Edit to add: The plugin cards were way more than controllers. They were (analog) computers too, fulfilling signal processing functions, and other computations, the poor little PDP could not hope to keep up with. For example, one device detected, I presume using analog circuitry, the peak of the first arrival of a sound wave transmitted through earth and mud, across a couple of meters. The card would report the time between the click and the peak of that arrival, back to the PDP. Nowadays you'd digitize the signal and write a program to look for the peak. Back then you designed circuits!
The thing booted up but there was no display--the integrated screen was somehow blown. So I got a suitable television and that worked, modulo the TV's overscan clipping off the first character on every line. I then found enough adapters to get it to print, connected a dot matrix printer with continuous forms (just like Wang intended!) and printed every single document on the disk drive. Imagine.
It came to perhaps a thousand pages.
While the mainframe was of course the ultimate authority of what was what, for everyone, our local department just wanted to do some basic employee management on the then new wave of Windows 3.1-based softwares running on local PCs.
But how to populate the PC data? Obviously retyping it was the only possible way, and I was hired literally to do that and nothing else for a month. First thing I said, naturally, was "why not just export it from the mainframe?"
Not possible, I was assured. The mainframe was a secure device for storing secure data and no talk of exporting would ever get through the layers of bureaucracy. The mainframe terminal had no disc drive or local storage, being a thoroughly secure device with a secure connection through the secure floorboards. And anyway, I was hired as a typist so would I please get on with it for the next month, which was how long they had estimated would be required.
An hour later the job was done - with no retyping at all, thank you very much.
How? Well, I'll admit to feeling rather too pleased with myself for knowing that the terminal's attached dot matrix printer was not the only device that could speak RS232. Connected the secure terminal to an entirely not secure PC, and printed everything I wanted straight to disc. Edited the captured file in Wordstar and fairly quickly had a CSV-type file that went straight into the standalone software.
Although I'd effectively instantly put myself out of a job, they were good enough to keep me around. I ended up staying for years.
Three years later (after graduation) I was introduced to an 11/34. Then an 11/44 with 1MB on internal memory and removable disk packs. On to a VAX 11/780, an 11/785, an 11/750, clustering, an 8650, a 6310, etc. I even built a MicroVax I from parts purchased used.
There's a ton of us who still remember 30 and 60 amp power supplies and sequenced spin-up of drive stacks.
And we walked uphill both ways to our jobs with nothing but a TI calculator in our pockets.
Anybody here remember working on TOPS-20 on a DEC-20?
And all the crashes when it was in heavy use late in the evening before some big assignments were due ...
All the DECWriters in the room would simultaneously clatter out "%DECSYSTEM-20 NOT RUNNING", there would be shocked silence for 2 seconds, then all the cries of anguish as everyone realized they hadn't saved the last few hours of work.
Yes, I did a lot of work on DEC-20s in grad school. It was the first machine I used that was connected to ARPANET (precursor to today's internet).
I also spent lots of time on a PDP-11/45, although it was running Unix (Version 7 from Bell Labs), not RSX-11. That machine had the old-style console with a toggle switch for each bit:
To boot it, you'd have to toggle in the address of the boot ROM into the instruction address register.
And, yes, lots of happy memories, especially for the poor students when all the CRTs would send out their chorus of feeps and simultaneous %DECSYSTEM-20 NOT RUNNING messages (as sent by the PDP-11 front end).
That effect was most pronounced at one of the huge Stanford terminal rooms (where, luckily my buddies (Ralph Gorin, Marc Crispin (of later IMAP fame), JQ Johnson, anyone?) were the sysadmins, and not I ;-).
[edit. huh - that's been edited to remove the actual story. Here's the story: http://edp.org/monkey.htm]
The jargon file has lots of great stuff in it (also see "Magic/More Magic"). Some versions have had some dubious stuff added, but that's a big old ball of flame waiting to happen, so I'll say read with caution :-)
I feel old. :-)
I would think "HELP" :)
(They don't have a PDP-11/34, but they have a lot of mainframes and other machines.)
Old machines never die - their users do. Keep the Expensive Machine running ..