The PDP-11 was probably the most influential computer ever. Its CPU defined what we think of as normal, it was the first machine you could get Unix for, and Windows can trace its roots to the other big-ticket PDP-11 operating system: RSX-11.
In 1975, the 11/70 was the biggest PDP-11, and the last-ever to sport a proper Blinkenlights panel. In red and purple. Sorry. Rose and Magenta. These were the 70s. But then - all of a sudden - front panels were gone from our lives and we were supposed to look at dull beige boxes for the next few decades. So very sad.
The fascinating thing about this computer is that it is so usable even today. You can run 2.11BSD Unix on it (meaning, it has the good bits of Unix but not the bloat) - but you can also go back farther in history and run Unix v6 whilst you study the famous Lions Commentary. It does TCP/IP, works as a web server, does (vector) graphics...
The PiDP-11 lets you recreate this venerable machine in one of four stages:
- just in software, as a fully configured Raspberry Pi emulator;
- adding a circuit board with the Blinkenlights of the front panel;
- optionally, add switches to that circuit board to control the system that way;
- or buy it as a complete kit with fancy case and acrylic front panel.
There might be a Raspberry Pi hiding inside, but you can hook up to real serial terminals as well as SSH terminal sessions. All the original operating systems and software come ready to boot.
Like my earlier PiDP-8 replica, you can use the software on any Raspberry Pi. But the idea is to go one step further, by giving it back its physical form: Blinkenlights.
You can buy the kit that comes complete with case, acrylic front panel and whatnot (http://obsolescence.wixsite.com/obsolescence/pidp-11). But you can also make one yourself. Cheaper, for a more industrial look, but works exactly the same. That's what this Hackster project is about. Send the Gerber PCB design files to any PCB shop and make your own Bare Bones front panel.
Either use the front panel for visual effect, without soldering on the switches, or add switches and gain control of the front panel.
Also, the Pi has plenty of power left to do all the other things you would normally do with a Pi (media server, file server, etc). So you're not limited to using it just as a PDP-11.
Website for (much) more detail: http://obsolescence.wixsite.com/obsolescence/pidp-11
Google Groups forum: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/pidp-11
Some of the operating systems pre-installed on the PiDP-11: