Let’s Ride.
When in Rome…


  • February 5, 2018 at 12:05 am

    Great! Now I got a place to Use all those punch cards I made years ago…

    Maybe I should save the program on a 8″ floopy….

    • February 5, 2018 at 12:05 am

      or floppy. either works….

      • February 5, 2018 at 12:30 am

        Or maybe a cassette tape.

      • February 5, 2018 at 4:17 am

        Paper tape

      • February 5, 2018 at 1:12 am
        JackDeth 72


        “220… 221… Whatever works,”

        *Michael Keaton: ‘Mr. Mom’*

    • February 5, 2018 at 12:41 am

      I hope you numbered the cards with a soft pencil. Wouldn’t want them to get out of order.

  • February 5, 2018 at 12:16 am

    My dad was an electrical engineer who got hired by DEC in 1968, so I messed with the PDP-8 a little as a kid, but I had my own PDP-11 for a couple years. Graduating from Teletype to high-speed paper reader and CRT monitor was heaven for me. Eventually, dad wired up a cassette player and we used it as a hard drive. It may have been the first mag tape for the masses ever made!

  • February 5, 2018 at 12:16 am

    OMDFG, I learned computing on a PDP-8e just like that one in 1978 in rural VT (why my high school had a PDP-8e at the time was a question that never came to mind).

    Oh, and Swansonic, they use 1″ reel-to-reel tape as primary storage.

    • February 5, 2018 at 12:20 am

      You had PDP-8e? Why in my day, all we had were rocks..

      • February 5, 2018 at 1:15 am

        Rocks were out high school’s first computer. CC1. then we made a great leap forward to CC2 that actually had lights that counted the input from a re-purposed AT&T phone circular dialer. It was accurate and the memory, whatever it was, worked. It had a plywood hand made cabinet and all of the innards did the small task it was assigned. The old crusty retired marine Corps Colonel who taught the Geometry course was adamant on how this was the future. He was right. He also was a character and a warrior of Irish descent.

      • February 5, 2018 at 7:19 am

        We had rocks on strings; aka an abacus. Then graduated to slide rule “technology.”

        Used a GE mainframe on-line through terminal in High school (’60s) with paper tape reader.
        Also had access to an IBM 1620 (TUBE-type) computer at Seton Hall on weekends. A fire safety training course required before access permitted. If the massive cooling fans failed, you had very limited time to pull the power safety switch and flee the lab before fire would erupt.

      • February 5, 2018 at 10:03 am

        Luxury… We used to dream of rocks on strings…

        Back in the day before PC changed from being Personal Computer to being Political Correctness…

        Before Mrs. Gates’ boy, Billy, started stealing ideas…

      • February 5, 2018 at 11:01 am
        John D. Egbert

        Remember also: Kelly Johnson and the merrie minions at Lockheed’s Skunk works used slide rules and pencil-on-paper drafting (called mechanical drawing when I was in high school) to produce the most bodacious airplane ever built — the SR-71.

    • February 5, 2018 at 12:31 pm

      Captain, I remember that and using a ton of tapes when I was at Cray Research. Had a lot of fun with big hard disk units that stored a wopping 600Mb in the space of a washing machine.

      Good times…..

  • February 5, 2018 at 12:22 am
    Deplorable B Woodman

    Good G-d. In the late 90s I used to work with the next generation PDP 11. Ok for its day, I guess. But we were constantly having to re-seat cards and verify the point-to-point wire wraps to make sure it worked properly, if at all.
    There is some equipment that is still new enough and usable, without resorting to museum antiquities.
    I have some 80s and 90s amateur radio equipment that is showing its age, but still does everything that I need it to do, without major repairs.

    • February 5, 2018 at 12:41 am

      We had a PDP-11 in the Engineering Department when I was at University.

      Damn thing would crash if you wrote a file to floppy with more than one user logged on.

      To this day I don’t know why they bothered. It was already obsolete even then,

  • February 5, 2018 at 12:36 am
    Polly Cy

    I still have my old Kay-Pro IV. Six desktops and countless laptops later, I still can’t bear to part with it

    • February 5, 2018 at 12:44 am
      Polly Cy

      PS – I dedicated my Masters thesis to it. There aren’t any levels of geekiness where I can match Sam, but that might at least earn an Honorable Mention. Gad I loved that machine. CP/M, an amazing utilities disk to allow it to translate into multiple machine languages, “clip on” keyboard for portability… ah, the memories.

      • February 5, 2018 at 11:17 am

        I agree with your fondness for the Kay-Pro portable computer. My first was a Kay-Pro II. Great machine except the square corners on the metal case were hard on the knees when carrying. Played the text Adventure game many times on that machine. Wife loved it too.

    • February 5, 2018 at 9:26 am
      Jim Brown

      Can you tell me how to make a drive controller for my Kaypro II or better yet one that will make its IV. I once belonged to a Kaypro Club and members were doing that. Club floded just before my controller failed and I was forced into an MS DOS sysrem.

  • February 5, 2018 at 12:39 am

    Oh man, this takes me back. I used a PDP-8 in grad school 1973-76. Programmed it in FOCAL. The input and output were paper tape or teletype. FOCAL was a lot like uncompiled BASIC. It was a pretty good way to do repetitive calculations, but forget about nested for/next loops — too slow. It was fun, though. Just for the halibut I calculated a complete decision tree, with odds, for blackjack, which proved, for instance, that you should NEVER TAKE INSURANCE, no matter what they tell you.

  • February 5, 2018 at 12:47 am


    $99 at K-Mart in ’84…I think about the time it was discontinued.

    It’s ability to compute amortizations amazed me.

    • February 5, 2018 at 2:44 pm

      I am such an old non-geek/nerd I have no idea what any of this means, except maybe the pencil/paper and slide rule thing…I feel so alone.

  • February 5, 2018 at 1:15 am
    JackDeth 72

    Note to Mr. Muir:

    I’m really liking Sam and Skye’s new coifs.

    Now all that Sam needs is a Flux Capacitor to generate 1.23 Gigawatts.

    • February 5, 2018 at 7:56 am

      Iโ€™m really liking Sam and Skyeโ€™s new coifs.
      Is there a swap going on? Hmmmmm….

    • February 5, 2018 at 8:34 am

      โ€œOne point twenty one….โ€
      (to charge the flux capacitor, I think)

    • February 5, 2018 at 9:30 am
      Unca Walt

      But… but… I thought you needed just 1.21 Gigawatts. What were you thinking!

  • February 5, 2018 at 1:33 am

    I still have my old Commodor AMIGA 2000 with a 50MHz accelerator/SCSI card, TBC II Time Base Corrector card and a NewTek VIDEO TOASTER. The system STILL runs perfectly in all respects WITH ALL IT’S ORIGINAL HARDWARE/SOFTWARE.

    I still use it for putting together videos when I want to have multiple cameras on line and I came up with a way to connect the TOASTER video output thru a defunct digital tape camcorder with analog input and FireWire output to a PC so I could record directly to it’s hardrive for future editing using any of several non-linear editing suite progs on the machine.

    I’ve gone thru 8 PC’s and at least 4 laptops in the meantime and this beast just keeps chuggin’ along. It may be older than dinosaur sh*t and slow as an arthritic snail by today’s standards…..but the damn thing was built like an ANVIL. It’s going to have to literally go up in smoke before I’ll even THINK about getting rid of it.

  • February 5, 2018 at 4:16 am

    60โ€s? Hmmmmmm.

  • February 5, 2018 at 4:47 am
    Meat 905

    Mk 92 FCS on Oliver Hazard Perry class frigates and cg cutters had teletypes and paper tape optical readers as backup program loaders to a mag tape system (DEAC) for the 1960’s UNIVAC UYK-7 wire wrapped multi card 32 bit computer. Somehow that was way ahead of trs-80 and kaypro in processing but not in gui.

    • February 5, 2018 at 1:08 pm

      The Naval Tactical Data System backbone.

      Did you know those DEACs or Digital Exchange Auxiliary Consoles were obsolete Air Force equipment? That’s why all the parts for the damn thing had to be ordered from Hill AFB in Ogden, Utah!

      The diagnostics for the AN/UYK-7 system were outstanding. They grounded every wire wrap pin one at a time in the backplane and wrote the entire diagnostics package around that. I worked at FCTCP in Pt. Loma for a couple of years before moving on.

      Ahh, the memories!

    • February 5, 2018 at 8:38 pm

      When I started the UYK-4 was the bomb…
      Now I really feel old….. ๐Ÿ™

      • February 5, 2018 at 8:42 pm
        JackDeth 72

        And Fortran, Cobol and Snobol were the languages of the day.

  • February 5, 2018 at 4:51 am

    Early 60s? Perhaps an IBM 7090 with MAD language? (Er, that’s Michigan Algorithm Decoder.) Punch cards, huge backlogs, long turn around on errors, and all that poo pushed me back to RF design. Then ’bout ’73 I used an HP9820 “Programmable (desk) Calculator” with plotter for circuit analysis. Suddenly I are an programmer, too. Female, designed HW and SW for GPS satellites, had fun sitting guys on their asses when they asked me to go get some coffee for the meeting, real attitude problem, and sometimes at last pretty sexy, yup, those were the days. Sam? I can relate. (Actually – toning it down on the job got more done. And that’s where they satisfaction came in. So….) But, instead of restoring a PDP-whatever (actually HP2100S would satisfy me more) I prefer to build monster machines for video work and software defined radios. They rulez. Alas, I’m slowing down as I get further into my 8th decade.


    • February 5, 2018 at 8:39 am

      Sounds like Ya still gots sexy! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • February 5, 2018 at 9:39 am

      I think you would have been a lot of fun to work with. Alas, a liberal arts major I turned out to be.

  • February 5, 2018 at 5:07 am

    Around 1980 we bought a 5 Meg hard drive for our PDP-8. It had 5 or 6 platters and was about as big as a washing machine. 5 Meg! we were certain we would never run out of storage memory. We checked it from the slave terminal, and it had the proceeds on it from the DEC conference that year. One of the files was a copy of the original Adventure game – text, of course. File name was “Advent”.

    I played that game for hours using a phone-coupler modem at 300 baud and a thermal printer. I went through reams of thermal paper before I finally beat the game. Probably the best computer game before or since.

    Best Regards,


    • February 5, 2018 at 9:52 am

      You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • February 5, 2018 at 1:57 pm

        You are in a maze of Twisty passages, all different.

  • February 5, 2018 at 7:17 am

    These sorts of comments show the level of the minds that read this strip.

  • February 5, 2018 at 7:21 am

    Used the PDP-8 in one of my labs in college. Bootstrap program by toggle switches, taught it to read the punched paper tape reader. Then ran a paper tape that taught it to talk to the teletype.
    Those were fun days.

  • February 5, 2018 at 7:22 am

    Most of my college work was on an IBM 1604 but soon after the boss bought an NCR Century 200 for the warehouse inventory management. WOW !! What a step up the technology ladder … hard disks, gobs of memory (for that era) and the only thing punched cards were used for was JCL input.

  • February 5, 2018 at 7:28 am
    David M

    I used to have a PDP 11-34 in my basement… LOL… It doubled as a space heater. A friend did programming on it for a college class. Memories… I have not seen it since 1990… I think I left it in another friends storage unit… LOL…

  • February 5, 2018 at 8:37 am
    Delilah T

    Gee, nothing like learning vague stuff on a Compugrahpic Editwriter and realizing what potential there was… if you could just get away from the ‘dedicated’ part…
    The Wang was okay, but the IBM was better with its A: and B: drives, and I got some inkling of what could be done that way, but still….
    I had one of those Tandy programmable calculators from Radio Shack. They kept trying to sell me a computer that had junk kiddie programs on it, and all I wanted was word processing and math software.
    Yes, I still have a bunch of 3.5″ floppies and a card reader. It was the 1990s. Good times.
    And here I am, still running on my 2003 Presario, Windows XP and some day, I will take it off the internet, give it a place of its own and get some slick newfangled machine for access to the net.
    George R.R. Martin writes all his manuscripts on a machine that runs on MS-Dos. His word processing software is Wordstar.
    I guess I’m just an old-fashioned girl. If it ain’t broke, don’t toss it. I still have Grandma’s oil lamps for emergencies. And yes, a radio that picks up AM/FM signals. TV has gone from entertaining to trash. Glad I let mine die.
    If it still works, why throw it out?

  • February 5, 2018 at 8:48 am

    I’m reading these comments while enjoying the whine of two RL02 drives connected to my PDP-11/23PLUS. For some of us the “good ol’ days” are still here.

    Alas, a “blinkenlight” box like a PDP-8 is, and will probably always be, just out of my reach price wise.

  • February 5, 2018 at 9:22 am
    Chuck Craig

    As a student at the Colorado School of Mines in 1971-1975, we used a PDP 10. Paper tape, punch cards, and teletypes I don’t miss, but anyone could be a programmer and you could understand the machine language. Long live the HP 35.

  • February 5, 2018 at 9:38 am
    Unca Walt

    Gonna have to ‘fess up as an old EE that truly sucked at Fortran IV… My attempt to compute the circumferences of 100 circles for the class I was in was a bit of a failure.

    Seems I made out one of those huge sheets for punch-card with ONE teeny tiny bitsy weenie error. So when “my run ran”, the printer would print ONE number…

    …and change the page.

    There was a truly pissed-off guy in the run-room, pointing to an eight-foot stack of printer paper, each with a single digit printed on it!!

    Pi has never tasted very good since then. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • February 5, 2018 at 10:10 am

    …Reformed ’em at 10 Ma….with WHAT?

  • February 5, 2018 at 10:40 am

    PDP-8e?? Hell, when I was a yout’ the PDP8 s didn’t have all that alphabet soup tagged on to the end. I worked on an original 8 with a 2-digit serial number back in ought ’65 or so. It took up a half of a standard rack to start with, a full rack by the time we replaced the ferroresonant power regulators with linear regulators so it would run on field power. It had a 4kx12 core memory, of which we used all but about 8 words (IIRC) to run the data acquisition application.

    Fun times!

  • February 5, 2018 at 10:49 am

    I’m happy to see Sam getting her geek on.

  • February 5, 2018 at 11:33 am
    Too Tall

    Geek comments and jokes aside, there is an immense amount of technical expertise and experience among the readers of DBD. The best part is the hand-on, practical, application of their skills. With Zip ties, Duck tape, Velcro, RPN, and a soldering iron, DBD readers could fix just about anything.

    I am waiting for someone to turn up on this thread with Nixie tube experience.

    • February 5, 2018 at 8:45 pm

      In the early days of my Navy career, nixie tubes were still very much in use. Later on it became a fun thing to see how much voltage they would take before burning out – sequentially, of course. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • February 5, 2018 at 11:34 am

    DANG, Y’all are some old geeky farts. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Yup, I remember high school programming in Basic, and how COOL I felt using a 5 1/4 floppy drive to story my programs….and I still have my very first Mac…the old all in one with the first 3 1/2 floppy drive…figure I’ll sell it to a museum some day…think I still have my old MacWrite and MacPaint discs laying around.

    And, yes, I would definitely never have to use the phrase “floppy drive” around Sam, that’s for damn sure…more like “hard drive”.

    Nice to see the sisters getting along so well…

  • February 5, 2018 at 11:35 am

    Ah the old PDP-8… Used to work for a foundry years ago during my intern days that had a PDP-8 hooked up to a spectrograph machine. We had 2 sets of boards for that thing as when some capacitor blew out, the main board was sent out for repair and the spare was used. Once I got there I was able to do some of board repairs myself and save the company some money, when it was obvious as to what component blew up. The best part was that an Apple IIe was connected to the serial connector that original “paper” tape input was on.

  • February 5, 2018 at 11:36 am

    Way back when…used an NCR 500 magnetic ledger system for inventory management which used punch card input. Graduated to a Honeywell level 6 minicomputer for the same operation. Had all the bells and whistles including a CRT input station as well as tape input, however, a card reader/punch was included to take care of the learning curve. Ancient term: decollate.

  • February 5, 2018 at 11:56 am

    Yeah, great. N00bies. Back in the day. I got to play Tic Tac Toe on a monster in a air conditioned, dust proof, large room with two geeks with glasses, white lab coats and clip boards constantly bowing down to it in the room.
    Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago.
    I know, older than dirt.

    • February 5, 2018 at 11:57 am

      Oh Yeah, That was All it could do.

  • February 5, 2018 at 12:05 pm
    Tony Eros

    Nicely done, Chris — this strip was exactly what I wanted!

    I’m taping a copy of the strip to the side of my PDP-8’s cabinet.

  • February 5, 2018 at 12:31 pm

    Tell Sam to make sure DEC installed the diode in the proper direction in the disk write protect switch. In ours, when you turned it on, it wouldnโ€™t let you read a dratted thing, but any rogue program could accidentally poop all over the stored data. Took years to discover, since few people used anything but the DECtape and paper tape for storage.

  • February 5, 2018 at 12:50 pm

    As an undergrad engineering mechanics student 1968-1973 I completely avoided the school’s IBM 360-75 (an oddball machine donated by Watson,Jr). It was a total time sink when there were so many fundamental things to still learn. No regrets. Went to work for an FEA developer and got paid to mess around with computers, mostly CDC 6600s and 7600s. Flash forward to today, where my dual Xeon processor PC is stupendously faster and doesn’t require a whole building floor to house it. I’m not terribly nostalgic about the old stuff, except for one PC from 1995 that still faithfully acts as a license server on an infrequently used program.

    • February 5, 2018 at 1:13 pm

      When I worked at NASA, the computer room was below the non-classified Mission Control Room. We had 4 IBM 370-168s that each had an Intersil CORE memory unit that added 10K of space for the CPU. That unit alone cost in excess of $100K at the time. Thing was, it doubled the speed of the processor.

  • February 5, 2018 at 1:10 pm

    I’ve got an Osborne and Pied Piper out in the garage

  • February 5, 2018 at 1:23 pm

    First computer: TRS-80 with 4K of RAM and a cassette tape bulk storage. Upgraded to Level II with 16K RAM and thought I was in heaven. Went through many computers over the years, including a TI-99/4 and a Kaypro. Didn’t use many computers in the USAF, except at the last part (1977-1987) when the TITE test equipment was computer run and the various test stations for the FB-111A also used computers some. Had to learn DAP-16 language but was not authorized to use it.

  • February 5, 2018 at 1:59 pm

    I also have my first computer, my TRS-80. I need to power the beast back up. Had more fun with it and learned so much. I also won a T-Shirt in the Compuserve Halloween Adventure weekend.

  • February 5, 2018 at 3:41 pm

    Ahhh, this takes me back to my days on sea duty some 35 years ago. When I was TAD to AIMD workcenter 660/64D I worked on the APS-116 radar, and my AAM-60 FLIR counterparts used an HP 1000 minicomputer with an HP 2647A terminal to interface to the FLIR test bench. When there were no FLIR turrets being tested, someone was always using the computer to play ADVENT, Star Trek, Reversi, or our own homegrown A-6 Attack game. Good fun and great memories.

  • February 5, 2018 at 4:04 pm

    When I was an undergrad, we used an LGP-30 computer with paper tape input. It was about as big as a living room couch, and had a mag drum for a whopping 4K of storage. It was a real challenge to write workable code that would do anything useful in that tiny space. I could outrun the computer using my slide rule on some problems.

    And then there was the IBM-1620 with typewriter I/O. It could pound away furiously as the paper flew past in long streamers. Fun days (and nights!).

  • February 5, 2018 at 4:17 pm

    I was on the design team for the GNAT System 10. I also was on the team that converted Word Master to Word Star. My first experience with computer tech was IBM System 20 and IBM System 30. AND, of course all the associated punch card machines. Good times.

  • February 5, 2018 at 9:57 pm
    Deplorable B Woodman

    I must have been born too late, and in a poor neighborhood.
    When I graduated HS in 1971 (69+2 cents tax!), we were still using slip sticks. I didn’t see my first calculator, a 4 banger, an HP if I remember, until my college frosh year. And I think it cost $400. For a four-banger! As for computers, those were those huge air conditioned beasts that calculated orbits and trajectories……and took days to enter the information and spit out the answers.

  • February 5, 2018 at 10:03 pm

    Mr. Muir,

    I was too young to have worked on/with the PDPs but did spend the first 5 years of my time at DEC designing networking chips, and one of the low-end VAX CPUs. Good times.

    Thanks for the walk down memory lane.

  • February 5, 2018 at 10:26 pm
    Forrest Jones

    In 1956 or thereabouts, my dad was the XO of Fort Sam Houston. He and the CO decided the Army’s record keeping system was becoming untenable. (I think they ran out of room to store Hollorith cards). Dad and the CO went to the Pentagon, and received funding for a massive computer installation at Fort Sam, with the promise they would lose their jobs if it backfired. Thanks to engineers from IBM, Sperry Rand, and others, the Army had it’s first working computer system. My recollection of it was a very large, cold room, with tens of large IBM blue cabinets, and a control board/desk like Star Trek.

  • February 5, 2018 at 10:29 pm
    Deplorable B Woodman

    I remember the computer that was used on my first job while I was going to tech school getting my AAS. It was an Altair 8800, apparently an early model. It was 4 or 5 boards, mounted horizontally into a vertical backplane board. To program it, you needed a book of program instructions. You created your program (on paper), found the instructions in the book, and then toggled the 8 switches (octal binary) on the front of the Altair, then push a button to load the line. Lather, rinse, repeat.
    My first electronics job was in Provo? Ut, for the CDC (Control Data Corp), working for Dr Hooshang Shabistari (spelling?) to design and build the first bedside monitor. Having to worry about op amp leakage currents…… times.

  • February 5, 2018 at 10:36 pm
    Michael Crawford

    Helped computerize a bank in Washington DC back in the 60’s. NCR 315. Remember when they introduced the “new sound of datamation” – CRAM – Card Random Access Memory. Magnetic tape cards packed in a deck – deck had unique combo of tabs on each card, which were suspended on quarter rods. Rods would turn (address) so only one card would drop down to a rotating drum where one of its 7 strips would be read/written. Also remember when tabs would wear and result would be a multi-card drop (18 at once one time!) What a mess – and a lot of noise. Ahhhh, those were the days!

  • February 6, 2018 at 12:25 am

    JTPatriot – My dad waa hired by DEC in ’69 right out of the Navy. He was a Submarine Navigation Electronics Technician. Maybe they knew each other. He worked on the PDP-8, and was the end of life engineer of record for it years later. I never used it, but before he passed in ’01 he used to regale me with tales of impossible repairs.

  • February 6, 2018 at 12:40 am
    John Griffing

    I was stationed at Rhein Mein AB in Germany bask in 1978. Met a Missionary that ran at print shop just down the road from the base. Being I was an acft mechanic, I did his shop maintenance and repairs. He taught me film and slide developing in the darkroom. Well, he decided in 1979 to modernize, and bought a Tandy compatible computer. A Z-80 2.17Mhz processor with 4K of RAM, which I upgraded to 16 then 32K when the chips came out. We used a cassette tape deck for storage and loading with a Lemon Loader. It ran on CPM until Tandy brought TRSDOS 1. I had no computer or electronics background, so I had to dig into the books. I still have the Epson 9 pin MX-80 printer we had hooked to it. I learned BASIC and PASCAL on my own. Now I work on USAF Acft Flight Simulators with a 17 TeraByte visual system data base and 12 computers that are supposed to work together. Murphy was an optimist. LOL!!!


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