Thursday, June 11, 2009

The fate of my father's PDP-11

One of the most common questions I received after my cleanup post of a few weeks ago was "I hope you kept the PDP-11." The simple answer is that I not only kept it, but immortalized it.
I started on this project in February as I was moving my parents from their house to Cloverwood. We began that week with the side goal of cleaning some of the items out of the house; that thought was quickly abandoned as we realized the level of effort that would be required. But we did bring the MINC-11 computer up from the basement, where it had been sitting since my father retired 20 years ago. I realized that an old PDP-11 was too good to lose, so I took the main boards from it: the CPU and the 64K memory board. My plan was to take these back to California, have these framed and then to present these to my father in a later trip.

Then, on one of my last days in Rochester in February, I happened to be at Pittsford Plaza and saw a Great Frameup store. It occurred to me that it would be easier to frame the two boards in Rochester... they did not need to transit to Caliifornia. So I dropped them off at the store, and told them that I'd email them some content to be engraved onto a plaque on the picture. So I too a picture of the computer and went back to California.

Once I returned home, I realized that a gold-colored plastic plate saying "MINC-11" would not have the same impact as the nameplate from the computer. So I asked my sister and her husband to take this off and take it to the store. Little did I appreciate that the nameplate was etched into the grill that was the full height of the unit (see the picture at the top of the blog): it was more than just the nameplate. Lisa dropped this off at the store, which called me to say "sorry... we can't handle this large a piece and don't have the tools to cut it." I resolved to deal with this when in Rochester in May for the cleanup.

I stopped into the store in May and appreciated the difficulty of the problem; the metal was almost 1/4 inch thick aluminum. A simple hacksaw would not do the job. But fate came to my rescue. My father had an oxyacetylene torch and arc welder that we planned to donate to the local vocational high school where he learned to weld. A metal shop would probaby have the tools I needed. And they did: a band saw with a 48 inch arm on it, grinders, etc. The teacher was more than happy to oblige and trimmed the grill from the nameplate.

From there, it was easy. I dropped the nameplate off at the store and they finished the job within 24 hours. We presented this to my dad on our last night in Rochester; he beamed with delight in the best smile I have seen from him in years. We came up with a way to honor some of the valuable equipment he preserved without taking up floorspace. The LSI-11/2 16-bit CPU board (which would count as .1 MIP I would guess) and the 64K memory board are now immortalized on the wall of my fathers room. Early computing lives on, although I do have problems think of computers whose architecture came out when I was in high school as "early computing." The 8080 and 8086 were brand new as this PDP-11 architecture was mature.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

My parent's house is on the market

45 Milford Road house for saleThe cleanup is now complete. The legion of boxes are on their way to California. Lisa worked with landscapers, painters, handymen and the like and finished the work off to put the house in shape to be shown. The results can be see on the Nothnagle Realty site. Our specific broker at Nothnagle is Garry Britton; he's been wonderful.

The house looks great. Go to the listing to find more pictures. Now someone needs to find it and want to turn it into their own. In case the listing at Nothnagle is not available any longer, I have captured the current listing page into pdf.