[TUHS] Why did PDPs become so popular?
clemc at ccc.com
Thu Dec 28 07:52:35 AEST 2017
Typo -- funding in the 50s -- sorry...
On Wed, Dec 27, 2017 at 4:51 PM, Clem Cole <clemc at ccc.com> wrote:
> You are mixing a couple of different stories I fear...
> If you want the full story get a copy of: Computer Engineering: A DEC
> View of Hardware Systems Design
> But a snap shot for this mailing list is this ... The PDP term was used
> by KO when he was funding Digital because the VC's the 60s did not believe
> that a computer company would succeed. But making things for the
> instrumentation market (Lincoln Labs, Livermore, *etc*.). This is how
> PDP-1 came to be. The PDP term was keep for the first 25 years (until the
> Vax and renaming of the PDP-10/PDP-20 to DECSystem 10/20). [The 1 begat the
> 6, 9, 15 an 10 families].
> The concept of purchasing smaller system, was indeed true. This was the
> idea behind the >>mini-computer<< or *minimal computer* that Gordon Bell
> who lad left DEC temporarily to be a CMU Prof for a time began to explore.
> He took the idea and commercialized and the PDP-8 line was the first in
> that line. The 11 & 15 were full computer systems. DEC also made
> something called the PDP-16 'Register Transfer Modules' (RTMs) which was an
> attempt to make the small controller idea even more accessible, but the
> Intel microprocessor would eclipse them (I think I was the last group at
> CMU was talk a course using them. Another factoid, the predecessor to
> VHDL/Verilog and the like, ISPL and ISPS actually spit out 'code' for DEC
> RTM modules instead of gates).
> But the key point is that in 1975 dollars, a PDP-11/40 system that was
> good enough to run something like Sixth Edition of UNIX cost somewhere
> between $50k-$150k. This would have been much, much cheaper than say a
> PDP-10, or a equivilent IBM 'mainframe' size system which would have
> started above $1M.
> On Wed, Dec 27, 2017 at 4:02 PM, Alec Muffett <alec.muffett at gmail.com>
>> I apologise if this is too far from the main topic, but I wanted to check
>> an urban legend.
>> There is a story - as I have heard it told - that PDPs established their
>> place (and popularity) in the marketplace by pointedly *not* advertising
>> themselves as "computers", but instead as "programmed data processors".
>> This was because - so the story goes - that everyone in corporations of
>> the time simply *knew* that "computers" came only from IBM, lived in big
>> datacentres, had million-dollar price-tags, and required extensive project
>> management to purchase; whereas nobody cared enough about a thing called a
>> "programmed data processor" to bother bikeshedding the
>> few-tens-or-hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollars purchase proposal to an
>> inevitable death. Thus, they flitted under the purchasing radar, and sold
>> like hotcakes.
>> I wonder: does this story have substance, please?
>> Aside from anything else: I draw parallels to the adoption of Linux by
>> Wall St, and the subsequent adoption of virtualisation / AWS by business -
>> now reflected in companies explaining to ISO27001 auditors that "well, we
>> don't actually possess any physical servers..."
>> - alec
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