On 06/19/2019 10:31 AM, Noel Chiappa via cctalk wrote:
I would really like to get my own classic
computer but I don't know
where to begin.
Two questions you need to sort out in your mind, to decide, are i) do you
want something with a bit-mapped video screen, or are you happy with ASCII
serial line only, and ii) what are you prepared to do for mass storage.
E.g. if you really want video, you're probably looking at something like a
VAXStation or so; if ASCII will do you, a QBUS PDP-11 might be a good
start, as with patience eBay can yield a cheap chassis, CPU etc (although
in the last year or so the really cheap stuff seems to have dried up,
I'd take that a level deeper.
And old machine is like an old car. Parts will be needed,
they will come from various places including scrounging, parts
may be unobtainium (long gone) or those available are expensive.
You will have to do most of the work as most will not touch it.
I liken having old systems and keeping them going to be like
having an exotic pet that would do better in a zoo and isn't
warm and cuddly and might even bite!
The likelihood of finding something is high, however it may require
work to get it up and running. The work maybe electronic repair,
finding and replacing disk drives, or finding software on suitable
media. There is also potential for replacing board or repairing
them. If you lucky enough to acquire a working system, the task of
keeping working is also there (spare cards, media to back up the disks
to and so on).
For VAXStation and the like disk drives are getting old and replacement
is not unlikely. Qbus PDP-11 come in a large array of flavors and you
need complete documents for what you may have and is likely not DEC
standard configuration so you need all the supplemental documents
for the alterations. At the same time finding media to load a copy
of the OS is also something to consider.
Besides OS specific knowledge you will require hardware specific
knowledge lest you run in merry circles for a s simple issue.
This means obtaining the needed manuals and reading them, thanks
to many the information is on line.
In short real hardware comes with real issues to solve and often
the interfaces and media are not at all modern PC like. I'd add
anything you know about PCs is unlikely to be helpful at best and
can lead one down an unproductive path as PCs and most older non-PC
machines tend to not be similar (other than being a computer).