During the late 1960s DEC had built a successful business based mainly on the success of its 12-bit PDP-8 series of minicomputers. However, the time had come for the introduction of a 16-bit machine to replace/supercede the -8. DEC entered into this market segment with the PDP 11/20. This machine was to father a whole industry; lay the foundations on which the VAX would later be built; and virtually launch the OEM industry attracted to the connectability and extendability of the UNIBUS, and later, Q-Bus. Indeed, Computer Engineering by Bell/Munge/McMcNamara refers to the VAX-11/780 as being another -11 rather than the start of a new and different family. The early VAXes, of course, had PDP-11 compatability mode built in, and many VMS utilities were taken from RSX and run in compatability mode for a number of years until eventually replaced by native mode utilities sometime around VMS V3.0.
Since then, the PDP-11 had 16 to 22 implementations, depending on how you count them, many with variants.
(From the intro to the PDP-11 FAQ)
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