PDP-8 Plays Period Popcorn Piece

[Kyle Owen], collector of antique tech, decided to try his hand at music arrangement — for the PDP-8 computer, that is (listen to the video below the break). He’s using a program submitted by Richard Wilson to the Digital Equipment Corporation Users Society (DECUS) in 1976, appropriately named MUSIC. It runs on OS/8 and is written in the PDP-8 assembly language PAL8. Using the syntax of MUSIC, [Kyle] arranged Gershon Kingsley’s famous Moog synthesizer hit “Popcorn” (the Hot Butter version from 1972).

You might notice the lack of a disk or tape drive in his setup. That’s because [Kyle] is using an RK05 disk emulator he wrote┬áback in 2014. It’s running on a Raspberry Pi and connects over serial, which he says is slower than an RK05 but faster than a tape drive. He has connected up a Cordovox amplifier cabinet for this demonstration, but the original means of listening to the MUSIC output was an AM radio held near the computer (hear the second video below the break). This worked by executing the PDP-8 CAF instruction at a desired frequency, say 440 Hz.

Thus, when this instruction is executed, logic all over the computer goes “zap”, clearing out various registers. Now, if a radio is held close to the computer, it will pick up some of this energy, and at 440 times a second, will deliver a pulse to the speaker. The result is that you will hear a tone from the radio — as a matter of fact, you will hear an A.

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Spacewar! On PDP-11 Restoration

If you want to play the original Spacewar! but you don’t have a PDP-1 nearby, then you’re in luck — assuming you have a PDP-11, that is. [Mattis Lind] has successfully restored a PDP-11 port of the game from PDF scans of the source code, which was thought to have been lost to the trash bins of DECUS (Digital Equipment Computer Users’ Society). Fortunately, [Mattis] learned that [Bill Seiler], one of the original authors, had saved a printout of the assembly language. Using a combination of OCR and manual transcription to retrieve the code, [Mattis] took a deep dive into cleaning up the errors and solving a whole lot of system library and linking issues. Adding to the difficulty is that his PDP-11 is slightly different from the one used in 1974 when this port was written.

The project was not all software — [Mattis] also needed to make a pair of joysticks, which he made from a handful of items found on AliExpress. As you can see in the video below, he indeed got it all working. [Mattis] is no stranger to the PDP-11 world. We wrote about his PDP-11 restoration project back in 2015, a quest that took over 18 months.

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