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What is a PDP-8?

The PDP-8 is the name given to a series of minicomputers manufactured between the late 1960's through to the early 1970's by a company then-called Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). DEC was bought out by Compaq, and now Compaq has merged with Hewlett-Packard.

The PDP-8 had a very simple architecture -- 8 basic instructions, a 12-bit word, and 4k to 32k words of core (magnetic) memory [CORE MEMORY EXHIBIT].

The PDP-8s came in three generations: transistorized (PDP-8 and PDP-8/S), IC version with general purpose modules built from SSI 74-series logic (PDP-8/I and PDP-8/L), and finally IC versions with "one board wonders" (one or two logic boards containing the entire CPU, using MSI 74-series logic, as in PDP-8/A, PDP-8/E, PDP-8/F, and PDP-8/M).

The PDP-8 (click here for exhibit)

PDP-8 Front Panel S M L XL I don't currently own a PDP-8, but a local institution has one, and it's in the process of being restored. I've taken some pictures, and put up some information about it.

The PDP-8/A (click here for exhibit)

PDP-8/A S M L XL This PDP-8/A was purchased from an individual in Ottawa back in the late 1990's along with the PDP-8/M. It is currently untested.

Price in 1974: USD$1,835

The PDP-8/E (1st unit) (click here for exhibit)

PDP-8/E 1st unit S M L XL This PDP-8/E was donated to the collection in the summer of 2000. It was used by the Canadian Coast Guard as part of their LORAN-C system (read more here). While I haven't extensively tested this machine yet, it is believed to be fully functioning.

It is model number "AE", and serial number AG 13319.

Price in 1970: USD$6,500

The PDP-8/E (2nd unit) (click here for exhibit)

PDP-8/E 2nd unit S M L XL This unit arrived 2006 09 14.

This is PDP-8/E S/N M40 00000 467, with KL8E, and KA8E options.

The PDP-8/E (3rd unit) (click here for exhibit)

PDP-8/E 3rd unit S M L XL This unit arrived 2006 09 14.

This is PDP-8/E S/N 2871 Date 1972 02 24, with KE8E, KD8E, KA8E, and TD8E options.

The PDP-8/F (click here for exhibit)

PDP-8/F S M L XL This unit arrived 2006 09 14.

This is PDP-8/F-AE S/N 944 Dated 1974 06 11, with KM8E, VE8E, AD8E, AM8E, TA8E, and KL8E options.

The PDP-8/I (click here for exhibit)

PDP-8/I S M L XL This PDP-8/I was purchased from an individual in Mississippi in June 2003, and is now restored. To prove that it works, I just played chess on it today (2003 12 18)! It was used on board a ship, in a project called SCORPIO (Shipboard Computerized Online Realtime Processing In Oceanography). And yes, with a name like that, it does have an EAE (Extended Arithmetic Element, the KE8I), however, there's a funny story that goes with that!

The 8/I is the second-largest of the PDP-8 systems (the "straight-8", an 8 with no suffix, is bigger).

In its basic configuration, it went for around USD$16,500!

The PDP-8/L (click here for exhibit)

PDP-8/L S M L XL This PDP-8/L was purchased from an individual in Orange, California, in August 2007. It's currently being restored. The funny story about this one is that it came with no cards, and I was able to populate about 90+% of it using my spare card inventory (which took a bit of a hit). Initial powerup occurred 2007 09 08 and there was no smoke. (The astute observer will notice that the picture is rotated 180 degrees :-)).

The PDP-8/L can hold 4k of core memory in the main cabinet and an additional 4k in an expansion box. The serial number is 8L 2023.

Price in 1968: USD$8,500.

The PDP-8/M (1st unit) (click here for exhibit)

PDP-8/M number 1 S M L XL This PDP-8/M was purchased from an individual in Ottawa back in the late 1990's along with the PDP-8/A. It is fully functioning.

This is serial number AG 09231.

This unit has 16k of core and the KE8E Extended Arithmetic Element.

The PDP-8/M (2nd unit) (click here for exhibit)

PDP-8/M number 2 S M L XL This PDP-8/M was donated by an individual in Maryland/USA, and arrived at the end of May, 2006. It came with a "cartrifile" tape unit and the interface card for it, three serial controllers (2 x M8650 and 1 x M8655), two bootstrap loader cards (2 x M847, one modified, one original), and a whopping 16k words of core (half the address space)!

I received it for the price of shipping. The unit is complete; the picture above was taken just before I started restoring it (20060909). Restoration is now first-pass complete (all the mechanical parts are restored, the power supply is operational, and the unit will run a short test program sporadically!)

Probably priced similarly to the PDP-8/E.

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Contact us This page was updated on Fri Feb 19 00:10:06 EST 2010 © 2000-2007 by Robert Krten.
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