Those who can, repair. Those who can't, simulate.

For almost all vintage computers software simulations exist. The „SimH“ suite is well  known for classic mainframes and minis.

Early consumer micros (Commodore, Atari, Amiga, etc.) can be run on „MAME“ or Raspberry Pi „RetroPie“ for gaming fun.

On the other side, old discrete computers like DEC UNIBUS/QBUS PDP-11s must often be repaired. Then we replace defective parts sometimes with ancient or modern hardware.

A special case are disk drives, which are most sensitive and always likely to fail. SD card solutions exist for many systems like C64, Amiga, Apples or SCSI.


So today a vintage computer can be a mix of software simulations, recreated hardware and original parts.

PDP-11 continuum

Uncountable repair and simulation projects exist for DEC PDP-8s and -11s, making these machines the perfect model case for "restoration by simulation".

See several PDP-11 projects arranged on a scale for their „virtuality“ or „physicality“ (are these even english words?)

virtual physical tableclick to enlarge

Project Link collection:

Living Museum PDP-11s: "Miss Piggy" at LCM+L Seattle, LSIBox

The UniBone and QBone projects are special, as they allow to simulate arbitrary parts of a PDP-11 in hardware.

DECBox, PDP-11 in a VT100 terminal

BlinkenBone for reanimating console panels

PDP2011, Sytse van Slootens FPGA recreation with PiDP11 interface

PiDP11, Oscars Vermeulens famous PDP-11/70 replica

SCSI2SD, SCSI "disk drive" based on SDcards


Well, sometimes we have that strange part mix, with repair parts fetched from dead PDPs, assembly often done in a dark night in a sinister lab, and life was given by toggeling the big power switch ... See here one of these in action: