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

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  • 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 1 of 18 , Sep 20, 2007
      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 2 of 18 , Sep 21, 2007
        >
        > > 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 3 of 18 , Sep 21, 2007
          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 4 of 18 , Sep 21, 2007
            > "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 5 of 18 , Sep 21, 2007
              >>> 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 6 of 18 , Sep 22, 2007
                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"


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              • 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 7 of 18 , Sep 22, 2007
                  >
                  > 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 8 of 18 , Sep 24, 2007
                    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 9 of 18 , Oct 1, 2007
                      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 10 of 18 , Oct 1, 2007
                        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 11 of 18 , Oct 2, 2007
                          "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 12 of 18 , Oct 2, 2007
                            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 13 of 18 , Nov 16, 2007
                              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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