[its-hackers] ITS 1974-78 "Morse Code" project in MDL

Jack Haverty jack at 3kitty.org
Sat Oct 23 21:34:05 CEST 2021

FYI, I stumbled across this report:


In Chapter 22, it describes the Morse Code project which was done at MIT 
in the late 70s.   It doesn't have a lot of technical detail, but it 
describes the system that was built at MIT-DM on the MIT-DM ITS machine, 
all in MDL.  There was a tiny bit of hardware developed by Ed Black 
(EHB) and I, to do the "Phase-Locked Loop" that is mentioned.   It used 
a PDP-11/05 to perform the associated real-time computing in assembler 
(FFTs mostly), linked to the PDP-10 through a TTY.   There was also an 
actual radio transceiver with a TTY interface, so that the computer 
could "spin the knobs" just as a human would.

If fragments of that MDL code resurface, this report might help explain 
how the pieces fit together and what they did.


PS - I think I was the "competent user group leader" mentioned at the 
end of the chapter, since I was the one who had been a ham operator for 
the previous 10 years and we basically made the computer program do the 
same things I realized I had been doing when playing on the radio.   It 
was a good example of the attempts at the time to create an "expert 
system" computer program that could perform a task hopefully as good as 
a human expert could.   IMHO, ITS and especially MDL were crucial tools 
so that we could focus on the problem of Morse code rather than on 
getting syntax errors out of the software.

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