Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-7/A - S#129

Boeing (USA).

Late in 2019 we found out from Jon Leech and Nathanael Motz that the Paul G. Allen PDPplanet collection at the Living Computer Museum (LCM website), Seattle, had received a donation of PDP-7 S#129 from Fred Yearian, a retired Boeing engineer who had acquired the system many years earlier from Boeing Surplus, and kept it in semi-running condition.  Once at LCM it was checked out and repaired, and then used to boot and run UNIX V0, see the two LCM blog articles below -

A little later we then found compelling research and evidence that machine S#34 was the machine that Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie "scrounged" from within Bell Labs and then used it to develop UNIX.  In blogs by Warner Losh here and here, Warner dissects the evidence which includes a video, that this PDP-7 S#129 at Bell Telephone Labs is the UNIX research machine.  Credit to Warner for this piece of detective work into the origins of UNIX and the role of the PDP-7.

Restoring UNIX v0 on a PDP-7: A look behind the scenes - November 1, 2019
Unix Version 0 on the PDP-7 at LCM+L - November 13, 2019

The PDP-7 Service list (1972) shows that machine #34 was shipped to Boeing (USA) in August 1966 and consisted of the following options -

OptionS#ShipDEC #Notes
149B000099 0169234K memory upgrade to 8K
177B000025 016923Extended arithmetic element
340000029 016923Precision Incremental CRT Display
342000017 016923Symbol generator for 340 display, first 64 characters.
347C000010 016923340 Display Subroutine Interface
370000225 016923Photomultiplier Light Pen
KA71A000034 016923I/O device package
KA77A000035 016923Processor unit

For descriptions of the above options see the full PDP-7 options list.

120 PDP-7 and PDP-7/A systems were forecast to be built in total, but the 1972 18-bit service list available (6.5Mb pdf download) with only has details of the 99 known PDP-7 and PDP-7/A systems in the list at that time.  We do not have any information about the possible remaining 21 systems, who they were delivered to or even if they actually existed.

The PDP-7 appeared to have sold well into Government research and University sectors with 11 systems shipped to the UK alone, almost 10% of the forecast production run!  Serial numbers are concurrent for both PDP-7's and the PDP-7/A's, so the missing 21 could be of either type; however we are reasonably confident that the 99 systems shipped were the only ones that were ever built.

If you know of any information about any of the PDP-7 systems worldwide, options, location of existing systems, spare parts, ancillary bits, software, tapes or manuals, then please contact us.

Documents associated with PDP-7 S#129 - None at this time


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