Stanford's PDP-6

Len Shustek len at
Wed Jun 17 21:53:24 CDT 2009

 > From: Al Kossow
 > Sent: Wednesday, June 17, 2009 8:32 AM
 > I'm resending this with a revised title so someone has a chance of finding
 > this again in the future. I sent a similar message to alt.sys.pdp10 when
 > the subject came up last time.

This issue resurfaces every few years.  My first post related to it 
was to alt.sys.pdp10 on 2/28/1996 2:54 PM.  The last time I saw it 
discussed was February of 2006.  I have various messages on the 
subject in my email archive, including those between Gordon Bell and 
Rich Alderson in 1999.

This supposed dismantling of the Stanford PDP-6 predates even my 
tenure on the board of The Computer Museum, which started in 1995, so 
I can't make a personal testimonial.  But like Al, I've searched the 
files and spoken to people who were there.  I have no evidence that 
it is true, and I have gotten multiple declarations that it is 
false.  See, for example, the email below from Gwen Bell to me in 1999.

I don't know what else we can do.  I'm sure this is not the last time 
it will be discussed.  In my 1996 posting I said,

 > It pains me to read some of the recent comments about TCM's collection
 > policy.  I can't answer any of the complaints about specific items,
 > because I wasn't involved.  I do know, and this comes mostly from
 > getting to know the Bells, that preserving computers in the context of a
 > financially sound organization that can survive our lifetimes is their
 > main priority.

And it is ours still today.

Len Shustek
Chairman, Computer History Museum

 >Date: Sun, 25 Apr 1999 19:09:13 -0800
 >To: Len Shustek <len at>
 >From: Gwen Bell <bell at>
 >Subject: Re: [Fwd: The Computer Museum did WHAT????
 >Cc: gbell at
 >The story of the "sale" of the PDP-6 boards is pretty simple. The
 >original Museum was in the MR-1 and MR-2 facilities of DEC. These
 >were the engineering/manufacturing locations for the PDP-6. The
 >Museum had access to the "trash", the boards that were discarded
 >for use in the computers to be sold. We held them and sold them
 >at a single yard sale. I can get the VPs and Engineers in Marlboro
 >at the time to attest to this version. The Museum did not "strip"
 >any workable PDP-6 machines, these boards were already "surplussed",
 >whatever that meant ... but they were not used. And, like the Apple I
 >boards that we not sold, they would have been shredded and recycled.
 >This can be attested to by Alan Kotok (part of the 6 project now at
 >MIT), Ulf Fagerquist, who was engineering head of large computers,
 >Bob Glorioso, as well as Gordon who was their boss at the time.
 >The Museum folks essentially scavenged the bays of boards that were to
 >recycled or just discarded in the dump to sell to "collectors." This
 >was clearly a market or purpose that the company did not see. But
was approved for the purpose of history .. and building a body of
 >other collectors and establishing collectables, something that happens
 >for all kinds of technology museums.

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