Huge PDP-11 rescue opportunity

From: Doug Carman <>
Date: Sun Jun 10 09:20:37 2001

"Jeffrey S. Sharp" wrote:
> Well, I guess it's time to let the cat out of the bag with this
> one...
> I've been planning a very nice equipment rescue in Seattle for some
> time now, but as circumstances are, I will not be able to afford the
> trip. I'd rather not see anything scrapped, so I am hoping someone
> on the list will be able to pick up where I'm leaving off.
> What we have is a *bunch* of OEM and third-party PDP-11 equipment.
> Here's an overview. There are two types of systems: old and new.
> Both were made by ATEX using a combination of DEC and custom
> hardware.
> The old systems consisted of, originally, PDP-11/34s and 04s.
> These were upgraded later on by replacing the CPU cards with with a
> single card with a J11 processor and a SIMM on board. The old
> systems are in black 6ft racks which have a blue ATEX legend at the
> top instead of the traditional DEC legend. Each rack contains one
> PDP-11/34 or /04 box up top and an additional backplane down below
> with gobs of custom ATEX cards.

Not long ago I ran into some of these ATEX systems when the Orlando
paper replaced their prepress systems. The ATEX systems they had were
updated, but had some parts that dated to 1972. The systems used DEC
MicroPDP-11 processors, but were nearly all custom beyond that. I had a
chance to talk to one of the administrators that had worked on the
systems. The systems are arranged in a kind of parallel processing
scheme where two of the CPU's dispatch work to all the others via a
custom network between CPU's. The OS was entirely custom written by
ATEX. There were custom built terminals for the users, and tons of
serial interfaces on the ATEX racks. Although the racks looked like
late PDP or VAXish cabinets and the CPU front panel looked much like an
11/84, any other resemblance to real DEC PDP-11's stopped there. When
they were trying to get rid of them, I passed the information along to
others that are looking for PDP-11's and/or parts. The consensus was
that these system were too custom to be of use where real PDP-11's are
concerned. They would only be of real use to someone who had an ATEX
system. I think the systems were sold to someone who wanted the racks.
I never did hear what finally happened.

If the older systems used actual DEC TTL based PDP-11 processors, they
may be more interesting to PDP-11 enthusiasts than the later ATEX

As I understand it, there were hundreds of sites around the world using
these systems. Some still remain in use in North America and are now
supported by ATS: Support

Doug Carman
Received on Sun Jun 10 2001 - 09:20:37 BST

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