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How It Was: PDP and VAX computers

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dzieda
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re: How It Was: PDP and VAX computers
dzieda   1/31/2012 2:46:18 PM
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Max, For me it wasn't that long ago working with a PDP11. I'm only 33 now and my experience came from a hardware design course at RPI back in 1999. They were still using old PDP11s on a couple labs - one where we put together a big wire-wrap card full of discrete logic to create a floppy drive interface for it. Another lab was to add a couple commands to the micro-kernel. It was interesting to work through the old design issues, but we were happy to get started working on the brand new Xilinx boards with a 5010 FPGA to implement a custom processor. Those were good times! Now I enjoy my days designing FPGA logic and various PCBs. I have to say that I was prepared after that education, even though certain technology was so old. Thanks, Adam http://www.MityDSP.com

Max The Magnificent
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re: How It Was: PDP and VAX computers
Max The Magnificent   1/29/2012 9:47:02 PM
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I know what you mean -- the graphics we have today is something we could never have even dreamed of say 30 years ago...

ReneCardenas
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re: How It Was: PDP and VAX computers
ReneCardenas   1/28/2012 5:56:01 PM
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Max, I still remember my experiments with the green CRT XY plotter for some cool early vector graphics. Those were fun days, and it is remarkable has been the graphics evolution.

EREBUS0
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re: How It Was: PDP and VAX computers
EREBUS0   1/27/2012 10:47:23 PM
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I started with a then new PDP 11/20 with 16K words of magnetic core memory and a super 64K word hard disk and a fast paper tape reader with a Decwriter terminal and a 7 track tape unit. Costed about $150,000. I think my digital watch has more computing power, but we did a lot of good scientific research with it. I was even doing image analysis with it forty years ago. I am just amazed at the computing capability setting idle every day verses what we could do with it if we just harnessed the time wasted in texting and email. Who knew?

Manfredv
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re: How It Was: PDP and VAX computers
Manfredv   1/26/2012 10:32:41 PM
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To the best of my knowledge Digital had no fault in the matter. The version that I got from a Senior South African official (and is corroborated by Richard Starr in his book: Foreign policies of the Soviet Union) is that an East German spy got the University to sign the end-user certificates and he then diverted the computers to a Swedish company that he owned for shipment to the Soviet Union. I do agree that the with you on the purpose of economic sanctions, however, the purpose of sanctioning the sale of military or high-tech equipment is to reduce the military capability of the target country. Yes, this often does not mean that the components or syatems are not available but it significantly increases the cost or means that the sanctioned country needs to pursue a different strategy which can involve developing its own capability as South Africa did with eg mine resistant vehicles and the Rooivalk Attack helicopter.

antedeluvian
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re: How It Was: PDP and VAX computers
antedeluvian   1/26/2012 4:55:35 PM
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Digital had a self imposed embargo on selling to apartheid South Africa, but I am surprised that they would have sold to the USSR. Still stranger things have happened. Redirecting embargoed goods was not unusual in those days. I am told the tiny island of Mauritius in the middle of the Indian Ocean was the largest consumer of Rolls Royce diesel engines in the 1980s. Having lived in several embargoed countries, it seems to me the purpose of economic sanctions is not to prevent goods getting to the pariah state, but to make it so expensive that it eventually bankrupts the said state.

Manfredv
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re: How It Was: PDP and VAX computers
Manfredv   1/26/2012 1:47:43 PM
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I have the good old Soviet union to thank for some of my best learning experiences on a VAX. My Engineering Faculty in South Africa had ordered two VAX11-782's but in a very interesting case of international espionage they were sent to the Soviet Union (but were intercepted in Sweden and Germany respectively). The upshot was that we got a 750 dropped at the faculty on a temporary basis. We (three undergrad students) soon figured out how to get an administrator password by crashing the system and did all kinds of clever things to our classmates' and the professor's accounts. In order not to get caught we had to learn a lot and fast! When we confessed to the professor at the end of the semester he thought it was hilarious and restored his faith in the VAX that had been acting very strange!

Kopernikus
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re: How It Was: PDP and VAX computers
Kopernikus   1/26/2012 12:54:41 PM
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The VAX: extremely slow with terminals, but massively faster with punched card input. Funded by the multi-university E.I.S. Projekt, the German contribution to the Mead-&-Conway revolution, my group at Kaiserslautern had a VAX 11/750. A bizarr situation I found in 1981 when attending a NATO summer school in Urbino, Italy: at SOGESTA where they also had a VAX 11/750 with a lot of terminals. In the afternoon we had VLSI design exercises on an early Routing and Placement program. The terminals for code input have been extremely slow. Each user had to wait extremely long for the curser to reach the next character position. I found out, that in the basement there was a punched card input machine connected to this VAX. I keyed my design project into punched cards. With this museum type equipment I was orders of magnitude faster than the rest of the attendees, stil frustrated by gazing into the terminal sceen. I got already the plot of my design when all other colleagues have been far from completing the design code input.

_hm
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re: How It Was: PDP and VAX computers
_hm   1/26/2012 1:50:47 AM
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At home I loved Sinclair Spectrum. It was wonderful experience. And just a decade back, it was dial-up modem for internet connection with so low speed.

Robotics Developer
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re: How It Was: PDP and VAX computers
Robotics Developer   1/26/2012 12:30:49 AM
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Ah the good old days :) I remember using the punched tape on a VT100 (I think) to save and run programs with. My first job we used Nova3s with removable disk drive platters (I think a whopping 5MB) with the operating system and all file storage. We were doing PCB layout laying mylar on full sized layouts for the PCB artwork..

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