PDP-11/70 console panel on USB
This page describes my work with a PDP-11/70 processor console panel in 2009. After some try and error this finally leads to BlinkenBone later.
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. 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.
I choose a different approach: Connect the PDP-11/70 panel over USB to a PC.
This has several advantages:
- The panel can easily be connected not just to MS-Windows boxes, but also to MAC OS or Linuxes.
- You can carry the panel and a notebook with you and present it everywhere.
- The implemention is cheap, and pretty straight forward. No microcontroller or programmable logic chip is involved, you need just a solder iron and an standard USB to parallel interface unit.
- Perhaps nobody has done it so far.
I divide this project into several phases: