Decisions you regret (classiccmp related)

Rick Bensene rickb at
Fri Dec 18 11:22:41 CST 2015

Two things...not really "decisions", but circumstances where had I been more clueful, would have resulted in getting some good stuff --

1) My father owned a production machine shop.  He had an early CNC mill that used a PDP 8/m as the "C" in CNC (Computerized Numerical Control).  The machine was eventually replaced with a newer, much more capable mill.   

The old machine was deemed as not worth trying to sell, as it was old and worn in such a way that its accuracy/repeatability was getting pretty bad, and the cost to fix it up was more than it was worth.  

So, my Dad called a scrap dealer to come take it away.   Had I had any brains, I would have pulled the 8/m system out of the control unit before it went off to the scrapper.  Dad had told me I could take anything I wanted out of it, but I was "busy" (I was in my early 20's) with things like girls and cars, and didn't get around to salvaging the 8/m before the machine was hauled off to be scrapped.    Stupid.

2) Again, in my later 20's, the company I worked for had a lot of DEC computers, PDP 8s and 11s were everywhere.

When a machine was no longer being used, it was generally un-cabled (nicely, not just cutting cables), and wheeled out into the hallway (the place had really wide hallways).   Eventually, someone from facilities would take the stuff in the hallway and bring it to the loading dock, where an evaluation would be made if it could be re-deployed somewhere else within the company, or hauled off as scrap.

Once day, I noticed a nice four-bay PDP 8/I system, with two  RK05's,  two dual DECTape drives, what appeared to be a vector display system of some sort (looked DEC made), high-speed paper tape reader/punch, and a 9-track tape drive, and what appeared to be some kind of data acquisition stuff...perhaps A to D converters.    The whole thing was in beautiful condition. 

I kept an eye on it, and a few weeks later,  I saw a couple of facility guys wheeling the racks down the hallway to the freight elevator.   I asked them what was being done with the system, and they said that it was going to be scrapped.   

So, later that day, I went down to the loading dock and asked the supervisor there who was in charge of disposition of equipment what was going to happen to it, and he said that they were going to put it out on the loading dock for the scrapper to take away.  

 I asked him if I could get there with a truck and haul it away before the scrappers got there, if that would be acceptable, and he said that would be OK, but I would have to sign a waiver saying that I was entirely responsible for anything, including any injury that I or others may sustain.  

He said that the scrappers had already been called, and that I'd have to beat them there and get the stuff, as he wanted it gone that day.   I signed the waiver, and then went to my boss immediately and said I had an urgent issue to tend to, and that I needed the rest of the day off.  He said fine, so I rushed home, and started calling friends that had trucks.  I didn't have a truck, so I needed to find someone with a full-size pickup that could haul the stuff.   

My efforts were stymied by the fact that everyone was at work with their truck.  I was in a big hurry, so I ended up going to rent a moving type truck from U-Haul.  That took what seemed like forever.  

Once I had the truck, I rushed back to work, drove up to the loading dock...and....there was nothing there.  I went inside, and the supervisor said that the scrappers had been there about 1/2 hour prior to me getting there, and took  it all. 

 I lost out on a really nice PDP 8/I system,  ended up spending $60 on truck rental and gas, and burned most of a day of vacation time all for naught.    It was not a good day. 

Rick Bensene
The Old Calculator Museum

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