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Making kits in the jungle - an update after 4 years

A project log for PiDP-11

Replicating the PDP-11/70

OscarvOscarv 08/16/2022 at 15:300 Comments

The 4000th PiDP-11 kit was sent out last month, which amazes nobody more than me. It has taken over a significant chunk of my life. And I thought it would be fun to write a bit about what you can expect as a Maker when you go into kit making. From what I hear, my experience is not unusual at all.

In the Internet age, no niche is too small. Not even making replicas of a 50 year old computer. Apparently. I thought that I'd make this kit for one or two years, and interest would wane quickly. Not so - four years on, interest in the kit is just the same. The problem is, logistics take over your life once you start making a kit like this. My home started to resemble a live-in factory and neighbours wondered about trucks offloading stuff into my garage...

I had plenty of time over the past few years to do it all myself, as illness in the family made me a full-time carer. In some sense, the timing was perfect. But as (sadly) that carer role comes to an end, I had to think about how I could keep making the kits without it soaking up quite so much time. I'd rather focus on development than on logistics.

So, starting from January, my kit making endeavours move to another phase. A weird one, but that is in line with this whole project. With three friends, production of PiDP-11 kits will become somewhat of a development project in the Panamanian jungle (because, why not, up in the Swiss mountains or down in the Panamanian jungle, same difference). We've set up a micro-factory that will start making a few of my kits and once that is all up and running, could serve as a production base for other Makers as well. Thanks to the Panama Canal and the help of the Panama Postal service, it turns out this is actually an amazingly efficient location logistics-wise. I know, weird idea but so is making PDP-11 clones. And on a small scale, it is pretty cool to think that my Maker activity will provide some useful activity in a small village. To be continued!

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