Another computer

Ages ago, I decided to build a new computer from an Intel D410PT motherboard that I bought. I was (and still am) going to install it as a PDP-11 emulator. Anyway, I built the machine but never got round to installing an OS on it. Actually, I did try to see if it would run Windows 7 ... but Windows was not happy with being installed on a USB flash drive as a boot disk.

But, since recently I've gotten used to Debian, I thought that I'd try that. This is an OS that is very happy to boot from a USB flash drive. This is cool, since I can swap hard disks for the machine without even mucking about with screwdrivers. Here is the machine running Debian 6 off a small 4GB flash drive I bought in Tesco:

So... here are the things that I actually bought to build it:

  • Intel D410PT motherboard (with integrated Atom processor)
  • 1GB Kingston Technology 667MHz DDR2 memory
  • LinITX mini-ITX case inc wall mount and power supply CFI-ACD29CC

...all that stuff cost me £103.00 including the shipping costs. I only had to add the USB flash drive for storage (but I already had that lying around). It's not as pretty as a mac mini, but it's still quite a small little machine. All the software I've used is free, so I have Debian 6 (squeeze) coupled with Google Chrome and it quite happily streams TV channels through BBC iPlayer and other services like TV Catchup. So at the moment it's working as a nice cheap little media centre. The next step is to install SIMH and start emulating some old hardware...

PDP-11 on DR-DOS/OpenDOS

I have been busy trying to get the Ersatz-11 emulator to run on DR-DOS, which seems to work OK (more about that another time).  Then I decided to try getting the whole thing to boot from CD.  This would give me a PDP-11 Live CD.  Anyway, whilst having a rummage round in my pile of old junk hardware I found a motherboard given to me by my friend James.  It has 32Mb RAM on board and a 200MHz AMD K6 processor.  I don't have any IDE hard disks, but I do have an old CD drive.  So I started wondering if I could turn this lot into a PDP-11.  This is the machine on the bench:

AMD K6 motherboard

So the next thing to do was to see if it boots, so I tried a linux CD I had lying around:

Booting linux on the AMD K6

...which works a charm.  So the next thing was to try my PDP-11 live CD.  Guess what?  It only works:

PDP-11 live CD in action

This is sooo cool.  You can see I'm running my ASCII mandelbrot program in celebration.  In fact, this is so cool that I've gone and bought a brand new Intel D410PT motherboard and I intend to rig it to run as a PDP-11.  I expect that will fly.  I will use a solid state disk and have old software running on new hardware.  In the meantime this AMD K6 based prototype easily outperforms my real PDP-11/53.