"Programmed Data Processor-1"

Announcement / Release
December 1959
around 1969
Birth Place
Cambridge, Massachusettes, United States of America


The PDP-1 was the first computer in Digital Equipment Corporation's PDP series and was first produced in 1959. It is famous for being the computer most important in the creation of hacker culture at MIT, BBN and elsewhere. The PDP-1 used an 18-bit word size and had 4096 words as standard main memory (equivalent to 9,216 eight-bit bytes, though the system actually used six-bit bytes), upgradable to 65536 words. The magnetic core memory's cycle time was 5 microseconds (corresponding roughly to a "clock speed" of 200 kilohertz); consequently most arithmetic instructions took 10 microseconds (100,000 operations per second) because they used two memory cycles: one for the instruction, one for the operand data fetch. Signed numbers were represented in ones' complement. The PDP-1 had computing power roughly equivalent to a 1996 pocket organizer and a little less memory. PDP-1 System Building Block #4106, circa 1963, with a US quarter - note that one transistor (yellow) has been replaced The PDP-1 used 2,700 transistors and 3,000 diodes. It was built mostly of DEC 1000-series System Building Blocks, using micro-alloy and micro-alloy diffused transistors with a rated switching speed of 5 MHz. The System Building Blocks were packaged into several 19-inch racks. The racks were themselves packaged into a single large mainframe case, with a hexagonal control panel containing switches and lights mounted to lie at table-top height at one end of the mainframe. Above the control panel was the system's standard input/output solution, a punched tape reader and writer.

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