Tradition does not mean to look after the ash, but to keep the flame alive.
(Jean Jaures)

Project BlinkenBone - historic Blinkenlight console panels controlled by simulators

"BlinkenBone" is an architecture to connect simulators of vintage computers with "Blinkenlight panels".

The panels can be vintage physical panels enhanced with modern micro-Linux controllers, or graphical Java simulations of the panels. The interface between simulator and panel is a network-based client/server model.

Several precompiled ready-to-run distributions with virtual desktop panels are available on GitHub, start here for the docs.


blinkenbone real pdp11 40 panelsim and Java simulation


There are several BlinkenBone projects now:

  • PDP-11/40. This panel was the first, and is documented on these pages in detail. It was well received on VCFe 14 in April 2013 in Munich (physical and Java simulation).
  • PDP-11/45. BlinkenBone is finished, but since the colored acryl glass plate is missing, it was too ugly to publish pictures of it. It was dismantled.
  • IBM 360/30. Went to the U.S., is under construction since March 2013.
  • PDP-10 KI10, physical and Java simulation.
  • PDP-11/70. Was already connected to USB, now moved to BlinkenBone. Pphysical and Java simulation.
  • another PDP-11/70 in the U.S., made by Mark Matlock in 2013
  • a virtual Java PDP8I panel was build, photos from a machine at CCG
  • with a special driver, Oscar Vermeulens PiDP8 replica is enabled to work as a BlinkenBone panel.

The physical panels have been shown on several conventions, including VCFe 13 in Munich and VCFB 2014 & 2015 in Berlin.

The BlinkenBone software (SimH 4.x and helper tools) runs on several platforms:

  • Ubuntu 64 bit
  • Ubuntu 32 bit
  • MS Windows 32 (from WinXP to Win 10)
  • Raspberry Pi Raspbian
  • BeagleBone Angstrom Linux

Sources are available on GitGub.

You want to connect your own panel? Here are some step-by-step instructions.

Title Author
BlinkenBone - introduction Written by Administrator
BlinkenBone - architecture overview Written by Administrator
BlinkenBone - "Blinkenlight API" as high level interface to panels Written by Administrator
BlinkenBone - Possible simulator configurations Written by Administrator
BlinkenBone as approach for SimH device visualisation Written by Administrator
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  • BlinkenBone physical PDP-11/70 panels

    The console panels of early PDP’s have always attracted people: Their clean minimalistic layouts colored in psychedelic purple colors presents (to my opinion) one of the best ‘70s industrial designs. The PDP-11/70 is the most complex PDP-11 panel. Is it just me, or is there really a subtle connection to Pink Floyd’s music?


    Though most of the old mainframes have been scrapped, many of their consoles survived. This is because they are the most personalized part of a computer and they are not too difficult to store over long times.

    Everybody likes them, some play around with them. People connected them to webserver, or installed networked interfaces, or simply controlled them with massive parallel I/O cards.

    Since I first got my PDP-11/70 panel around 2009, the PDP-11/70 kept me constantly busy.

    • First I connected it over an USB I/O device to my PC.
    • After some try and error this finally leads to BlinkenBone later.
    • I also wrote an adapter software ("Blinkenlight API server") to connect Oscar Vermeulens "PiDP11" replica to my SimH modification
    • For a VCF convention in Seattle, I had to reduce my BlinkenBone 11/70 in size and also cleanup its pyhsical layout
    • For enhanced simulation fidelity, we could gather data from the real PDP-11/70 "Miss Piggy" at the Living Computer History museum in Seattle.