Digital Equipment Corp.’s PDP-11 is one of the most important computers in history. It’s the home of Unix, although that’s arguable, and it’s still being used in every application, from handling nuclear control rods to selling Ed Sheeran tickets on Ticketmaster. As the timeline of PDP-11 machines progressed, the hardware did as well, and by the time the PDP was eclipsed by the VAXxen, there were PDP-11s on a single chip. The Eastern Bloc took notice and produced their own PDP-11 on a chip. This is the 1801-series CPU, and like most soviet electronics from the Cold War, they’re readily available on eBay.
[SHAOS] has an interesting project in mind for this PDP-on-a-chip. It’s a standalone computer built around the Soviet re-implementation of the PDP-11, built into a form factor that could be described as a single board computer.
This project is the outgrowth of [SHAOS]’ project for last year’s Hackaday Prize, the PDPii. This was a computer built around a backplane that replicated the PDP-11 using a KR1801VM2 CPU, the Soviet not-a-clone clone of the PDP-11. This project is basically a PDP-11/03 system, except it was made in this century, and you can put it in any computer case, with bonus points awarded for RGB lighting and liquid cooling.
This year’s project, the PDPjr, eschews standardization to something that is far more unique. This build is more or less a single board computer with a character LCD display and a real keyboard. Think of this as the PDP-11 equivalent of the TRS-80 Model 100, a machine widely regarded as being the first laptop.
There’s still a lot of work to go, but [SHAOS] has written a ‘Hello World’ for this chip, and is getting those words to display on the character LCD. That’s a great first step and we can’t wait to see where this project ends up.
We were excited to see the Giant Board in Hackaday’s coverage for Teardown 2019 recently in Portland:
The Adafruit Feather is fast becoming one of the most popular form factors in the hacker world. In the demo room at Teardown we got to see a powerful new example: the Giant Board from groguard. The Giant Board squeezes a Linux computer into a tiny space by making use of the compact but powerful SAMA5D2, which saves precious board space with its built in memory. Aside from running Linux and being tiny, the Giant Board has 20 GPIOs, an SD card slot and impressively low energy consumption.
One of the advantages of using the Feather form factor is the wide range of other boards you can choose to interact with. We got to play with groguard’s cute quadruped robot, a great example of the advantages of Feather stacking. The robot itself was made of a satisfyingly tidy stack of Giant Board, servo FeatherWing and Wifi FeatherWing, with a Giant Board and Wifi FeatherWing combo making up the remote control. If you’re more into classic video games than robot athletics, you can also see this board running a handheld version of Doom, complete with authentically terrible audio.
Check out these unique conference badges that attendees can take home and play with.
In the beginning, there were conferences. Over time, as those conferences grew, attendees needed ways to identify each other. This need gave us the conference badge.
No one knows what the first conference badges looked like, but we can be confident that they were relatively simple affairs. Over time, paper was put into plastic sleeves, which eventually became information printed on hard plastic. Sometimes that plastic wasn’t even rectangular.
At some point, batteries were introduced, and then things started to get a bit crazy. Today, many conference badges are intensely elaborate affairs. Some of the best of them are also certified open source hardware.
As hackers approached the dramatic stone entrance of Portland’s Pacific Northwest College of Arts, a group of acolytes belonging to The Church of Robotron beckoned them over, inviting them to attempt to earn the title of Mutant Saviour. The church uses hazardous environments, religious indoctrination, a 1980s arcade game and some seriously funny low tech hacks to test your abilities to save humanity. This offbeat welcome was a pretty good way to set the tone for Teardown 2019: an annual Crowd Supply event for engineers and artists who love hardware. Teardown is halfway between a conference and a party, with plenty of weird adventures to be had over the course of the weekend. Praise the Mutant! Embrace Futility! Rejoice in Error!
For those of us who failed to become the Mutant Saviour, there were plenty of consolation prizes. Kate Temkin and Mikaela Szekely’s talk on accessible USB tools was spectacular, and I loved following Sophi Kravitz’s journey as she made a remote-controlled blimp. Upstairs in the demo room, we had great fun playing with a pneumatic donut sprinkle pick and place machine from tinkrmind and Russell Senior’s hacked IBM daisywheel typewriter that prints ASCII art and runs a text-based Star Trek adventure game.
It wouldn’t be much of a hardware party if the end of the talks, demos and workshops meant the end of each day’s activities, but the Teardown team organised dinner and an afterparty in a different locations every night: Portland’s hackerspace ^H PDX, the swishy AutoDesk offices, and the vintage arcade game bar Ground Kontrol. There also was a raucous and hotly-contested scavenger hunt across the city, with codes to crack, locks to pick and bartenders to sweet talk into giving you the next clue (tip: tip).
Join me below for my favorite highlights of this three day (and night) festival.