[TUHS] Graphic Systems C/A/T phototypesetter

Nick Downing downing.nick at gmail.com
Wed Dec 11 10:03:54 AEST 2013

Yes, well my first Unix experience was a 2.x.x kernel based Linux system
and I ate it up... although I missed out on the "glory days" I almost
feel like I was there, having learnt everything I possibly can about the
history of Unix, run V7, used simh extensively, ported stuff to/from
2.11BSD, got into the guts of the BSD networking stack, etc, etc...

I have read many DEC hardware manuals and I have been trying to buy a
PDP11 (not micro PDP), ideally it would be an 11/70, although
unfortunately I have just downsized to 2 rooms and advertised the other
2 rooms in my house for rent, so I may have to put that off for a bit :)
I narrowly missed out on a VAX11 in good condition a few years back, my
interest is more in PDP area but VAX is also acceptable.

It's a shame I'm in Australia as nearly all PDP hardware around here
seems to have been scrapped, and also I will probably never get the
chance to buy that beer for the Bell Labs/Berkeley engineers.  But if
I'm in Germany I definitely plan to visit Bernd Ulmann's museum, see
http://www.vaxman.de/museum/museum.html and relive those glory days :)

cheers, Nick

On Tue, 2013-12-10 at 07:37 -0800, Larry McVoy wrote:
> On Tue, Dec 10, 2013 at 09:45:22AM -0500, Doug McIlroy wrote:
> > 
> > >  The wikipedia description
> > >  <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CAT_(phototypesetter)>
> > > seems pretty accurate although I have never seen the beast myself.
> > 
> > I can confirm the wikipedia description. At Bell Labs, however, we
> > did not use paper tape input. As soon as the machine arrived, Joe
> > Ossanna bypassed the tape reader so the C/A/T could be driven
> > directly from the PDP-11. The manufacturer was astonished.
> > 
> > The only operational difficulty we had was with the separate
> > developer. If you didn't hand feed the end of the paper perfectly
> > straight into that machine, the paper would tear. Joe Condon
> > fixed that by arranging for the canister to sit on rollers so
> > it could give when the paper pulled sideways.
> > 
> > The first technical paper that came off the C/A/T drew a query
> > from the journal editor, who'd never seen a phototypeset
> > manuscript before: had it been published elsewhere?
> > 
> > Doug
> I'm extremely jealous of you.  I'm a long time troff fan and would have
> loved to have been there during that time.  I'm sure it was far less 
> pleasant than my rose colored glasses have it, but it sure seems like
> it was fun.  I'd like to have met Joe Ossanna - care to share any stories
> about what sort of person, programmer, etc he was?
> That's perhaps a whole different thread, I'd love to shove a beer into
> each and every bell labs guy hanging around here and get them talking.
> Bell Labs was a huge influence on me, be good to have Bell-labs-stories.com
> or something filled with your memories.

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