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Father of the PDP-1: The TX-0, Transistorized EXperimental Computer Zero (1956) (wikipedia.org)
30 points by Bluestein 43 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 12 comments

"Designed at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory largely as an experiment in transistorized design and the construction of very large core memory systems, the TX-0 was essentially a transistorized version of the equally famous Whirlwind, also built at Lincoln Lab. While the Whirlwind filled an entire floor of a large building, TX-0 fit in a single reasonably sized room and yet was somewhat faster. Like the Whirlwind, the TX-0 was equipped with a vector display system, consisting of a 12" oscilloscope with a working area of 7 by 7 inches connected to the 18-bit output register of the computer, allowing it to display points and vectors with a resolution up to 512×512 screen locations.

The TX-0 was an 18-bit computer with a 16-bit address range. First two bits of machine word designate instruction and remaining 16 bits are used to specify memory location or operand for special "operate" instruction. First two bits could create four possible instructions, which included store, add, and conditional branch instructions as a basic set. The fourth instruction, 'operate', took additional operands and allowed access to a number of 'micro-orders' which could be used separately or together to provide many other useful instructions. An 'add' instruction took 10 microseconds."

Such a shame that several of these founding companies, such as DEC, didn't make it to the present day. I even miss Sun, up to a point.

Both companies suffered from top management clinging to former glory and not being able to see the writing on the wall. DEC, in particular, realized this too late and scrambled to get back in the game, but by then they were too far behind.


DEC, a shame.-

... and Sun! They -were- high end workstations in the 90's.-

(There are several interesting features out there, about Sun ...)

Hey, at least we are still using the result of their labors and innovation, in a sense, so, there's that :)

Sun never seemed to be a leader in hardware, to me, but they were impressive in some software areas. Java, Solaris Zones, Dtrace, etc.

So I still broadly stand by the HN comment of mine from (almost exactly!) a decade ago.[0] And now ten years further on, I would say that I was prescient with how I would personally remember Sun: for me, it is with much more fondness than regret -- and indeed, the good bits about Sun have very directly inspired aspects of Oxide.[1]

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2287033

[1] https://oxide.computer/about

Thanks for Dtrace!

The pizza box was revolutionary in its time. Of course, as with so many complained, sun initially wasn’t interested.

Sun was already drowning when Java, Zones, Dtrace, even ZFS came out. Not many knew it at the time. I can't say I did, but I remember thinking that they had a couple of billion dollars in cash left in the bank to build a future for themselves with. It seemed to me like it ought to be enough.

Another interestingg source on the TX, the "father" of the DEC PDP-1:

- "The Computer Pioneers: The TX-0" - https://ethw.org/Archives:The_Computer_Pioneers:_The_TX-0

"The TX-0, for Transistorized Experimental computer zero, but affectionately referred to as tixo (pronounced "tix oh"), was an early fully transistorized computer and contained a then-huge 64K of 18-bit words of magnetic core memory. Construction of the TX-0 began in 1955 and ended in 1956. It was used continually through the 1960s at MIT. The TX-0 incorporated around 3600 Philco high-frequency surface-barrier transistors, the first transistor suitable for high-speed computers. The TX-0 and its direct descendant, the original PDP-1, were platforms for pioneering computer research and the development of what would later be called computer 'hacker' culture."

(Have got to say that I just realized that "Transistorized EXperimental Computer Zero"

... sounds totally like some Anime title or somethin' :)

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