by January 12, 1999 0 comments

This was the time when IBM ruled over all things computing with their mainframes. Then came the revolution of the minicomputer from Digital. The PDP series and later the VAX effectively challenged the IBM mainframes and brought to an end their exclusive hold over computing.

Minicomputers, as opposed to mainframes, were small and inexpensive. The first of these, the PDP-1 came out in 1960. PDP stood for Programmed Data Processor. The PDP-1 was followed by the 4, the 5, all the way up to PDP-16 in 1972. Some of the PDPs, like the PDP-10 were more mainframes than minis.

In between, as the successor to PDP-11 came the VAX (Virtual Address extension). Design work on the VAX started in 1975, and the first VAX–the 11/780–was introduced in 1977. The VAX ran VMS and later OpenVMS as the operating system. As the name indicates, the operating system supported virtual memory. The 11/780 for example, could address up to 4.3 GB of virtual memory.
What sort of peripherals did these grand-daddies use? Surely they didn’t have scanners and laser 
printers and the lot? In fact, they used a whole range of peripherals. Over time, these included teletype consoles, card readers, dumb terminals, tape drives, floppy drives (the eight-inch variety), and even hard disks.

The era of the minicomputer, and of Digital’s domination of the computer market, came to an end with the advent and the unimaginable success of the PC.
That doesn’t mean that the minicomputer is dead today. VAXs are still humming away in many places around the globe. Digital earlier, and now Compaq still supports them.

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