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Review of "The MiniComputer in the Laboratory" Cooper

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The MiniComputer in the Laboratory
            with examples using the PDP-11

Author: James W. Cooper

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons
ISBN: 0 471 01883-X
309 pages plus bibliography, appendices and index - 368 total

Cut to the chase
- of the books I've reviewed so far, this has one of the most concise, complete opcode views of the PDP-11 I've encountered. Not for it's thoroughness in covering the instruction set, but for imparting to the reader the SPIRIT of the machine's layout.

In this way, it's architecture is not "lost in the details".

Separated into TWO major Parts, "PART I" contains 13 of the best written chapters introducing and describing the PDP-11 I've ever seen.

It begins with the customary review of preliminary information about DATA types and memory, but immediately separates itself by going into logical operations on data with concepts of AND, OR, XOR, Compliment and 2's Compliment math.

Chapters 3-6 cover the machine itself, and you will read them hoping you can memorize every word.

If there is a weakness to the work, it's that the MMU is mostly ignored. From what I can see, this treatment is purely for UNIBUS, "unmapped" machines.

I see this more as a strength however, since I don't encourage novices to get bogged down with these concepts until they are ready to graduate from INTERMEDIATE to ADVANCED level programmers. In my mind, this makes it nearly ideal for beginners, yet contains the necessary formative details often neglected elsewhere.

It is written to be very practical. Each section of information includes exercises to cement the concepts covered, in place. [Answers in the Appendix]

Also included in PART I are sections on Usage, Subroutines, Stacks, Interrupts, ODT, ODT-X, Loaders, Assemblers and host development systems [I.E. - PDP-10 and RT-11]

Part II contains sections on the LPS-11 [I/O subsystem] and example programs that will illustrate just how much one can do with the instruction set and assembly code in general. All examples are given in mnemonic source form, with commentary and analysis. Topics include FFT [Fourier Transform], data presentation, peak detection, and interpolation among them.


Well, I've already said. This is a detailed treatment for the experienced "programmer", who only needs an into to PDP-11 topics and techniques. It's not boring to read, it's chock full of juicy details that answer questions directly - that one often finds chapters apart in other texts.

Yes, there are good appendices and other reference sections, but for me, "PART I" in it's entirety - is the real gem here.

A final note about LSI-11 and QBUS - These are not mentioned at all in this book. However, as in other DEC documentation, I consider this an asset. These were "Follow-On" PDP-11 families to the UNIBUS machines. As such, they built extra layers onto their UNIBUS Ancestor's fundamentals. To read a UNIBUS directed description, is to see the PDP-11 foundation in an unobstructed way. It is completely relevant to later machines and buses.

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