seeking advice on moving PDP 11 and related gear

Jerome H. Fine jhfinedp3k at
Thu Jul 2 06:51:13 CDT 2015

 >Jerry Weiss wrote:

>>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.
The only thing I can say about the PDP-11/34 is that it is MUCH heavier 
than a
corresponding Qbus system.  I have a number of Qbus systems, mostly in 
a BA23 box or a BA123 box.  It is quite reasonable for one strong 
individual to
move a BA23 by themselves.  It is possible, but DEFINITELY not advisable
for that same strong person to move a BA123 by themselves.  Normally, two
strong individuals are needed to move a BA123 between two different levels
that differ by more than a few inches.  Moving a BA123 up or down a 
flight of
stairs can usually be done quite easily with two strong individuals.

Likewise, an RL01 / RL02 drive should be taken out of the rack.  There is a
locking mechanism which is sort of hidden unless you completely understand
what to look for.  Plus, you should remove any disk packs still in the 
drive and
ALSO place the drive in the LOCK  DOWN position prior to moving the
drive to the truck or trailer.  In addition, the rack which holds an 
RL01 / RL02
drive needs two strong individuals to move it to / from the truck or 
trailer.  You
can probably assume that you and the individual who has the PDP-11/34 are
strong enough, but I suggest that you ask the fellow explicitly FIRST.  
As for
an RL01 / RL02 drives, a single strong individual is usually able to 
move ONE
drive by itself (I did so when I was much younger - I am 76 years old 
now and
I doubt that I am still strong enough).  I recommend holding the RL01 / RL02
drive by the back end since more of the weight is at the back.

As for the tape drives, my experience is to also that you MIGHT be able to
carry one drive by itself, but do NOT  assume so.  Some such tape drives
are VERY heavy and two strong individuals are needed.

As for the actual PDP-11/34 all by itself, I ONLY ever had one that I never
even powered up and it was too heavy for me to move it by myself into or
out of its rack.  So be prepared to have a second strong individual around
when you arrive home to help with unloading everything.

Unfortunately, the expert advice to release an RL01 / RL02 drive from the
rack and place it in the LOCK  DOWN position is no longer in my memory.
I managed to pass along to another individual all of my RL01 / RL02 drives
a number of years ago since they were no longer being used.  Anyone who
does remember, PLEASE add this information to my reply.  Some bolts
need to be removed to release an RL01 / RL02 drive and they are not
normally visible - the slide MUST be in a certain position.  And I can't
remember anything about the LOCK  DOWN procedure.

Overall, your plan to move seems very reasonable.  The only thing to
add is to make sure that a fast (emergency?) stop does not shift the
load.  My driving advice is to keep double or triple the usual distance
in front of you when driving so there are no sudden stops.  Maybe a
sign on the back of the trailer (HEAVY  LOAD) might help???????
Drive as slowly as possible without holding up traffic too much.

Jerome Fine

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