How to get a '44
How to get an 11/44. And why.
At first I wanted to have an 11/something with "blinken light console" of course: Full PDP-11 systems of that generation (pre 1977 like 11/40, 11/45,11/70) fill at least one 19" tower, have a mass of several 100 kilograms, may need 3-phase electrical power and would cost alone thousands of $ to ship. Paying the electrical bill and getting rid of the heat is another story.
And they are not for sale anymore. From time to time there's a mere 11/70 console board appearing on eBay, it alone gets sold for $300-$600 (I know, because I got one too).
It’s easier to get a PDP-8, but those are weak (12 bit architecture) ... I wanted to run a full UNIX.
One day there was an original 11/20 ... of course of highest historical value, but what do you want to do with just 8K of core memory? As the seller described it: “... will make a very effective paper weigth”.
Later there was this DECsystem-10 CPU ... a beauty like a gothic cathedral, a size like a truck, and it got away for just $25000. Another “local pick-up only” item.
Then I saw an 11/44 on eBay for a fixed price of $999. Small enough, light weight (only 200 kgs alltogether), cheap enough, powerful enough, and still old style technology. This machine came with a RL02 disk, a RA81 disk, 4 MB RAM, an expansion box, filled with disk and tape controllers ... a nice starter pack. The seller was a collector who needed space for an IBM mainframe (look at his web site: any questions?). I watched it for twenty days sitting there and suddendly realized: "My goodness, if I don't buy it NOW, then some other guy might get it!”.
Thus it happened. The seller offered no shipping options, only “local pick up”. Difficult, because he lived in the S.F bay area, so there were more than 9000 km, an ocean and a continent between us. But I found a local shipping agency and asked the seller to deliver there. He was very cooperative. While the machine itself had a good price, shipping and several German port and custom fees exceeded any reasonable limit ... I intentionally didn't checked this out before.
The ship’s name was “St. Louis Express”, I could track my machine online on its way over the sea:
And two weeks later ....: