In 1975 I got severely bored at Rolla and went looking for a summer job in St. Louis, my friend Kurt Horton was looking to move to computing facilities at WU, but didn't want to abandon his boss, Rudy Husar, who was running the Air Pollution Research Lab under the Dept. of Mechanical Engineering. (Kind of shows what an interdisciplinary place WU is.) So, I picked up the job at the Air Pollution Lab, and started working with PDP-11's. We had one with some floppy disks, then Prof. Scandrett in Physics invented his own network, actually a disk server, called the spider net. He had a PDP-11 hooked to an IBM 360 channel, and they let him have an entire disk pack. He broke it up into sections, and had section zero filled with DOS-11 and compilers, utilities, etc. The rest of the sections were doled out to various users. This was a much better system than the limited floppies. Shortly after moving to this system, we changed to RT-11. Then we got a CalData PDP-11 emulator, and hooked a DIVA disk system to it. This used Calcomp 40 MB 14" removable platter drives and an Interdata 7/16 mini as an emulator for DEC disk controllers. It was insanely expensive, but it was compatible with other units at WU. It was quite reliable, it even survived having water poured on the drives while it was running. We did have some traces burned off the electronics backplane in the drive, but the Calcomp tech fixed it! We ran RSX-11M on that system, much to the consternation of DEC. We later upgraded to a used PDP 11/45. I was the sysadmin on that system, as well as the hardware maintainer, and wrote/modified device drivers, did sysgens of the OS, etc. We had a Pertec tape drive with Datum controller.
This is the CAPITA (Center for Air Pollution Information and Trend Analysis) computer room about September, 1978. On the right is the tape library, and just left of that is an ANCIENT Potter IBM-compatible tape drive I got surplus. Below the Diva disk controller, you can see one of the Calcomp 40 MB disk drives. We eventually had 3 of them. On either side of the Versatec 1200A printer are two Tektronix storage tube terminals, a 4012 and a 4014, I think.

One of the tricks I came up with was a double-buffered program to dump and restore an entire disk pack to mag tape in about 10 minutes. It required error-free disk media, as it was a block for block copy, but it was maybe 20 X faster than a file system backup. It had to poll the tape controller to detect the done condition and stuff the next operation in before the "reinstruct window" closed. If you could do that (it was about 10 us) you could make a start-stop tape drive stream, and it would write 40 MB in 1600 BPI mode without stopping the tape for the entire reel.

Intel 8008 systems

Some profs at WU developed an air pollution measuring instrument for particulates called the beta gauge. It had a roll of filter paper that air was sucked through, and a beta source and detector measured the accumulation of particles on the filter. At certain intervals the paper was advanced. Back in 1976 we got a project to commercialize the beta gauge, and I started developing software on an 8008. We built a prototype using Intel MAC 8 development system boards and some custom wire-wrapped interfacing. I got to deliver the prototype to the company in Pasadena, and got to check out the C&H store there, which was a truly awesome surplus outfit, although pretty expensive.

I built my first computer using the 8008 and 256 bytes of static RAM. No peripherals at all, but it had a hex keypad and LEDs for a display. The only program I wrote for it was one that played music through an AM radio. (What CAN you do in 256 bytes??)