This Kit Lets You Recreate the Classic PDP-8 with a Raspberry Pi
The Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) PDP-8, released in 1965, was the first commercially successful minicomputer to hit the market. That’s saying a lot considering it cost $18,500 at the time (which works out to roughly $140,000 today). That was more than a well-equipped Ferrari from the same era, but was considered a bargain at the time, and got you a 12-bit computer that could fit on a desk (“mini” is a relative term).
With 50,000 units sold and a cool design, it’s remembered fondly by a lot of enthusiasts and is considered a collectible. Of course, that means originals also have collectible-level price tags. Luckily for fans of the PDP-8, a Raspberry Pi-powered kit is available that simulates the look and operation of the original, and Andrew Back of RS Components’ Design Spark got his hands on one.
Part of what makes the PDP-8 so cool is the control panel, which is chock-full of indicator lamps and big toggle switches. The kit (created by Oscar Vermeulen) faithfully replicates the look and feel of that control panel, and even makes it completely functional. As Back demonstrates, the kit takes some work to put together, but it’s well-designed and everything fits properly.
With the kit built, Back used the supplied SD image for his Raspberry Pi 3 B to get it running. That image is loaded with SimH, which is able to completely simulate the PDP-8, even down to the peripherals like tape storage. If you want to construct one yourself, you can purchase a kit from Oscar over on Obsolescence Guaranteed for $155 + shipping.