IBM 029 Card Punch and ASCII Machines

Johnny Billquist bqt at
Sun May 10 14:06:23 CDT 2015

On 2015-05-10 20:52, William Donzelli wrote:
>> Indeed, but I think that even in that application card readers were not all that common.  The batch card model was more an IBM thing, with DEC systems tending more to terminal input.
> Yes, but PDP-11s were right in that sweet spot in the business
> environment. Plenty of businesses had all their records on cards, even
> if they had service bureaus do all the processing, and DEC wanted to
> grab part of the end of the punch card era of thinking.
> One has to wonder if that very specific strategy did not work as
> planned, as we rarely see any actual PDP-11s with card machines.
> Perhaps the service bureaus themselves did the media conversion, and
> DEC then moved in after that cards were gone. The support for handling
> cards still stuck around for the stragglers.

I don't know how common card readers were, but I don't think any DEC 
machines could punch cards. You normally had free standing terminals on 
which cards were punched, and then the cards were read in later.

RSX have three types of queues, printers, batch, and card spoolers. Card 
spoolers were purely for punched cards, so there obviously was at some 
point a far amount of those around for describing jobs to be performed.

I was contacted by someone (I can't remember who right now) not so long 
ago, about how the input card queues worked, since he couldn't get it to 
work on the latest version of RSX. And it turns out that that software 
have bit rotted. Other parts of RSX have been updated and changed to the 
point where the batch input card queue no longer works properly. I guess 
noone have tested that one in a long time. I don't remember exactly what 
the problem was, but I think it was either that the format of messages 
for the batch manager itself have changed (happened in 1993, when there 
was an year wrap issue coming up), or else something about named 


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