[vcf-midatlantic] Working on a historical microprocessor exhibt

Ethan Dicks ethan.dicks at gmail.com
Tue Feb 11 16:05:24 EST 2020

On Tue, Feb 11, 2020 at 2:35 PM Dave McGuire via vcf-midatlantic
<vcf-midatlantic at lists.vcfed.org> wrote:
> >> The first single-chip VLSI implementation of the VAX architecture
> >> (the 78032, used in the MicroVAX-II and others)
> >
> > And it was sloooow by comparison to its contemporary VAXen.  Its primary benefits were board space, component cost and power savings, at the expense of a fair amount of speed.
>   The 78032?  Oh heck yes it was slower than the "big boys".  But it got
> an entire VAX processor, with FPU and 1MB of RAM, on a single board for
> a fraction of the price of any of the "big boys".  It enabled the
> deskside and desktop VAXen, etc.  Remember, there's more to life than
> just speed! ;)

Packing a full VAX into a box the size of suitcase for ~$20,000 was an
amazing feat in 1985.  We were definitely on the small end of DEC's
customers then - we ordered an 11/750 the week they were announced
(S/N BT0000354) because the price point was enough below the 11/780
that we could manage it.  We also got one of the early 11/730s
because, again, the low price point made it affordable for a second
VAX in the company.  Similarly for the uVAX-I, more because we needed
a Qbus VAX for our new Qbus product, but right after we bought a
second one (for code development), the uVAX-II came out and we paid
the full upgrade price ($17K?) to replace the CPU, disk controller,
disk and RAM (and software license!)  Totally worth the cost for our
needs - we now had a machine that was the fastest number cruncher in
the building, and for 1-3 users, it was way faster then our 11/750,
for 20% the cost!

Yes, the uVAX-II was slower than the full-sized lineup of the day, but
at a hell of a price-performance point.

I have a bare CVAX die in an acrylic block I got at DECUS - "Without
Ultrix, it's just a paperweight!"

But outside of the DEC world, nobody really noticed.


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