What to Do With a Whole Bunch of Vintage PDP-11 Minicomputers?

I have a soft spot in my heart for the PDP-11. It’s the first computer I ever saw in person. In the late 70s, I was living at Twin Oaks, the intentional community in Louisa, VA. A couple of the community’s nerds convinced the planning committee that we needed a minicomputer to do the accounting for the community’s growing businesses and labor assignment process.

They bought a PDP-11 and installed it in the accounting office. At the time, I had zero interest in computers or electronics. I stood in the background and watched as a group of 3-4 communards pored over manuals and a programming guide. It was the first time I’d ever seen computer code.

I remember looking at what they were doing, what they were talking about, the strange hardware and stranger programming language, and they might as well have been from another planet. I remember thinking: I literally cannot think of anything I would rather do less than monkey with such an inscrutable machine.

Fast-forward about 5 years and I am the Computer Sciences Editor of The Futurist magazine. When the future arrives, if you’re smart, you pivot.

In this Usagi Electric video, they acquire a PDP-11 and then a reader gifts them a boatload of addition PDP-11 boards and misc hardware. They run through all of the goodies and open it up to the community as to what kind of ultimate PDP-11 system should be built with all of the hardware.

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