PDP-10 KI10: Personal memories

Parent Category: Stories Category: The PDP-10 KI10 console panel Written by Administrator

In must have been 1980. I was about 17, went to school in Darmstadt, Germany, and was 2 year before university-entrance diploma.

I already owned an TI58C programmable calculator and wrote a lot of cool programs.

At that time I also jobbed in a little electronic engineering company and - perhaps as training for my poor hardware skills - the boss let me build up a little Motorola 6800 based system: 2K ROM with SBUG monitor, 4 K RAM, 1 serial interface, one datasheet with MC6800 opcodes. In addition I got an old Lear Siegler ADM-1 terminal to speak to the board ... that was it.

TI58c Motorola 6802 based board

 My computer equipment around 1980

But then my school participated on an early "computer for schools" project.

They gave us a single DECwriter connected over a 300 baud modem to the computer center of Technical University in Darmstadt. The machine on the other end was a PDP-10 under TOPS-10, were the whole school had one single user account.

A physic teacher tried build up a class teaching BASIC, but soon the project consisted merely of five nerds, fighting for time before the DECwriter.

joerg the nerd Decwriter

 Well, yes, that's me ...

BASIC was amazing: you got real printouts (no need to write down your program code by hand), your programs could print letters (compared to the number display of our pocket calculators), you could program in a high level language, and you could even save your programs, and had not to type them in again everytime you wanted them to run.

Resources were scarce: we were advised not to use too much paper. Only the teacher had the password for our TOPS-10 account, he had to login for us everytime we wanted to use the terminal. But soon the password leaked ...  And despite it was strictly forbidden to leave the BASIC environment, of course we did. We detected the DEC help system and even found an adventure game.

At that time, I was the typical nerd: shy, socially incompetent, hiding behind the terminal. But a friend of mine was more extroverted: He didn't know how to write programs, but he figured out were our mainframe was installed, and drew me there (perhaps to use my skills as a door opener).

His plan succeeded: So one day I stood in the machine room of the Institute for Mechanical Engineering of the Technical University Darmstadt.  The operators let us visit the machine room several times, explained us their Tektronix graphic terminals, and even let us play "Moonlander" on a GT40. Best of all: they had a room with lots of terminals for students, so no waiting anymore! And nobody there to control the amount of printout we made. We spend some time there, heavily using the stolen password. At regular intervals we checked whether our teacher logged into the same account from our school: the log-in message "Other jobs with same PPN:" would have uncovered us. And indeed: a few weeks later the password was changed ...

It was in the machine room I made these photos of the KI10 installation:

PDP_10 KI10 at TH Darmstadt 1980


 PDP_10 KI10 at TH Darmstadt 1980

 PDP_10 KI10 at TH Darmstadt 1980

 PDP_10 KI10 console panel at TH Darmstadt 1980

PDP-10 KI10 in TH Darmstadt around 1980


32 years later the KI10 crossed my way again ....

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