Minimal, or small, general purpose computers were first introduced in the late 1950s, although they were not given the name “minicomputer” until 1967. By 1970 almost 100 companies had formed to manufacture these computers for new applications using integrated circuits. Minicomputers were distinguished from the larger “mainframes” by price, function, size, use, and marketing methods. By 1968 they formed a new class of computers, representing the smallest general purpose computers. While mainframes cost up to $1,000,000, minicomputers cost well under $100,000. The computer that defined the minicomputer, the PDP-8, cost only $18,000. — Rise and Fall of Minicomputers (Engineering and Technology History Wiki)
Main or Mini?
Mainframes required specialized rooms and technicians for operation, thus separating the user from the computer, whereas minis were designed for direct, personal interaction with the programmer. Mainframes operated in isolation; minis could communicate with other systems in real time. In contrast with much larger mainframe memories needed for scientific calculations and business records, the first minis stored only 4,096 words of 12- or 16-bits. Unlike larger computers featuring expensive input/output devices, early minis used only a Teletype or Flexowriter and a paper-tape punch/reader. Minis were designed for process control and data transmission and switching, whereas mainframes emphasized data storage, processing, and calculating. Minicomputers that did the most to define the new class of computers were sold to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that incorporated minis into larger control systems. — Rise and Fall of Minicomputers (Engineering and Technology History Wiki)
Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC)
Ken Olsen DEC 1957 – 1989
CyberMuseum for Digital Equipment Corp (DEC): Documents, Photo Albums, Talks, and Videotapes about Computing History (Gordon Bell, Microsoft Research)
Digital Museum (The Computer Museum)
Gordon Bell And DEC – The Mini Computer Era (iProgrammer)
Shiresoft, Inc.: Committed to the preservation and restoration of DEC computers (Guy Sotomayor, Sunnyvale, CA)
List of DEC Programmed Data Processors (Rich Alderson, Living Computer Museum)
Digital VAX (DECVAX.ORG)
PDP1 Computer a Digital Equipment Corporation DEC
1963 DEC – PDP 1 computer, enabling computer games
The PDP-6 (Programmed Data Processor-6) was a computer model developed by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) in 1963. It was influential primarily as the prototype (effectively) for the later PDP-10; the instruction sets of the two machines are almost identical.– PDP-6 (Wikipedia)
Here is a video of Bob Erickson, one of our biggest supporters, explaining his understanding of one of the artifacts he has donated to the New Computer Museum’s permanent collection.
PDP-8 – Presentation #1 (The National Museum of Computing, UK)
DEC PDP-8 Mini-Computer (The Computer Museum)
DEC’s Blockbuster: The PDP-8 (Computer History Museum)
PDP-8 Online (David Gesswein)
Hack42 Museum, PDP-8 (Simon Claessen)
PDP-8 (Douglas W. Jones)
In a visit to Rhode Island Computer Museum (RICM) by New Computer Museum (NEWCM) Director, Mary Hopper, Mike Thompson explained some aspects of the restoration of their functioning PDP-9.
Restoration of a PDP 9 (Michael Thompson, Rhode Island Computer Museum)
There is extensive information about this project on the RICM’s web site
DEC PDP-9, S/N 323 Restoration (Rhode Island Computer Museum)
Compuserve PDP-10 SC-40 Boot Up
Digital (Dec) PDP-11/34
DEC’s Minis Get Bigger: PDP-11 Family (Computer History Museum)
How the PDP-11 Was Born (according to Larry McGowan)
PDP-11 Tribute Page (Larry McGowan)
DEC PDP-11 (Georgi Dalakov, History of Computers)
PDP11.org (Jay West)
PDP Unix Preservation Society Home Page (Warren Toomey)
Shiresoft, Inc.: PDP-11 Collection (Guy Sotomayor)
PDP-12 at the RICM running the Kaleidoscope program
DEC gave rise to a number of minicomputer companies along Massachusetts Route 128, including Data General, Wang Laboratories, Apollo Computer and Prime Computer.
The Business That Time Forgot Data General is gone. But does that make its founder a failure? (Joshua Hyatt, CNN Money Magazine)
Company: Data General Corporation (Computer History Museum)
Data General (Wikipedia)
Wang Laboratories Inc. 1980
Wang Computers ‘Giant Killers’ Commercial (1978)
Wang Laboratories desktops models
WANG Gang (LinkedIn)
Rhode Island Computer Museum, Wang Computer Gallery
Wang Laboratories, Inc. Wang Laboratories, Inc. Records, 1948-1992: A Finding Aid (Harvard Archives)
Articles about Wang Laboratories (Chicago Tribune)
Wang Laboratories: From Success to Success to… (Computer History Museum)
George Takei and the Original Tech Revolution | Takei’s Take Boston
William Poduska, Apollo Computer’s founder, is interviewed in this video that talks about Boston’s 128 Loop and ties it to today!
Prime Computer (Computer History Museum)
Where’s your Minis?
Much like in the mainframe arena, The New Computer Museum is not positioned to be an active member of the minicomputer preservation community. There will be no systematic collection strategy for minicomputers and the goals will be primarily educational and informational. That being said, we do have a number of advisers, donors and supporters who are highly interested in the area and have artifacts to donate or loan, so from time to time there will be some minicomputer related exhibits supported by partner organizations. For example, we have a DECmate I in good condition that has been donated, and so we might ask for help to have it restored for display. Beyond that, we would work with other local collectors and organizations in the New England area who do have the expertise to preserve minicomputers.