Biography / Administrative History
Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Collection of Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-1 Computer Materials
Bulk Dates: 1960-1976
Collection number: X3602.2006
9 linear feet
Computer History Museum
Abstract: The Collection of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) PDP-1 Computer Materials is comprised of program listings, manuals,
technical papers, promotional materials, design drawings and photographs regarding the PDP-1 digital computer spanning 1959
Languages represented in the collection:
Collection is open for research.
The Computer History Museum can only claim physical ownership of the collection. Users are responsible for satisfying any
claims of the copyright holder. Permission to copy or publish any portion of the Computer History Museum's collection must
be given by the Computer History Museum.
[Identification of Item], [Item Date], Collection of Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-1 Computer Materials, Lot X3602.2006,
Box [#], Folder [#], Computer History Museum
The provenance is unknown for the Collection of DEC PDP-1 Computer Materials and most likely came from a variety of different
sources. The nucleus of the collection was originally acquired in the 1980s and 1990s when the Computer History Museum was
then known as the Computer Museum, located in Boston. The Collection is a portion of the larger artificial Company Collection.
Gwen Bell, the Computer Museum's first curator arranged documents by originating institution or company. In 2005 and 2006
all the PDP-1 materials shelved as part of the "Company Collection" were given the found in collection lot number of X3602.2006
Biography / Administrative History
In 1960 Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) launched its first computer, the PDP-1 (Programmed Data Processor-1). The computer
cost $120,000.00, and was 8 feet by 2 feet by 6 feet in size. The computer was designed in three and a half months by Ben
Gurley. He based his system on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory TX-0 and TX-2 computers
and used DEC's initial product, a series of interconnectable circuits known as "Laboratory Modules," to create the PDP-1.
The PDP-1 was the world's first commercial interactive computer, and was used for process control, scientific research, and
graphics applications, as well as to pioneer timesharing systems. The PDP-1 also made it possible for smaller businesses and
laboratories to have access to much more computing power than ever before.
Though the PDP-1 was produced in relatively small quantities (just over 50) its impact was significant. For DEC, it was the
first in a long line of computers that focused on interactivity and affordability. For the user, the PDP-1 represented an
unprecedented freedom of human-machine interaction, spurring the creation of hacker culture at MIT, Bolt Baranek and Newman
(BBN) and elsewhere. Inspired programmers created early debugging, text editing, music and game programs - including the first
computer video game, Spacewar!
Scope and Content of Collection
The Collection of Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-1 Computer Materials is composed of program listings, manuals, technical
papers, memorandums, promotional materials, logbooks, specifications, design drawings, photographs and paper tape [software]
spanning 1959 to 1976. The records are divided into eight series and total 9 linear feet, in six record cartons, one manuscript
box, and one oversized box. All series are arranged alphabetically by folder title.
The first series, Program Listings, date from 1961 to 1976. Included in this series is the program listing for Spacewar!,
one of the earliest, if not the earliest video game, for digital computers. The large group of program listings includes
debugging programs, administrative routines, and test programs.
The second series, Technical Notes, date from 1959 to 1975. This series contains technical programming notes to all types
of programs from Invisible Debugger to Expensive Typewriter. Contained in this series are technical notes for the PDP-1 by
the Digital Equipment Corporation Users Society (DECUS), BBN, DEC, Itek Laboratories, and MIT.
The third series is Manuals, 1960 to 1967. The manuals cover hardware and programming topics. This series contains manuals
that focus on specific components as well as ones that cover basic instructions and maintenance for the PDP-1. Included is
an early Programmed Data Processor-1 Handbook (1963).
The fourth series is Miscellaneous, 1960 to 1965. Contained in this series are a small number of interoffice memoranda and
promotional materials. Also included is a 1963 option and price list. Of interest is an oral history transcript of Richard
Best, an engineer who worked at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory and then at Digital Equipment Corporation.
The fifth series Specifications, is a small quantity of specifications dating from 1961 to 1973. These include cable schedules,
component lists, component diagrams, and wiring schematics.
The sixth series is Logbooks/ Records. This series consists of logbooks, 1962 to 1976, for the PDP-1 computers at the MIT
Research Laboratory of Electronics. Information recorded here describes the programs that were run, maintenance issues, and
failures. Also included is an undated maintenance log on loose paper.
The seventh series is Design Drawings, 1959 to 1968. These are oversized schematics of the PDP-1.
- Series 1. Program listings (1961 - 1976)
- Series 2. Technical Notes (1959 - 1975)
- Series 3. Manuals (1960 - 1967)
- Series 4. Miscellaneous (1960 - 1965)
- Series 5. Specifications (1961 - 1973)
- Series 6. Log Books/ Records (1962 - 1984)
- Series 7. Design drawings (oversized drawings) (1959 - 1968)
Computer science. Computer architecture and design
Digital Equipment Corporation
Digital Equipment Computer Users Society
Electronic digital computers programmed instruction
Electronic digital computers
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Spacewar computer game
Time-sharing computer systems
Harlan Anderson papers, X3575.2006.
DEC corporate records, X2675.2004.
PDP-1 Restoration online exhibit: http://www.computerhistory.org/pdp-1/
Other related research documents, software, still and moving images, and physical objects, can be found in the CHM collections
database at http://www.computerhistory.org/search/. Use the following keywords to find these related materials in the collection:
- Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC)
- Digital Computer Corporation (DCC)
- Digital Equipment Computer Users Society (DECUS)
Photographs were removed from the collection. There were over 75 original photographs covering, 1960 to 1983, of the PDP-1
Computer taken of the computer in use or for marketing purposes. To view the photographs go to the CHM website at
Paper tapes were removed from the collection. There are 388 catalog records of various software programs punched on paper
tape for the PDP-1. The cataloging was done by transcribing what was written on the paper tape and not by machine reading
it to verify the actual content of the tapes. To view the paper tape catalog records go to the CHM website at http://archive.computerhistory.org/search.