[TUHS] Graphic Systems C/A/T phototypesetter

Armando Stettner aps at ieee.org
Wed Dec 11 12:26:54 AEST 2013

There's a museum in Mountain View and one here in Seattle that both have VAXen and PDP-11's running.  Here, we have a PDP-11/70 running.  I got to show it to my daughter....  :)


Begin forwarded message:

> From: Nick Downing <downing.nick at gmail.com>
> Subject: Re: [TUHS] Graphic Systems C/A/T phototypesetter
> Date: December 10, 2013 4:03:54 PM PST
> To: Larry McVoy <lm at bitmover.com>
> Cc: tuhs at minnie.tuhs.org, Doug McIlroy <doug at cs.dartmouth.edu>
> 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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