We spend a lot of time looking at retrocomputing in the form of gaming and home computers, but it’s true to say that minicomputers are less common than hardware projects. Perhaps it’s the size, cost, or even relative rarity of the original machines, but DEC minicomputers are a bit unusual around here. [Sprite_TM] hasn’t bought us a PDP11 or a VT102 terminal, but he’s done the next best thing in the form of a miniature working VT102 that also conceals a PDE11 emulator. It runs Tetris, which was originally developed on a Russian clone of the PDP11 architecture, and the 2.1BSD operating system.
Powering it all is an ESP32 module, and the PDP11 emulator is the well-known SIMH software. Porting this to the slightly limited environment of the microcontroller required a few compromises, namely the network stack and the configuration interface. In a particularly clever move [Sprite_TM] enabled BSD networking by writing an ESP32 layer that takes network packets via SIMD directly from BSD. It includes its own DHCP client and wireless network configuration tool, allowing an ancient UNIX-derived operating system from the 1970s to connect to the 21st century Internet through an emulator with its network code stripped out.
The case is a masterwork in OpenSCAD, a complete VT102 unit in miniature with a tiny LCD screen that when printed on a resin printer is a remarkable facsimile of the real thing. It doesn’t have a keyboard counterpart, but even with a miniature Bluetooth ‘board it still looks pretty impressive. In the video below the break he boots it into 2.1BSD, and importantly since it is a server operating system, logs into it from his laptop and plays a game of Zork.
[Sprite_TM] has brought us so many impressive projects over the years using the ESP32 and other parts. Maybe you have a favorite, but for us it’s the PocketSprite Game Boy-like tiny handheld console.
22 thoughts on “A Miniature VT102 Running A Miniature PDP11”
“network packets via SIMD directly from BSD” – I’m pretty sure this is a typo for “SIMH”, as the expansion of “Single Instruction, Multiple Data” doesn’t really make sense in this context.
He should have made it a VT103, that’s a VT100 with a PDP-11 built into it.
Yeah, but then you’d expect microSD slots where the TU58 tapes used to be.
By tge way, there also was a real computer version of the VT100, the VT180.
It had a Z80 CPU and was able to run CP/M-80.
I saw your mac-mini and it is even better.
I like your job, well done !!!
“and importantly since it is a server operating system, logs into it from his laptop”
I found this comment funny since the “server” hardware is inside a terminal, a piece of equipment that you would use to connect to the PDP-11.
Which reminds me that I still see no clones of pocketsprite on aliexpress, is it already open hardware or this comment https://hackaday.com/2018/02/12/hands-on-with-the-smallest-game-boy-ever-made/#comment-4364955 did not materialize?
just checked and the https://pocketsprite.com/products/pocketsprite still says “8. Open source software and hardware: https://github.com/PocketSprite” on the bottom and still no hardware docs in the repo :-(
i prefer https://www.tindie.com/products/obso/pdp-11-replica-kit-the-pidp-11/ and keyboard
Yeah but this costs $10 to make
You can make better replica for 10$ too. only get old tuner from 80 years
Brilliant and very cute :)
YOU ARE STANDING AT THE END OF A ROAD BEFORE A SMALL BRICK BUILDING.
AROUND YOU IS A FOREST. A SMALL STREAM FLOWS OUT OF THE BUILDING AND
DOWN A GULLY.
Oh wow – serious nostalgia hit!!
Seems like a really fun way to do IoT gadgets. Make them all PDP11s instead of relying on cloud services to do the actual controls and timers.
YOU ARE STANDING IN THE HALLWAY OF YOUR HOUSE. A SMALL BOX ON THE WALL CHIMES TWICE.
Text says “2.1BSD” audio says “2.11BSD” I believe 2.11 BSD is correct. 2.1 BSD did not have a TCP/IP stack, 2.11 BSD did have TCP/IP
This is kinda cool, I guess, but personally I’d be much much more interested in a full size VT102 with a really beautiful, well thought out emulation. I’m sure such a project must exist, does anybody know? I’d love to participate. A well implemented — and improved within the spirit of the original — DEC VT*** terminal on my own desk to access my servers, etc, would be a great way to work. Please point me in some positive place, folks!!
PIGFX is a bare metal terminal OS for the raspberry pi’s
boots in seconds and works with a wireless keyboard
(or usb) and give you an hdmi output.
I use it for my modern 8 bit boards
Will it read my paper-tape programs? I’ve been waiting a long time to replay some games I wrote back then!
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