Value of a PDP/8?

Rod Smallwood RodSmallwood at
Sun Mar 11 03:11:33 CDT 2007

Here's my six cents...

	I worked for DEC (twice). 
      Better engineering and nicer group of people you would not find

Rod Smallwood 
DEC Badge No 45083

-----Original Message-----
From: cctech-bounces at
[mailto:cctech-bounces at] On Behalf Of Ethan Dicks
Sent: 10 March 2007 02:26
To: General Discussion: On-Topic and Off-Topic Posts
Subject: Re: Value of a PDP/8?

> > Someone (Jules?  broken attribution?) wrote:
> > I feel the need to ask - what is it that makes DEC stuff so popular 
> > and collectible, versus other machines of the same time period?
> >
> > So... why? More of a community? Better documentation? Better 
> > hardware or software availability? What do collectors *do* with 
> > their running DEC systems anyway?

Familiarity - for me, as well as many members of this list, it's a
matter of accumulated experience on DEC boxes when they were new or
recently retired.

> I can only speak to my own reasons. It really comes down to 2 issues.
> When I started collecting DEC hardware it was pretty cheap on the 
> surplus market. My 11/05 cost $50.00 US and was runnable. Another $150

> and I had a pair of RX01's. The most expensive part was RAM.

Nice start.  As I've posted in the past, my start with DEC hardware was
a $35 PDP-8/L in 1982 from the Dayton Hamvention.  It took me 2 years of
fiddling around with it until I ran across a copy of the module list and
got it working.  From there, it was to a PDP-8/a to which I added an
RX8E/RX01 then an RL8A and RL01 and a VT52.
Coincident with the PDP-8/a, I was using PDP-11s and VAXen at work, so I
was pretty well established as a DEChead between High School and my
Freshman year of College.  I never got paid to program a PDP-8, but I'm
happy I barely made the cutoff to program the PDP-11 for a living

Besides early access to the hardware, I'd say the appeal was how much
cooler 12-bits and 16-bits and 32-bits was compared to my little 6502
and 1802 machines were at home.  I could write "real" programs on a
minicomputer at work or poke around with noddy stuff in BASIC and 6502
assembler at home.  No contest.  It didn't hurt that while I was
learning PDP-11 machine language at work (typing in diagnostics with
console ODT emulators), I was also working on Unibus and Qbus hardware.
I got to learn all the low-level stuff _and_ get a paycheck for it.  I
never saw an HP or Data General in the flesh until several years after I
was repairing PDP-11 boards and writing programs in MACRO and C.
Speaking of C, I learned it on an 11/750 running 4BSD in 1985.  A
venerable platform if ever there was one (back in the days of "all the
world's a VAX").  I learned the One True Brace formatting standard in
that environment and retain that style to this day.

So... in short - early exposure and access, then the chance to pick up
older stuff on the surplus market for cheap or free.  When nobody wanted
5MB RL01s, I was buying cheap RL01s.  Later it was RL02s, then it was
entire MicroVAXen, etc.  So much of it was backwards and forwards
compatible, I could play with what I could afford at home, then take my
results to work and run stuff on really expensive iron ($100K+).

Shame it's all so hard to find now.


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