Front Panel Update

Paul Koning paulkoning at
Tue Jun 9 17:45:03 CDT 2015

> On Jun 9, 2015, at 5:58 PM, tony duell <ard at> wrote:
>> WTF? Varian was a competitor of DEC. They made minis themselves. Sounds
>> extremely strange that one would take a DEC mini, and put a Varian badge
>> on it. Did someone try to make a joke?
> I will always think of Varian as a maker of (very high quality) vacuum equipment.
> I am sure this was not a joke. It wasn't just the name, the switch handles were all green, the silkscreening
> was different, etc. It was a normal PDP8/e inside, though. It was part of a piece of lab equipment (I forget
> what) and I had to do a minor repair on the PDP8/e side (this was over 20 years ago...). I was pleased to
> see that apart from a custom interface board, the rest of it was standard DEC boards, so the printsets I 
> had applied.

Interesting.  Varian is a microwave equipment company; I have one of their TWTs sitting on my H960 at home.  Vacuum equipment, I could believe that.  But yes, Varian made a 16 bit minicomputer; I had a handbook for it at one time (now lost, I suspect).  And if memory serves, the reason is that there was one in the Computer Science department at the University of Illinois where I studied.  I remember nothing about the architecture, other than the fact it supported user microprogramming.

Possibly the OEM PDP8 predates that device.  Or possibly it wasn’t enough of a competitor for DEC to stop doing OEM business with Varian.


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