seeking advice on moving PDP 11 and related gear

Jerry Weiss jsw at
Thu Jul 2 03:34:35 CDT 2015

On Jul 1, 2015, at 3:57 PM, devin davison <lyokoboy0 at> wrote:
> Ive been trying to get a pdp 11 for quite a few years now, I recently found
> someone selling a 11/34 with related gear in a couple of racks Here in my
> state of florida. I jumped at the chance and bought it, i have not found
> anything for sale this close to me before, yet alone in my state.
> The plan is to go get it all later this week. It is a 11/34 in a rack with
> a bunch of related Rl drives and a couple of big reel to reel tape drives.
> Not sure the specifics anymore, after I paid him he took down the ad, and i
> did not write down the details. What I want to ask is is there anything i
> should look out for, any precautions I can take to make sure this all gets
> back in one piece? Especially in relation to the RL drives, ive never dealt
> with any of this equipment before and am not sure what to expect.
> The plan is to rent a uhaul trailer and go over there in a truck, and to
> take everything delicately out of the racks and put it into the trailer,
> and to put the empty racks into the truck.
> Any advice that could help or prepare me for what i should expect to need
> to do once i get there would be much appreciated.

In the 80’s my job involved moving a set of 11/34a + 11/23’s cross country each
summer to do research for 8 years and back again.  We shipped commercially on 
air cushioned vans, but did all the packing ourselves.  The less anything moves
or vibrates the better.  We left everything in their racks.

Our approach was to disconnect all the cables between major subsystems. 
Everything was marked with duplicates on both sides of cables.  We
left the cards in the Unibus and QBus, but had padding, covers to 
make sure the cards wouldn’t vibrate or fall out.  Locking slides on rack mount
devices and heads on drives was of course mandatory.  Had big labels attached 
to drives and movable parts we had locks on (insert Apollo 13 movie
reference about not jettisoning the LM early).  

Then a heavy layer of packing tape on everything that might move or vibrate.  
Heaviest components on bottom of all rack.  Watch out for tipping and pad with old
blankets. Extra straps  in the trucks to make everything immobile.  

These days given the age of this gear, you have to be extra careful on the cables,
especially older Unibus BC11A type flat cables.  Tough call is on the filters. I’d remove
the filters ahead of time if you can and ship in their own container. If they are original
they will crumble on touch.   Filters and foam pieces will shed particles (or worse).
Whether you leave them in or not, you need to open up everything and clean
before (if you can) and after moving.  Disk packs should be in boxes or padded individually.

Other than a bulb in the head positioner in an RK05 going out, I don’t recall
major problem restoring the systems.

Good luck.


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