Accelerator boards - no future? Bad business?

tony duell ard at
Sat Apr 23 10:25:55 CDT 2016

> Honestly, I can't see the point in modern upgrades except perhaps for
> temporary use in order to get data to/from original equipment. At the point
> where people start adding emulated storage, USB interfaces, VGA display
> hardware etc. it stops being a vintage system and starts being a modern
> version which just happens to still have a few vintage parts. May as well
> say screw it and just use an emulator for the whole thing...
> Now upgrades within the realm of what would have been possible during a
> system's lifetime I can get on board with - using period components to
> implement things such as Ethernet interfaces, accelerators, extra memory etc...

I'm with you on this, generally...

A concrete example. As many of you know I have a VAX 11/730 that I am restoring
(It's currently on hold as I may have a lead on a scrap RA80 that I can get the 
brackets, etc, I need to repair the R80 from (as well as a spare HDA) so until
I know one way or the other I am not going to do metalbashing...). I do NOT want
to use any of the common TU58 emulators. It seems ridiculous to use something 
like an Rpi to boot an 11/730 CPU. If I can't get the real tape-based TU58 running
then any emulator I make for it will use a CPU contemporary with the rest of
the machine (probably an 8085 as used in the real TU58). 

Similarly I want to keep FPGAs and the like (hacker-unfriendly, closed, devices)
away from my classics. I want proper documentation -- that's one reason
I run the classics in the first place. Not a closed-source compiler that does
$diety-knows-what to my design. I will not stick an FPGA-based board in my 
Unibus, there were no such things with the Unibus was 'current' .

However, how far do you go (I am asking, I am not sure of the answer). Is it
'OK' to use a modern machine running a terminal emulator in place of a 
real contemporary-to-the-machine terminal (FWIW, I do try to have at 
least the console as a 'real' terminal in the end but might well use a
terminal emulator when getting it all working). What about mass storage
units that just connect to a peripheral interface (I am thinking of things
like the HPIB-interfaced drives on HP9000/200 machnes). Should you
not use modern machines and compilers to cross-develop software for
classic computers? Should you only use test gear that was contemporary
with the machine (so no DSO's when working on classics, I should not
use my (ancient) logic analysers, even less the LogicDart on my 


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