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Re: [midatlanticretro] MARCH PDP-11 exhibit, project update

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  • William Donzelli
    ... I would think it unreasonable to think that Census Bureau had only that one little PDP-11/20 at the time... -- Will
    Message 1 of 18 , Sep 20, 2007
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      > I was reading a Dr Dobb's the other night from 79 or 80 that had a little side bar article discussing the
      > census and telling the readers to write to the census bureau with suggestions for how to do it better,
      > faster, more accurately, etc. Ie, design the microcomputer based system (!) that would replace the
      > machine Herb just documented.

      I would think it unreasonable to think that Census Bureau had only
      that one little PDP-11/20 at the time...

      --
      Will
    • William Donzelli
      ... and ... I would like to commend John for saying one of the smartest things I have seen about MARCH. He seems to have his head screwed on straight. It would
      Message 2 of 18 , Sep 20, 2007
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        > First impression is great.
        >
        > Something which I don't think has been proposed yet is that anything that is
        > computing+old+excellent (+exists) might be the best choice for a permanent
        > display. 'Excellent' being the new proposal. Bill Degnan for one has shown
        > how a complete display:
        > hardware,software,documentation,advertising,demonstrations,history
        > can relate the full story of a thing and further what a little graphic
        > design ability can do to make something a communicable lesson for just about
        > any museum goer.

        and

        > define
        > excellence :== a complete, clean, display
        > a complete display :==
        > hardware,software,documentation,advertising,demonstrations,history

        I would like to commend John for saying one of the smartest things I
        have seen about MARCH. He seems to have his head screwed on straight.

        It would be very beneficial to MARCH to get some focus - and this is a
        great way to do it. Come up with an idea for an exhibit that the group
        can relate to, and work on getting a presentable display up. Do not be
        distracted by unrelated transient projects. Be thorough, doing a
        professional job - and the exhibit will shine.

        For example, work the PDP-11/20 exhibit, as others have mentioned (and
        Herb more or less doing already), and really make it great. Dump the
        other DEC stuff, like the VAX-11/750 (well, sell it). It is just a
        distraction that takes up space, is not very pretty, and will suck
        away valuable time from the PDP-11/20. When the PDP-11/20 exhibit has
        taken shape, then move on to another, pehaps also DEC. Stick to the
        real top-shelf gems, like the PDP-11/20.

        I know I may sound like a thorn in MARCHs side, but remember that I
        have been thru this game before (RCS, anyone? RICM? I could also name
        some other non-computer related groups that I saw fizzle out). A few
        excellent exhibits ALWAYS beats a pile of half-assed ones. Being too
        informal is the leading cause of death with small independent museums.

        Oh, and I am still waiting for an answer to my previous question about
        a collection policy and charter for MARCH. John's suggestion pokes at
        the core of the issue.

        --
        Will
      • Bob Applegate
        ... True, but it sounds like it was part of a development system. 10 years later they wanted to replace older generation systems with newer ideas. There s no
        Message 3 of 18 , Sep 20, 2007
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          William Donzelli <wdonzelli@...> wrote :

          > > I was reading a Dr Dobb's the other night from 79 or 80 that had a little side bar article discussing the
          > > census and telling the readers to write to the census bureau with suggestions for how to do it better,
          > > faster, more accurately, etc. Ie, design the microcomputer based system (!) that would replace the
          > > machine Herb just documented.
          >
          > I would think it unreasonable to think that Census Bureau had only
          > that one little PDP-11/20 at the time...

          True, but it sounds like it was part of a development system. 10 years later
          they wanted to replace older generation systems with newer ideas. There's no way
          a microcomputer then (or even now) would be able to do the complete census, but
          it does show a change in technology. Old development machines being replaced
          with newer development machines, neither of which ran the actual census data
          but might have been used to prove out algorithms or run reports on subsets of
          data extracted from mainframe(s).

          Bob


          ___________________________________
          NOCC, http://nocc.sourceforge.net
        • Herb Johnson
          ... a little side bar article discussing the ... suggestions for how to do it better, ... system (!) that would replace the ... I m still documenting the
          Message 4 of 18 , Sep 21, 2007
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            >
            > > I was reading a Dr Dobb's the other night from 79 or 80 that had
            a little side bar article discussing the
            > > census and telling the readers to write to the census bureau with
            suggestions for how to do it better,
            > > faster, more accurately, etc. Ie, design the microcomputer based
            system (!) that would replace the
            > > machine Herb just documented.

            > "William Donzelli" <wdonzelli@...> wrote:

            > I would think it unreasonable to think that Census Bureau had only
            > that one little PDP-11/20 at the time...

            I'm still documenting the system, first of all. Second, my initial
            understanding is that this system was used by the DEVELOPERS at NBS
            who developed some of those scanning systems used by the Census
            Bureau. Many computers were used of course by the Census Bureau, at
            many locations - I've read as much. As for the Dr. Dobb's article, I'd
            appreciate a specific reference so I could look it up.

            Herb Johnson

            Herbert R. Johnson, New Jersey USA
            http://www.retrotechnology.com/herbs_stuff/ web site
            http://www.retrotechnology.net/herbs_stuff/ domain mirror
            my email address: hjohnson AAT retrotechnology DOTT com
            if no reply, try in a few days: herbjohnson ATT comcast DOTT net
            "Herb's Stuff": old Mac, SGI, 8-inch floppy drives
            S-100 IMSAI Altair computers, docs, by "Dr. S-100"
          • Herb Johnson
            ... years later ... There s no way ... census, but ... replaced ... census data ... subsets of ... I m glad there is interest in the Census Bureau s work. That
            Message 5 of 18 , Sep 21, 2007
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              Bob Applegate <bob@...> wrote:
              >
              > William Donzelli <wdonzelli@...> wrote :
              >
              > > I would think it unreasonable to think that Census Bureau had only
              > > that one little PDP-11/20 at the time...
              >
              > True, but it sounds like it was part of a development system. 10
              years later
              > they wanted to replace older generation systems with newer ideas.
              There's no way
              > a microcomputer then (or even now) would be able to do the complete
              census, but
              > it does show a change in technology. Old development machines being
              replaced
              > with newer development machines, neither of which ran the actual
              census data
              > but might have been used to prove out algorithms or run reports on
              subsets of
              > data extracted from mainframe(s).
              >
              > Bob

              I'm glad there is interest in the Census Bureau's work. That may
              become part of the exhibit, we'll see how it pans out but that's
              within my evolving plan.

              What I've found so far on the Web about the work of the Census Bureau,
              is that a core problem was the sheer VOLUME of incoming data, which at
              the collection level was on paper forms. The NBS developed computing
              systems and methods to scan huge volumes of paper documents. As volume
              grew, faster and newer equipment was developed to keep up. Apparently
              NBS did this research for the Census, and later for the Postal
              Service, using PDP-11 systems including the one donated to us.

              At this time, MARCH has a computer, and DEC-supplied documents and
              paper tape software which DEC included for maintaining the computer
              and for writing programs in BASIC or assembler. No programs, hardware,
              or documents about ACTUAL USE so far are in MARCH's possession to my
              knowledge, and I think I've seen what we have. REVIEW MY WEB PAGE for
              details and as I update that page.

              I have some Web links on "my" PDP-11 page about computers and the
              Census. If others find other Web links or documents which are useful,
              please give me SPECIFIC REFERENCES so I can add those links or
              references as well. Thank you.

              Herb Johnson

              Herbert R. Johnson, New Jersey USA
              http://www.retrotechnology.com/herbs_stuff/ web site
              http://www.retrotechnology.net/herbs_stuff/ domain mirror
              my email address: hjohnson AAT retrotechnology DOTT com
              if no reply, try in a few days: herbjohnson ATT comcast DOTT net
              "Herb's Stuff": old Mac, SGI, 8-inch floppy drives
              S-100 IMSAI Altair computers, docs, by "Dr. S-100"
            • Herb Johnson
              ... anything that is ... permanent ... one has shown ... graphic ... just about ... hardware,software,documentation,advertising,demonstrations,history ... I
              Message 6 of 18 , Sep 21, 2007
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                > "John Allain" <allain@...> wrote:

                > > First impression is great.
                > >
                > > Something which I don't think has been proposed yet is that
                anything that is
                > > computing+old+excellent (+exists) might be the best choice for a
                permanent
                > > display. 'Excellent' being the new proposal. Bill Degnan for
                one has shown
                > > how a complete display:
                > > hardware,software,documentation,advertising,demonstrations,history
                > > can relate the full story of a thing and further what a little
                graphic
                > > design ability can do to make something a communicable lesson for
                just about
                > > any museum goer.
                >
                > and
                >
                > > define
                > > excellence :== a complete, clean, display
                > > a complete display :==
                > >
                hardware,software,documentation,advertising,demonstrations,history

                "William Donzelli" <wdonzelli@...> wrote:
                > I would like to commend John for saying one of the smartest things I
                > have seen about MARCH. He seems to have his head screwed on straight.
                >
                > It would be very beneficial to MARCH to get some focus - and this is a
                > great way to do it. Come up with an idea for an exhibit that the group
                > can relate to, and work on getting a presentable display up. Do not be
                > distracted by unrelated transient projects. Be thorough, doing a
                > professional job - and the exhibit will shine.

                I spent considerable time today, in trying to decide if I should argue
                with you two above, or simply tell you both not to use my project and
                discussion thread to discuss MARCH policy. For now, I'm not going to
                argue.

                This thread, and others similarly titled, will be about work on the
                11/20 exhibit and its contents and artifacts. I am NOT discussing
                MARCH policy on exhibits or on its inventory. I do not consider my
                project, as a prototype for others or as setting any standard other
                than one based on RESULTS. Policy is simply outside the scope of my
                responsibilities.

                And discussions of a final display scheme are premature. I saw little
                otherwise in your posts which were specific to what I've done. What
                I've done is accessable on a Web page as noted. I welcome the other
                posts which discuss that content and I'll try to put some of that on
                that page. Of course any information, Web links, resources and so on
                will be appreciated and added when relevant. I'm glad this project has
                some interest.

                Please take your policy discussions to another thread; I am not saying
                you can't post such discussions as I have no right to do that. But I
                think I can moderate a discussion about work I am doing for MARCH.
                It's fair to exclude other discusions outside the scope of that work,
                so I can focus on the work I've offered to do.

                Herb Johnson

                Herbert R. Johnson, New Jersey USA
                http://www.retrotechnology.com/herbs_stuff/ web site
                http://www.retrotechnology.net/herbs_stuff/ domain mirror
                my email address: hjohnson AAT retrotechnology DOTT com
                if no reply, try in a few days: herbjohnson ATT comcast DOTT net
                "Herb's Stuff": old Mac, SGI, 8-inch floppy drives
                S-100 IMSAI Altair computers, docs, by "Dr. S-100"
              • Evan Koblentz
                ... I don t see that anyone is trying to argue or has anything other than MARCH s best interests in mind. A little thread-drift is a natural thing. Just ask
                Message 7 of 18 , Sep 21, 2007
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                  >>> I am NOT discussing MARCH policy on exhibits or on its inventory.

                  I don't see that anyone is trying to argue or has anything other than
                  MARCH's best interests in mind. A little thread-drift is a natural thing.
                  Just ask Jay West. :)

                  Anyway, comments re: MARCH policy are clearly (and deservedly!) meant for
                  me, not you, Herb. So please don't take any of that personally...

                  To everyone: in an upcoming email, I will address the questions about our
                  mission etc. For now let's please keep the PDP thread to the PDP
                  exhibit...

                  However the one thing I will say now (yes this is drift) is just to repeat
                  what I said a few weeks ago, i.e., I fully support having some stand-alone
                  "best of MARCH" exhibits simultaneous to the planning and construction of
                  our long-term themed exhibits. So let it be said, so let it be done...!

                  And now back to our regular discussion about the 11/20. Herb, the floor
                  is yours.
                • Dan Roganti
                  Herb, This looks to be a very interesting exhibit. I ll look forward to this when I visit there. Keep up the great work ! =Dan [ I do not fear computers. I
                  Message 8 of 18 , Sep 22, 2007
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                    Herb,

                    This looks to be a very interesting exhibit.
                    I'll look forward to this when I visit there.
                    Keep up the great work !

                    =Dan
                    [ "I do not fear computers. I fear the lack of them"     ]
                    [ Pittsburgh ----http://www2.applegate.org/~ragooman/    ]
                    
                    


                    Herb Johnson wrote:

                    I've updated my Web page on the PDP 11/20 system today. This page is
                    for MARCH use only, not for public access.

                    http://www.retrotec hnology.com/ pdp11/

                    This was a system used by the National Bureau of Standards and the
                    Post Office in the 1970's, for research and use for scanning
                    documents. The NBS (now NIST) created leading computer scanning
                    technology for important applications such as the National Census.

                    This is not trivial history. The 10-year Census is mandated by the US
                    Constitution, but needs new technology to keep up with the volume of
                    work and documents. The NBS led the way in rapid scanning methods and
                    use of computers; resulting technology was used by business for
                    similar record-keeping.

                    I'm still researching how this PDP-11 was used to scan documents in
                    the 70's. But my survey of DEC documents and papertapes which came
                    with this system, suggest to me that MAY we have a COMPLETE 11/20
                    software development and maintenance system of the early 1970's. I
                    still need to discuss the contents with the donor. Again, the goal is
                    an exhibit of how small computers like this were used to develop
                    applications in 1970 - years before the first personal computers were
                    in production. It's particularly interesting as what we have is PAPER
                    TAPE based - appropriate for 1970 and likely VERY alien to most people
                    today.

                    I do not know if we can also protray the actual use of this particular
                    machine, as no documents, software, or hardware was provided specific
                    to those developments.

                    The Web site's home page now includes a first pass at identifying
                    documents and paper tapes. There are several photos of these items by
                    kind. The items are listed on the project home page at:

                    http://www.retrotec hnology.com/ pdp11/

                    To give others an idea of the time investment on inventoring such
                    items and to make the result accessable, here's a rough rundown of my
                    time.

                    About four hours solid of photography, listing books, papertapes - and
                    the list is complete but not fully detailed; about three hours to
                    enter the notes onto my Web page; a few hours to cut and sizeand
                    identify two dozen photos; hours of Web searching for background
                    information; and an hour to rough out and edit the Web page.

                    All that, for about six boxes of stuff and one computer. And, this
                    only amounts to a "here's what we have", a very little history about
                    the computer, and NOTHING about use. Inventory by itself is not a
                    small task, if it's to be complete and on-line even as text.

                    Herb Johnson

                    Herbert R. Johnson, New Jersey USA
                    http://www.retrotec hnology.com/ herbs_stuff/ web site
                    http://www.retrotec hnology.net/ herbs_stuff/ domain mirror
                    my email address: hjohnson AAT retrotechnology DOTT com
                    if no reply, try in a few days: herbjohnson ATT comcast DOTT net
                    "Herb's Stuff": old Mac, SGI, 8-inch floppy drives
                    S-100 IMSAI Altair computers, docs, by "Dr. S-100"


                    No virus found in this incoming message. Checked by AVG Free Edition. Version: 7.5.487 / Virus Database: 269.13.25/1018 - Release Date: 9/19/2007 3:59 PM
                  • jack99rubin
                    ... I may have missed a reference in the earlier posts, but since this equipment was donated directly by the original user, I would set a high priority on
                    Message 9 of 18 , Sep 22, 2007
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                      >
                      > I'm still documenting the system, first of all. Second, my initial
                      > understanding is that this system was used by the DEVELOPERS at NBS
                      > who developed some of those scanning systems used by the Census
                      > Bureau. Many computers were used of course by the Census Bureau, at
                      > many locations - I've read as much. As for the Dr. Dobb's article, I'd
                      > appreciate a specific reference so I could look it up.
                      >
                      > Herb Johnson

                      I may have missed a reference in the earlier posts, but since this
                      equipment was donated directly by the original user, I would set a high
                      priority on getting a full description of how the system was chosen,
                      configured and used from the donor. In addition, an oral history might
                      make an interesting addition to the exhibit.

                      Context is what makes this machine so interesting, so don't miss the
                      opportunity to get information directly from the donor. Since he states
                      that he wanted to find a good home for the system, I expect he might be
                      very interested in the development of the exhibit and a link to Herb's
                      work-in-progress website.

                      Jack
                    • Bob Applegate
                      Hi Herb, Sorry for not getting the Dr Dobb s reference sooner... I couldn t figure out which issue it was in until I happened to be looking at some corrections
                      Message 10 of 18 , Sep 24, 2007
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                        Hi Herb,
                         
                        Sorry for not getting the Dr Dobb's reference sooner... I couldn't figure out which issue it was in until I happened to be
                        looking at some corrections to the PATB code in the June/July 1976 issue, page 34.  After looking at the short
                        article again, there really isn't any computer focus at all, just "if you have any suggestions, send them to...".
                        Not much of interest after all.
                         
                        Bob
                         
                         
                         
                        ----- Original Message -----
                        Sent: Friday, September 21, 2007 12:08 PM
                        Subject: [midatlanticretro] Re: MARCH PDP-11 exhibit, project update


                        >
                        > > I was reading a Dr Dobb's the other night from 79 or 80 that had
                        a little side bar article discussing the
                        > > census and telling the readers to write to the census bureau with
                        suggestions for how to do it better,
                        > > faster, more accurately, etc. Ie, design the microcomputer based
                        system (!) that would replace the
                        > > machine Herb just documented.

                        > "William Donzelli" <wdonzelli@. ..> wrote:

                        > I would think it unreasonable to think that Census Bureau had only
                        > that one little PDP-11/20 at the time...

                        I'm still documenting the system, first of all. Second, my initial
                        understanding is that this system was used by the DEVELOPERS at NBS
                        who developed some of those scanning systems used by the Census
                        Bureau. Many computers were used of course by the Census Bureau, at
                        many locations - I've read as much. As for the Dr. Dobb's article, I'd
                        appreciate a specific reference so I could look it up.

                        Herb Johnson

                        Herbert R. Johnson, New Jersey USA
                        http://www.retrotec hnology.com/ herbs_stuff/ web site
                        http://www.retrotec hnology.net/ herbs_stuff/ domain mirror
                        my email address: hjohnson AAT retrotechnology DOTT com
                        if no reply, try in a few days: herbjohnson ATT comcast DOTT net
                        "Herb's Stuff": old Mac, SGI, 8-inch floppy drives
                        S-100 IMSAI Altair computers, docs, by "Dr. S-100"

                      • Herb Johnson
                        On Sunday, Sept 30th, I visited InfoAge to take more photos and to examine the PDP 11/20 system. I ll have an account of the boards in the box later on my
                        Message 11 of 18 , Oct 1, 2007
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                          On Sunday, Sept 30th, I visited InfoAge to take more photos and to
                          examine the PDP 11/20 system. I'll have an account of the boards in
                          the "box" later on my Web page. It appears to have the CPU cards and
                          some memory and serial port. I may have been the first inside the box
                          in 30 years! The cards were not disturbed otherwise.

                          I also looked at the two PDP-11's which are in very small cabinets.
                          They are 11/05's, not 11/10's as I previously suggested. I have photos
                          of those.

                          I'll announce when the PDP Web page is updated.

                          Herb Johnson

                          Herbert R. Johnson, New Jersey USA
                          http://www.retrotechnology.com/herbs_stuff/ web site
                          http://www.retrotechnology.net/herbs_stuff/ domain mirror
                          my email address: hjohnson AAT retrotechnology DOTT com
                          if no reply, try in a few days: herbjohnson ATT comcast DOTT net
                          "Herb's Stuff": old Mac, SGI, 8-inch floppy drives
                          S-100 IMSAI Altair computers, docs, by "Dr. S-100"
                        • Evan
                          We also have an 11/40.
                          Message 12 of 18 , Oct 1, 2007
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                            We also have an 11/40.
                          • Herb Johnson
                            ... I ve added the photos to the Web page at http://www.retrotechnology.com/pdp11/ ..as interior photos . If someone would care to identify the cards in the
                            Message 13 of 18 , Oct 2, 2007
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                              "Herb Johnson" <herbjohnson@...> wrote:
                              >
                              > On Sunday, Sept 30th, I visited InfoAge to take more photos and to
                              > examine the PDP 11/20 system.

                              I've added the photos to the Web page at

                              http://www.retrotechnology.com/pdp11/

                              ..as "interior photos".

                              If someone would care to identify the cards in the 11/20, I've listed
                              all the modules and keyed that list to the photo of the cards. Let me
                              know if you are going to do this. You can simply send a list of
                              modules and description, and I'll add it to the page with your name!

                              Also there are photos of two 11/05's at our facilities.

                              Herb Johnson

                              Herbert R. Johnson, New Jersey USA
                              http://www.retrotechnology.com/herbs_stuff/ web site
                              http://www.retrotechnology.net/herbs_stuff/ domain mirror
                              my email address: hjohnson AAT retrotechnology DOTT com
                              if no reply, try in a few days: herbjohnson ATT comcast DOTT net
                              "Herb's Stuff": old Mac, SGI, 8-inch floppy drives
                              S-100 IMSAI Altair computers, docs, by "Dr. S-100"
                            • B. Degnan
                              ... Herb, That s a wonderful web page, thanks for the details. I learn a lot from your web site. Bill
                              Message 14 of 18 , Oct 2, 2007
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                                At 11:00 PM 10/2/2007 +0000, you wrote:
                                > "Herb Johnson" <herbjohnson@...> wrote:
                                > >
                                > > On Sunday, Sept 30th, I visited InfoAge to take more photos and to
                                > > examine the PDP 11/20 system.
                                >
                                >I've added the photos to the Web page at
                                >
                                >http://www.retrotechnology.com/pdp11/
                                >
                                >..as "interior photos".
                                >
                                >If someone would care to identify the cards in the 11/20, I've listed
                                >all the modules and keyed that list to the photo of the cards. Let me
                                >know if you are going to do this. You can simply send a list of
                                >modules and description, and I'll add it to the page with your name!
                                >
                                >Also there are photos of two 11/05's at our facilities.
                                >
                                >Herb Johnson
                                >


                                Herb,
                                That's a wonderful web page, thanks for the details. I learn a lot from
                                your web site.
                                Bill
                              • Herb Johnson
                                I have word today from the person who provided the PDP 11/20. He will gather and send me additional documents and photos. He says it will take some time .
                                Message 15 of 18 , Nov 16, 2007
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                                  I have word today from the person who provided the PDP 11/20. He will
                                  gather and send me additional documents and photos. He says "it will
                                  take some time". That's all I know, he simply acknowledged my request
                                  as I asked.

                                  Herb Johnson
                                  retrotechnology.com
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