in 1970?". "Son, it was called CORE".

>- What did you do about the heat problem?

Runs off of 110VAC. Heat is not a problem if your house has electric heat and
you make it a winter-time hobby. But I couldn't find a way to hook the plenum
of my air handler to the PDP-11/70 I was considering so I settled for a 11/55
instead. (I'm a UNIBUS man all the way...). Since I've moved back to Canada,
I can compute year round. Snow is blowing by my office window as I type this...

>- How did your neigbors react to the loss of television reception in the
> area after you got it up and running?

They're on cable. Any loss of reception is from the 200 watt dual 6146 (tube)
finals of my Drake TX4/C ham transmitter. Incidentally, that rig was built
within a few months of my 11/20, also in 1972. It is no coincidence that I
turned sixteen the summer of '72 -- I'm trying to relive that year endlessly.
While on the subject: anyone got a European pressing of Floyd's _Dark Side
of the Moon_, or ELP's _Trilogy_? Or a Hammond B-3 organ with Leslie Speakers?

>- How can you possibly afford the power bill?

I can't -- Duquesne Light in Pittsburgh is power hungry in too many senses.
I'd wanted to put a gas line in but I've yet to see a Methane-powered computer.
(Hmm, I could be on to something. A Methane-powered laptop could really be a
very, uh, commodius, little take-anywhere machine. Batteries not required).

>- How do your neigbors react to the brown-outs during a boot?

I boot from (high-speed) paper tape. It is lots of fun. I've also got the full
DEC field diagnostics on paper, plus cases of unpunched manila. I'm very short
on mylar stock -- it's saved for very important stuff, like amazing hacks to a
"TREK" game stored in the form of patches to the vanilla version's core image.

>....and anything else you'd like to include.

Out of defiance to the shady stripping practices and outragious prices of
"Neumann Computer Exchange", I've wanted to form a consortium of users called
"The Old Mann's Computer Exchange". Paper tape media would be exchanged on a
round-robin basis. The mailers will have heavy block letter stencils reading:

GO AHEAD and X-RAY !!!

/Alan Paeth
Computer Graphics Laboratory
University of Waterloo

From: [email protected] (Charles Lasner)

>- Why did you do it?

Because they were already there. I have had -8 hardware within personal
reach since 1975.

>- How did you get the equipment?

Many different ways, some of them even legal.

>- How did you find the space for it?

It let's me share some of its space in my building.

>- What did you do about the heat problem?

I use DECmates in the summer and -8's in the winter.

>- How did your neigbors react to the loss of television reception in the
> area after you got it up and running?

What's a neighbor?

>- How can you possibly afford the power bill?

It lowers my oil bill.

>- How do your neigbors react to the brown-outs during a boot?

If I had any neighbors, they wouldn't notice, since I have 0000 3-phase power
feed into my building.

>....and anything else you'd like to include.

I am not quite sure how many -8's I have, and there are several methods of
counting them that might apply.

[...] Detailing this could take so much bandwidth that imminent
death of the Net would be predicted.

cj "-8's 'R us" l

From: [email protected] (John M. Crowell)

>- Why did you do it?

To develop RT-11 tools and applications

>- How did you get the equipment?

Bought it in bits and pieces. Built the enclosure.

>- How did you find the space for it?

Made space

>- What did you do about the heat problem?

No significant heat problem unless the 9-track tape is on.

>- How did your neigbors react to the loss of television reception in the
> area after you got it up and running?

Not a problem if you do proper FCC-compliant shielding

>- How can you possibly afford the power bill?

Not much worse than running a large TV all day long.

>- How do your neigbors react to the brown-outs during a boot?

You evidently are accustomed to working with improperly installed
equipment. Neither I nor my neighbors have such problems.

From: [email protected] (Adrian Le Hanne)

>- Why did you do it?

I liked the old discrete hardware. You could do repairs with a multimeter
and discrete chips (except the core memory ;-). Also, it's fun to work
with a system that was state of the art - twenty years before.

>- How did you get the equipment?

By looking around, asking people who worked in institutions which used
such systems. Often they are happy to get rid of the old hardware.
In one case me and some friends (some of them probably read a.f.c)
got hold of a Nixdorf system weighting one ton. After one day of hard work
(the removable disk systems nearly broke the back of one guy) we lugged
the system out of the van at home only to discover that service technicians
had removed the cpu modules.

>- How did you find the space for it?

I didn't. I had a PDP 8 for some years which was integrated into a 
desk which i also used for normal paper work. Other systems were installed
in some other rooms of the apartment, annoying the people using these
rooms. My Dual Systems S-100 Unix computer (running with 512 Kb and 
System 7) was installed in a small food chamber in the appartment of 
my parents. Got a bit too warm there, though. It was also hard to sleep
in the appartment when this system was running, even with several closed
doors between.

>- What did you do about the heat problem?

I moved the terminal(s) to another room ;-) I never had something as big as
a 11/780 so the head dissipation was not such a problem.

>- How did your neigbors react to the loss of television reception in the
> area after you got it up and running?

Hmm, i doubt they discovered the reason. Until they listen to where all
the noise came from. 

>- How can you possibly afford the power bill?

These systems weren't running around the clock (too loud) so it wasn't
such a problem. Some systems needed quite a lot time before one could
use them. I had a Phillips system that used only punch cards and a printing 
console. One had to insert a huge stack of cards for the fortran system
before the self programmed cards could be read. Since the original punch
cards were a bit used (the system couldn't punch cards itself so i copied 
defective cards with a hand puncher) i would often run into problems at
the end of the stack.

>- How do your neigbors react to the brown-outs during a boot?

Most of the time this killed the fuses, especially when someone used a toaster
or hair dryer while i worked on a system. The anger was on both sides, i
had to type in all the stuff again and often the fuse blowed out at the
end of the job another time of the same reason.

Once i tried to sleep in the same room with a PDP 8 while this system was 
calculating some problem. I gave up after half an hour because the room
was overheated and i simply couldn't ignore the noise.
The only old iron that is lying around here today is a manual punchcard
programmer from Wright (early '60?).

Adrian S. Le Hanne Einoed Unix & Netzwerke, Koepenicker Str.154, D-1000
[email protected] Berlin 36. Tel.: 030/611 31 26, Fax.: 030/611 32 86
"On a day such as this you should insist on more than the truth" -Pere Ubu

From: [email protected] (Jim Sidaris)

Not me, but th DEC Field Service rep. at my former job. This may not 
apply, seeing some of the questions you've asked, but:

> - What kind of system was it?

PDP-11/70 Two of them actually, networked via ethernet!

> - Why did you do it?

Because it was there. (I'll bet this will be the most popular answer :-) )

> - How did you get the equipment?

Being a Field Service Rep, he has access to stuff like this.

> - How did you find the space for it?

The man lives to collect toys. He has a large, permanent train set in his backyard.

> - Did you actually install a raised floor for it?


> - What did you do about the heat problem?


> - How did your neigbors react to the loss of television reception in the
> area after you got it up and running?


> - How can you possibly afford the power bill?

What else does he have to pay for, except new parts for the train?

> - How do your neigbors react to the brown-outs during a boot?

Jim Sidaris Voice: (714) 757-5593
Thomas Bros. Maps FAX: (714) 757-1564
17731 Cowan 
Irvine, Ca 92714 E-mail: [email protected]

From: [email protected] (Frank Ferrie)

|> - Why did you do it?

As a graduate student back in 1980 I was looking for a
``personal'' computer. My budget was limited - I couldn't
afford the $N*K required to get a machine, display, memory
and some decent storage.

|> - How did you get the equipment?

Around the same time the EE department at McGill was clearing
out their 8's to make room for more 11's and Vaxen. I managed
to get hold of an 8/f with 24K (words) of core, a TU56 dual
dectape, high speed paper tape reader/punch, an RX08
clone (dual floppy), and a VT52. For good measure they 
threw in a complete print set, a couple of boxes of paper
tape, and approximately 100 dectapes.

|> - How did you find the space for it?

Unfortunately the deal didn't include a rack. I managed
to build an enclosure that took up about the same space
as a standard double pedestel desk. The rest of stuff
ate up one standard closet.

|> - What did you do about the heat problem?

Hey man, I'm from Canada. Just turned off the radiators,
that's all. Worked great from September to May - Summer
was a bitch, though. The machine ran fine until the
ambient temperature hit 90. Now how many times did I
replace those $#%^&* series regulators?! A 25 foot
extension for the console into another room provided
an escape from the heat in summer.

|> - How did your neigbors react to the loss of television reception in the
|> area after you got it up and running?

That's the neat part. Apparently DEC took EMI seriously
(at least in the later models). I NEVER had problems
with interference. In fact, the 8 was ``quieter'' than
one of the first pc boxes I dragged home.

|> - How can you possibly afford the power bill?

Let's see now. Back then it was approximately 4 cents
per kilowatt hour, or 5 cents an hour to run the beast.
Sort of like driving a 68 Olds-98 with that monster V8
when gas was 30 cents a gallon.

|> - How do your neigbors react to the brown-outs during a boot?

As I remember, my place had wiring dating from the
30's. When I turned everything on at once, there was
this lovely dimming of the room lights until everything
hit steady-state.

|> ....and anything else you'd like to include.

I kept the machine alive until 1986. To my knowledge
it's still running at the domicile of a well-known
UNIX hacker by the handle of ``der mouse.''

We still have a straight 8 (no slash) in the EE
department (you know, the one with the heated core).
It has a two-digit serial number and still ran
the last time I powered it up.

From: [email protected] (FICHTNER)


Which answers the Old Iron thread as well... I got a pdp-11/34a 
at a surplus auction. Sandia Laboratories apparantly dumped a bunch of
11's. Nice machine, had a floating point board, an MMU board,
two RL02's, two RX05's (which it booted from), and an RX01 floppy drive.
not to mention 256k words of memory, a DK-11 D/A board (looked like 
it had been used for laboratory experiements), an DL-11 serial mux board.

Nice machine, I thought... outperformed my 286 nicely. 

Dimmed the lights at boot up, and would trip the circuit breaker if 
I tried to fire it all up at once, so I had to do it all in sequence..

Used that machine for several years, and then moved houses. The RX05 it
booted from got misaligned somehow (Yes, I locked the heads before I moved it)
and chewed up the boot pack. *sigh*. It still sits in my parents house in
Denver. I've got what is probably a working boot pack here, but I haven't 
remembered to take it home to test it out. NOt much time for pdp-11 
hacking anymore anyway.

From: [email protected] (Max (Erkki Petsalo))

: - Why did you do it?

When I saw it (PDP 8/e) for the first time I decided that if it was
cheap enough I want it. A huge cabinet there was 19 inch rack with the
machine and two DF32 hard disks. And it had four core memory cards
(each 4 kilo).

: - How did you get the equipment?

They were selling all old junk from our university (Universit of Oulu)
in a public auction.

: - How did you find the space for it?

I have a large living room and it was mainly empty before:-)

: - What did you do about the heat problem?

No problem. At the moment there is over 20 centigrades below zero
outside. And living room opens to the sea so when the wind blows...

: - How did your neigbors react to the loss of television reception in the
: area after you got it up and running?

They haven't said anythig yet.

: - How can you possibly afford the power bill?

Easily enough I pay a fixed sum every month and it has been same all
the time I have lived in this place.

: - How do your neigbors react to the brown-outs during a boot?

All my neigbours live under me :-) I live in ninth floor.


[email protected]

From: [email protected]
From: Bruce Lane ISSBAL @ UCCVMA (510) 987-0014
Subject: Old Iron Stories

Hi, Scott...

Looking for Old Iron Tales, hmm? Ho-kay, here's mine...

I'm the proud owner of a PDP-11/34A, 128KW MOS memory, Programmer's
Console, FPU & cache. Peripherals include:

Data Systems Design DSD-440 dual 8" FDD
Fujitsu M2284, M2294, M2351 disk drives (currently, the 2284 & 2351 are
in use).
Pertec FT9640 tape drive (same as TU45; soon to be replaced with a
Kennedy 9100).
Original VT100 for a console terminal.


If there's one thing I'm completely disgusted with, its the way the
computer world has abandoned perfectly workable technology in favor of
the latest and greatest XXX86 processor platform. Face it, people...
the PC family is simply -not- designed for multitasking/multiuser
from the ground up. The PDP's are.

That, and I simply enjoy tinkering with the thing. To me, keeping
the old skills of electronics alive is far more important than the plug-
and-play mentality running rampant today. In other words, I will not
sacrifice performance for sake of simplicity, if I can possibly avoid it.


The original system consisted of the BA11 box, minus rack and slides,
a pair of RK05's and another pair of RK07's. The 05's and 07's were later
removed/sold/scrapped in favor of the Fujitsus. I got the initial setup
at a local ham radio/electronics swap meet for $40.

Over the next year or so, I invested about $1,000 or so in racks,
replacement hardware, the Fujitsu drives, the tape drive, etc. Weird
Stuff Warehouse in Sunnyvale was most helpful during this time.

OS-wise, I started with RSTS 7.0-07 from a friend of mine, then later
acquired RSTS 9.3-20 on tape. That's what I'll be running with as soon as
I get the system disk re-SYSGENned.


Fortunately, I have a fairly large room. With two racks in there, it is
a bit cramped, but still worth it. The interesting thing is that my house
is not directly accessible by street. All the components had to be broken
down and brought in in pieces (racks, BA11, disk drives, etc).


Not a problem. The central heating in the house seems to devote at
least 40% of its output into my room, so I typically keep the floor vent
shut. Between the PC-based BBS, my waterbed heater and the various small
electronic devices I've got running, the temperature stays pretty constant.

During the winter, the unit provides an excellent supplemental heat
source. In the summer, I typically have to run a large fan in the window
to keep from overheating.


Being a ham radio type, this was one of the first things I looked for.
Fortunately, not only are we on cable, but DEC thought things out very well.
No detectable interference.


Again, not a big problem. (a), I don't run the thing a lot. (b), I
live with my father, and electricity is included in my rent. He's never
made any comment about the times I -have- run the thing.

The one problem I do have is that the house was built in 1910, and
the wiring did not have things like dedicated circuits in mind. I have
to be sure that my sister isn't running her space heater downstairs at
the same time I've got the system on, otherwise I lose the circuit
breaker in the basement.


To be honest, I think its a cross between fear and incredulity. They
see these large pieces of commercial hardware being brought in, and they
can't comprehend what in the Multiverse I'd want with the stuff.


My eventual plans for the system include making a BBS out of it, for
the experience if nothing else. Eventually, I'll probably sell it, once
I get all the components working and stable.

The only other thing I can think of is; LONG LIVE PDP'S!! <gryn>

==Bruce Lane, Sysop,
The Dragon's Cave (FIDOnet 1:161/412)
<Internet: [email protected])

From: John D Johnson <[email protected]>

> - What kind of system was it?

Minicomputers, 5 different models over the years. First one was in 1980.

HP-1000's -- L, XL, A600, A700, A900. 

Before 19080, I had most parts for a HP-1000 E-Series, but never got it
to work. I hope to get an A990.

> - Why did you do it?

Text editing, hacking, thesis work, playing games and
some support of software I developed for the machine.

> - How did you get the equipment?

Loans I don't have to return, employee auction, scraped prototypes.

> - How did you find the space for it?

Bought a bigger house.

> - Did you actually install a raised floor for it?

Cut a hole in the closet floor.

> - What did you do about the heat problem?

Put a fan in the hole.

> - How can you possibly afford the power bill?

Justify it to myself by saying I'm getting my thesis done faster.

> ....and anything else you'd like to include.

Wives and Mother-in-Law's don't appreciate the beauty of a 9-track
reel-to-reel mag tape in the guest bedroom.

You have to know a hell of alot to keep a system running.

From: [email protected]

Well, I keep an 11/40 at home. It lives in the spare
bedroom. I used to live in a flat with sensible mains
fuses that never caused bother; the house I'm in now has 
resettable circuit-breakers, which the pdp trips about one 
power-up in five. It has (at the moment) 128kB of core memory, 
in two MF11-Us, two RK05 disk drives, and an RX02 8" dual 
floppy. It's SLOW. It runs RT11; I know there are versions 
of Unix that will run on an 11/40, but am not sure where to 
look to find them in this day and age. 

I got it originally from a university department, for 
virtually nothing (I was apparently the only one who offered
them any money for it). Since then, I've picked up various
extra bits & pieces for it (memory, couple of RL disk drives
+cartridges &c).

The heat problem isn't really all that bad -- if it gets out
of hand, you just open the window, and it's only very rarely
powered up (largely because of the aforementioned effects on
the mains distribution in the house). Eventually, I want to 
upgrade the memory (the machine can take twice what it's got
at the moment, but preferably mos rather than core).

It's a nice machine, but my recently-bought Mac (sharp intake
of breath!) is getting more attention at the moment.

From: Doug Humphrey <[email protected]>

- What kind of system was it?

DECsystem-1040 (later upgraded to 1060)

Processor: KA-10 SN 9 (single relocate and protect register)
KA-10 SN 44 (dual relocate and protect registers)

Memory: MF-10 64kword core boxes (qty 4), later upgraded to 
MH-10 256kword core box 

Disks: RP03 and RP03AS (qty 8)
Calcomp "Pizza Oven" drives (qty 4) 
RH-10 controllers
(I did have a high speed swapping disk, but someone 
turned it into a coffee table before we could use it) 

Tapes: TU-10 (qty 4) 
TU-55 DECtapes (qty 2)
Papertape reader and punch

Comm: DC-10 serial line controllers (one character, 
one interupt)
DL-10 high speed link to PDP-11 front end
DN-87 PDP-11/40 based front-end comm processor

Weight: Nearly 10,000 pounds (the core boxes were 600 
pounds each, CPU was 1500, then disks, tapes, channels,
(even cables) added up to a lot too.

Color: Black

Blinkys: Hundreds and hundreds, 2 of the 3 CPU bays had them,
memory, channels, controllers.

- Why did you do it?

Because it was there, it looked lonely, and the DEC-10 is a fine 
and pure architecture, the way it should be. A wonderful machine.

- How did you get the equipment?

University of Maryland had the system from an Atomic Energy 
Commission contract, scanning Bubble Chamber films. It was
unused for a number of years, and then they needed the room,
so I bid $55 for the system. Other parts were purchased or
bartered for; Online Systems in PA provided some disk controllers
and channels, Naval Research Labs provided CPU SN 44 and other
neat toys, etc.

The truck to move the system cost more than the system itself.

- How did you find the space for it?

Large 3 bedroom apartment on the 14th floor of a high-rise, 
with a view of the Washington monument. Actually it started
life in the 17th floor, in a one bedroom, but soon expanded 
and I needed to move to the 3 bedroom on the 14th.

CPU, Memory and channels were in the living room, 
disks in the dining room and the pizza oven drives in the
kitchen (of course), power and other cables down the hall
to the third bedroom which had tapes and comm and other units.

- Did you actually install a raised floor for it?

We had a parquet floor; who needs a raised floor?

- What did you do about the heat problem?

Open sliding glass doors in living room, window which was at the
end of the hall in the third bedroom, and the "flowthru teabag"
effect did the rest. Careful positioning of the CPU with the 
end panels removed allowed air to flow directly through the cabinet,
though this was not really needed because the big blowers in the 
KA CPU did a great job (and made good sound effects when starting).

- How did your neigbors react to the loss of television reception in the
area after you got it up and running?

Not too many complaints, but everyone in the building figured that 
we were some sort of secret government facility so they never dealt
with us about those things much.

- How can you possibly afford the power bill?

Included in the rent ;-)

I will note that the management company did try to get me evicted once
on the grounds that I had a "large commercial computer operation" in
my apartment, but my lawyer successfully convinced them that this was
a "personal computer" and they dropped the issue.

- How do your neigbors react to the brown-outs during a boot?

Our power riser was 208 three phase. Except for the "unique" ways 
that we were hooked into it, no problem.

In the early days, the three phases of the controller (none of
them was really 3 phase, and the disks were only two) were
each on a seperate standard 15 amp plug, so three people positioned
themselves around the lining room at different plugs with cables 
in their hands and counted "1...2...3! and plugged them in all
at once. The sight of hundreds of front panel lights (on the tops
of the 2 CPU bays, and on the memory bays and anything else we were 
bringing up) flickering to life gave some sort of view into the 
brain waking up from a long sleep. 

The spinning up of the blowers on the CPU was magical. Like movie
sound effects only much, much better.

....and anything else you'd like to include.

Thanks to the old Crew for their dedication to that huge and 
wonderful old machine. Carl Zwanzig, Fred Bauer, Richard Butler,
and even Fred Nordhorn all put time and driving and wrestling 
huge cabinets into elevators and other strange things. It was
a strange and fun time in our lives. Also, Larry "the Junk Man"
Jensen at NRL for running the most amazing warehouse of old DEC
and other gear around. He had a few of everything in there I 
am sure. Where else can you drive in and do a CPU swap for 
a KA-10 system? Full service, indeed!

I got rid of the poor beast when I moved into a smaller place,
a townhouse, and the KA was larger than the whole damned place.
It is most likely being made into toasters in Taiwan right now...

I got a KS-10 (DECsystem-2020) to replace it, but that, as they 
say, is a different story...

From: Saul Dixon <[email protected]>

I've just bought myself a HP-3000 with a few terminals, but haven't set
it up yet. 

From: [email protected] (Jonathan D McCown)

>- What kind of system was it?
PDP/8-E 12KB of 12 bit word memory
1 RK07 (?) removable disk pack (~7MB storage or so)
1 DECTAPE (bagel sized reels)
8 Teletypes with papertape punch readers
>- Why did you do it?
The price was right and I couldn't afford a TRS-80 (this was 1980)

>- How did you get the equipment?
I told the CS teacher at my HS that when the PDP was on its way
out, I'd give him 10$ for it and haul it away.
As a college freshman home on summer break, he called and said
that no one had bid on the system.. did my 10$ offer still stand
he needed the space for a dozen TRS-80s.. you bet.

>- How did you find the space for it?
Most of the ttys went into the barn, two ttys and the rack
went into my not-excessively-large bedroom. The documentation
and papertape (!!!!) OS distribution went into my closet.

>- Did you actually install a raised floor for it?
No, but I reinforced the corner of my room (my parent's house)
with 3/4" plywood.

>- What did you do about the heat problem?
I didn't run it constantly, since it was mainly interactive
use having it on when I wasn't there didn't make sense.
It had (real) core memory, so the loader and such stayed 
loaded when powered off.

>- How did your neigbors react to the loss of television reception in the
> area after you got it up and running?
No problem, but we didn't have very good TV there anyway.

>- How can you possibly afford the power bill?
Didn't power up all the time etc...

>- How do your neigbors react to the brown-outs during a boot?
>....and anything else you'd like to include.
The deal came with about a ton of papertape, which had to be
taken out of school district buildings all over the county.
All told the disposition of the stuff was:
Sale of papertape $300
Sale of teletypes $250
Sale of PDP itself $450

It turned out to be a good investment and a good way to
learn octal. (the front panel toggles and all were set
up for octal :-)

- Jon

From: [email protected] (Scott Almburg)

Well, I have 2 VAX 750's at home plus some spare parts from another
one. 2 RA80's and a TU80 tape drive make it a minimul system.

The truck rental to move them here cost more than the "iron".

When powered on, the lights flicker.

When powered on, the system makes a good space heater..

The CPU shares a circuit with the refrigerator, so I can run the
VAX or the refrigerator, but not both....

Scott Almburg

From: Rupert F W Pigott <[email protected]>

I brought back a vax for about 1 Pound Sterling and 150 pounds to move
the blighter. A further 150 pounds has been put into converting the pigstys
it is sitting in into an approximation of a computer room. This has involved
laying a 3 inch concrete floor, stripping off the whitewash and general
detritus; the conversion is in its final stage, painting (to keep the dust

The VAX-11/785 is a fairly robust machine, the only real worry is damaging
the storage systems (ie: the RM03s, one of which is already a head crash
victim). I would guess that the VAX and TU-78 would consume about as much
electricity as a pair of fan-heaters, however about a third of the VAX's
power consumption is spent circulating large quantities of air round your
room. It doesn't heat the place either... THAT IS A MYTH. I think that in
general when bringing home something old the problem is storage, as both the
drives and media are sensitive, plus the drives burn current and make lots of
heat... Happily I only have to worry about keeping the media and drives clean!

Soon I should be getting a '9900' controller and Eagle disk drives plus
a VAX-11/780-5 (which is a 780 converted to 785 I believe).

Everyone should have a VAX at home !

[END story list]

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