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Thread: Whats was the pdp8 and pdp11 used for when they were new?

  1. #1

    Default Whats was the pdp8 and pdp11 used for when they were new?

    Hi,

    I would like to know what type of problems these machines were used to solve when they were new. Is there any kind of source code out there? because I cant seem to find information about this.

    Thanks.

  2. #2

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    Many were used in schools or universities. In 9th grade we had dial up access via teletype to the local community colleges pdp-8.
    It was tons of fun and what got me interested in computers back in 1970. Later in college I we had a pdp-11/34 in the Comp Sci
    dept and then a Vax 11/780. Telephone companies used many pdp-8s. There must be tons of source code out there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NicolasF View Post
    Hi,

    I would like to know what type of problems these machines were used to solve when they were new. Is there any kind of source code out there? because I cant seem to find information about this.

    Thanks.
    Read this thread: http://www.vcfed.org/forum/showthrea...still-relevant

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    Weren't a lot of PDP-8's used in fast food for the registers / ordering system? McD's or BK if I remember right...

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    I worked on an 8 in the 70's. it was used for taking bets, calculating odds and updating the "tote" board.
    I've seen lots of stories that pdp-11's are still running nuclear power plants. Given the approval process for that code I'm going to accept that as true.

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    When the PDP-11 was brand new some folks at Bell Labs bought one under the guise of building a word processing system for typing up patent applications. We know that system today as "Unix". PDP-11 source code for v5, v6 and v7 is readily available.

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    In addition to the ability to use it as a platform for running compiled higher languages like Basic the PDP-8 and the PDP-11 were also ideal platforms for machine control with a simple and easy to use operating system. In some ways something like the Basic Stamps or the Raspberry Pi of today.
    They found their way in to all types of scientific, educational and industrial applications. Along with systems like the Data General Nova they were some of the first small systems available. Before the PDP-8 systems were huge and expensive but that system pointed the way of things to come.

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    I had a PDP-8 years ago that was used for controlling a spherical photometer for a manufacturer of lighting systems. Seems a good match to the capabilities to use for machine control.

    PDP-11's saw a great deal of use as machine controllers for a number of reasons, the most important of which was the ability to do hard-realtime control. I've seen several at this point, including an 11/60 that was used to control a specialized scanner that was built to scan glass photographic plates such as produced by telescopes prior to advent of the CCD astronomical imager.

    11/23's were very popular for this usage, since they were fast enough yet relatively inexpensive enough for this task. Although I did see one setup of two scanners, based on Perkin-Elmer PDS 2020 microdensitometers, that used VAXstations, and interfaced to the realtime hardware's subprocessors via a SCSI-connected CAMAC crate. The realtime positioner servo was an HP laser interferometer using several 68020s to do the realtime job, positioning the scanning spot to a precision of 63nm. Hardware-clocked FIFOs produced the position-stamped samples, since the 90MHz VS4000 was simply neither fast enough nor realtime enough running VMS to handle it.

    11's also got a lot of usage for telescope controllers, again mostly thanks to the hard-realtime capabilities but also due to the great language support of the day on RT11 and RSX11, mostly FORTRAN for scientific uses but later on C took a foothold. Much astronomical software used professionally (such as IRAF) still has a significant FORTRAN heritage.

    Today's closest equivalent wouldn't be the RasPI or similar Linux SBCs, but the ATMega328-series SBC's (aka Arduino), which have similar speeds to the various PDP-11's (ATMega 328 SBC's typically clock at 14.5MHz or thereabouts and are quite efficient; high-end PDP-11's such as the 11/93 clock in the same basic neighborhood for the microcycle timing (18MHz) which yields an effective clock (for a direct comparison) of 4.5MHz. The 11 being 16-bit versus the ATMega being 8-bit can make the 11 a bit faster clock-for-clock, but I personally would find a direct comparison (maybe the PI benchmark referenced in the thread at http://www.vcfed.org/forum/showthrea...-CPU-frequency would be interesting). I/O robustness is totally irrelevant to machine control purposes, for the most part, so even though the 11's can likely run rings around the ATMega328 boards in terms of disk I/O etc it just doesn't matter for that application.

    RasPI and similar SBCs aren't really built to be hard-realtime, although there are exceptions.
    --
    Bughlt: Sckmud
    Shut her down Scotty, she's sucking mud again!

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    I have a PDP-8/e that was used to control stitching machines for embroidery patterns on cowboy boots. The gentleman who sold it to me said that he had been in the business since 1972, and only then was phasing out support for the PDP 8/m machines (like the one I bought), but that he was still supporting 8/a-based setups in Canada and India. I visited his shop in Burleson, TX to pick up the machine, and saw several DEC machines set up as dedicated controllers, and a bunch of stitching machines. That was 3 or 4 years ago. He also had a PDP-11 setup running software for more complex embroidery patterns.

  10. #10

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    In what used to be called "The Bell System", PDP11's were extensively used in back office functions. Most ran some variant of unix that was developed as a more or less spare time project by Thompson, Ritchie, and others working at Bell Labs as was already mentioned above. The MMOC I worked in for a few years had literally hundreds in service: 11/70's running COSMOS or TIRKS, 11/23+'s running RMAS and RCA, and the 12 11/70's I worked with supporting SCCS. In addition, each SCC had a couple of 11/23's as control consoles for alternate access to the Central Offices they supported when primary systems were down for maintenance or backup.
    "It's all bits on the bus, Cowboy! It's all bits on the bus!" -- Tom Beck, #1ESS Instructor, Southern Bell Opa Locka Training Center

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