PiDP-8/I replica with Raspberry Pi

By on November 28, 2015
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Remaking the PDP-8/I using the Pi, simh & a replica front panel: a true catching project!

Goal: a (very) low cost full replica of the PDP-8/I.

Design: use the $20 Raspberry PI Model A+, a custom front panel PCB to mount it behind, and 26 nice-to-use toggle switches. Extend the simh emulator to drive the front panel.

Reason: PDP-8 replicas can get very expensive very quickly. The idea was to do the exact opposite: design a faithful replica using minimum parts. Made possible by the fact that the computing engine is available for $20 (Pi model A+) and in software, there’s no better replica of PDP-8 functionality than the simh emulator.

Result: Pi drives the 92 leds and 26 switches using a multiplexing process running in parallel to the simh emulator. Only a few ARM instructions are necessary to update the front panel during a PDP instruction cycle. An acrylic front panel faithfully reproduces that of the original.

  • 1 × Raspberry Pi (Plus or 2) needs 40 pin GPIO connector
  • 26 × Toggle switches
  • 12 × 390 Ohm resistors
  • 26 × 4148 Diodes
  • 1 × UDN2981A (optional) Interface and IO ICs / Peripheral Drivers and Actuators
  • 1 × PCB Designed in Kicad/Open source hardware design
  • 89 × LEDs (5mm, High Brightness) Electronic Components / Misc. Electronic Components
  • 3 × 1K Ohm Resistors
  • 1 × 2*20 pin header for mounting the Raspberyr Pi 


Here is the full detailed guide to make it!

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