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PDP-10 Replica Powered by Raspberry Pi 5 SBC

Mar 13, 2024 — by Giorgio Mendoza 1,174 views

Dedicated computer history enthusiasts from the ITS Reconstruction Project have undertaken the remarkable task of recreating the PDP-10 mainframe, a computing icon from MIT’s AI Lab of the 60s and 70s. This modern version uniquely incorporates the Raspberry Pi 5 single-board computer, skillfully blending historical significance with the latest technology.

The PDP-10 was a significant piece of computing history, epitomizing the era of innovation at the MIT AI Lab in the 1960s and 70s. This device was pivotal in early AI research, the development of hacker culture, and the birth of networked computing, laying the groundwork for many modern computing concepts.

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Original MIT PDP-10 console
(click image to enlarge)

According to the group Obsolescence Guaranteed, the “ITS Reconstruction Project” represents over a decade of meticulous effort to revive the hardware and software of this iconic period into a ‘virtual AI Lab’. The result of this project is the PiDP-10, a desktop-sized, fully functional replica of the PDP-10 front panel, offering hobbyists and enthusiasts the chance to experience the era firsthand.

The company states that this replica is more than a mere display piece since it encapsulates the essence of the AI Lab, including its unique ITS operating system and over 400 historic applications. It’s a tribute to an era where the boundaries of computing were constantly pushed, and a playground was provided for the earliest video games and AI programs.


PiDP-10 display
(click image to enlarge)

The PiDP-10 authentically replicates the PDP-10 model KA10, combining the original’s classic design with modern technology. The casing is adorned with a detailed front panel featuring 124 lamps and 74 switches, mirroring the original mainframe. Powered by a Raspberry Pi 5, it not only emulates the PDP-10 but also functions as a practical Linux system. Its adaptability enables it to double as network storage or a media server, supporting up to 10 users.

Equipped with the TOPS-10 operating system, the PiDP-10 provides insight into the early advancements in operating systems, influencing later systems like MS-DOS. TOPS-10’s support for multitasking and multiple users was advanced for its time.

 
PiDP-10 exploded view (left) and front view (right)
(click images to enlarge)

Along with its comprehensive programming and application suite, it offers a hands-on historical computing experience. The PiDP-10 also revives classic games like Adventure, blending historical exploration with practical utility.

Further Information

On April 1st, the MIT Museum at the Gambrill Center at 314 Main St, Cambridge, MA, will host a special inaugural event for the PiDP-10 starting at 2:30 pm. This seminar is free and open to the public, though entry to the museum requires an MIT ID or an admission ticket. Refer to the Obsolescence Guaranteed website for more information.

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