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Wrecked PDP8/e front panel removed from a 8/e I struggled to get from a Dump Skip

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    Wrecked PDP8/e front panel removed from a 8/e I struggled to get from a Dump Skip

    Ongoing in my tidying up and emptying my 40ft storage semi-trailer I came across this DEC PDP 8/e front panel, so I will share the history on it.

    About 14 years back I was in the center our States Capital City Melbourne, Victoria Australia and noticed a Huge Dumpmaster Skip outside a Victorian Government building in Queens St (Melb). For any that know me, you are very aware a Dump skip, especially a large one, is like a Honey Pot to Bee for me. So I went 'diving'.

    There were numerous computers and other electronic gear some buried under furniture.
    Luckily my car was parked near by and I dashed to it, put on steel toe capped boots and overalls, and a HIGH Vis Vest, and when and climbed in bin.

    It took me a heap of work but I pulled out a total of 3 X PDP 8/e's which were near top plus some other gear. Sadly I could see deep in Bin, under a lot of furniture and some 19"racks, other DEC items that I think were disk packs etc. No way I could get all the DEC gear out, and I knew no ones phone number to call for help; plus darkness was falling and I had a meeting to attend.

    2 were not damaged amazingly but one was smashed on front panel.. the panel you see in these photos.

    How I got all 3 out of the high sided bin onto ground then into my car was more good fortune, than good management; as I am only 55kg (121lb) and 5ft 6". I think had it been earlier in day the workers that were loading the bin, would have still be about and told me to bugger off as it was not a Work Safe approved task to be in a bin.

    Anyways, at the moment the rest of the 8/e this panel is off is missing..and may be in one of the boxes at front of the semi. Time will tell as It may have been one I ended up dismantling and selling boards from.

    As you will notice there is track damage {repairable} and 1 missing switch lever.
    I just tried all the other switches and they appear fine.

    So what to do do with this panel?

    I have a feeling I saw the sections the were broken on the face panel a few months back so possibly I if I can find then and do a glue repair; maybe I could

    1 locate the rest of the machine it was on in my storage and put it up for sale?
    or if no machine
    2 make a stained wooden box to mount it in and marry it to Raspberry Pi and keep it?
    3. ask whom is in need of it to do a restoration of an genuine 8/e?

    First off, damn. Nice find. If I were on that side of the world, I would have been right there in the dumpster with you!

    i would just keep that as a spare. It would fetch a nice price or make a good trade item if one of your other machines needs something else. I love Oscar’s PDiP recreations, but lashing it up to a Raspberry Pi wouldn’t be my choice, unless you enjoy that challenge. There are repro PDP/8e front panels which would be the most expensive bit. Somebody’s going to need a front panel someday, and those switches don’t last forever. I have a spare LED panel for my 8/e that I keep in case my lamp-based front panel dies. Just my opinion..



      Interesting story. It'd be interesting to learn what they might have been used for when they were working. Thanks for rescuing those old 8/e's. If you're interested in replacing that smashed 8/e front panel, try to contact Rod "Panelman" Smallwood.
      I'm hoping Rod (or someone else) might find a way to create reproduction rack header panels.
      WTB: DEC PDP8-E rack header panels
      TA60, TM8-E, H851, PC04, BC80J cable


        Originally posted by ftcnet View Post
        I'm hoping Rod (or someone else) might find a way to create reproduction rack header panels.
        I'm very slowly pottering along on my own repro versions of these, 3D printed but with PDP-11 stencil/silkscreen not PDP-8


          I think "spares or repair, or use by" sale/exchange with enthusiasts seems like a wonderful way to go (assuming you don’t want to keep it yourself)!

          Missing paddle on the DEP switch: if you can’t source an original, then a 3D printed one with appropriately coloured enamel paint (1K or 2K) is one way to get one. There’s a thread about it here


          If the switch itself is broken and you cannot source an original: I haven't yet spotted a source of replacements for the momentary switches (of which the DEP switch is an example), but have had a few vague ideas. Note that DEC seem to have used two brands of switches; functionally the same (as far as I can tell) but with some cosmetic differences (plastic versus metal bodies). DEC might have had reasons for the change, who knows? Those in your picture are "AIRPAX"; those on the front panel control board I have are "Stackpole". The image above is an original plastic bodied AIRPAX and a modified substitute having the same size and PCB footprint (the momentary switches have a different PCB footprint).

          Panel facia: There were some styling differences. One of which is "visually functional" in respect of the selector switch. Your broken example has the later (I think) version, the one I have has the earlier "180 degree" version. I don't think it matters functionally. But maybe something to bear in mind if contacting Rod "Panelman" Smallwood.
          PS: The rotary switch positions are physically different so as to match the angles shown.

          I have had some ideas about how to DIY one at home (to make one for the SBC6120); but, like the reproduction switches, this is on the back-burner whilst I work on an actual PDP-8/E.
          Last edited by kb811; Today, 06:44 AM. Reason: Add: "PS: The rotary switch positions are physically different so as to match the angles shown."