Hardware (What Interests me....) was : (PDP-8/s on e-bay)

From: Tony Duell <ard_at_p850ug1.demon.co.uk>
Date: Thu Oct 21 18:18:17 2004

> >>> Tony Duell wrote:
> >>> >
> >>> > I totally diaagree with that comment. My interest in computers is
> >>> > hardware related (I follow Steve Ciarcia in that 'my favourite
> >>> > language is solder' :-)).
> I also have a large interest in the hardware details of the machines.
> On the other hand I am a complete (though professionally trained)
> Klutz when it comes to working with it. Great in theory, poor in practice
> (but that is really another topic).

Waht you need is practice :-). And IMHO there's no better way to learn
troubleshooting than to be 'thrown in at the deep end' by somebody giving
you a PDP11/45 with the printsets, but with no other information (this
happeend to me about 14 years ago, it took me several months before I was
happy to power her up....). Or even worse to be given a machine with no
scheamtics and with no chance of getting said schematics.... You _really_
learn fast when that happens...

> >>> > And to me, therefore, a bit-serial processor made from
> >>> > either simple integrated circuits or discrete transistors
> >>> > (I forget which the 8/S is) is a lot more interesting
> >>> > than a machine built round a microprocessor and, even worse,
> >>> > semi-custom video and sound ICs.
> Here I disagree a bit. I worked for a firm that designed custom
> Monolithics and hybrid products. From a repairability aspect this
> Effectively makes them "bricks". The functional detailes of these
> Products were however well documented and it was possible to
> Learn most of the inner workings.

Well, it depends on the level of documentation, sure...

However, I'm the sort of person who learns by doing, not by reading
(only). I like to connect my 'scope or logic analyser to verious points
in the circuit and actually see what's going on. And I don't have the
equipment to directly probe the silicon die.

> Items like custon-video and sound tend to be totally proprietary and
> Their inner workings a mystery. On the other hand, processors tend
> to be very well documented on the inner workings. These I find just

I think the documenation on the PDP11/45 (this being the machine I am
most familiar with) is at least an order-of-magnitude more detailed than
that on any microprocessor I've seen...

> (or nearly) as interesting with the only downside that I can learn
> but not modify or repair.
> Regardless of the processor/OS/language/etc, I truly believe that
> It is impossible to write great software without an understanding

Equally, I think it's impossible to design good hardware (processors,
video display suystems, etc) without some understanding of the software
that is to run on them.

But then it still amazes me that I know many programmers who don't own a
'scope or soldering iron (and wouldn't really know how to use them
anyway), but I don't know a single hardware hacker who doesn't have a C
compiler and know how to use it.

Received on Thu Oct 21 2004 - 18:18:17 BST

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