UNIX, circa 1984

I recently ran across Xhomer, a simulator for the DEC Pro 350. While there are several historic machine simulators out there, Xhomer is polished: it compiled and ran on my Opteron laptop running Solaris 10 with no difficulties. But best of all, Xhomer includes system software: you can download a disk image of VENIX 2.0 -- a "real-time" UNIX variant from VenturCom. Here's a screenshot of me logging in.

While I had heard of VENIX (a System III derivative), I had never used it before today. (And nor, presumably, have the good folks at pharmanex.) In using it, it's clear that VENIX had some BSD influence: VENIX 2.0 includes both csh (blech) and vi (phew). Using a twenty year old UNIX is a strange experience: I'm amazed at how little the most basic things have changed. There was very little that I didn't recognize ("em1" anyone?), and I was familiar with all of the tools necessary to write a program (vi), compile it (cc) and debug it (adb). Using the latter of these was the most amusing; here's a screenshot of me using adb.

Compare this output with the output of "$a" on adb, and you'll see why this got me excited. (And then try "$a" on mdb for our warped idea of an easter egg.) It should go without saying that I looked (so far in vain) for an Algol 68 compiler on this system. Seeing adb spit out a true Algol stack backtrace would be like sipping from the debugging fountain of youth...

While it's amazing how familiar VENIX feels, I'm also stunned by how anemic its facilites are: it has no TCP/IP stack, no real filesystem, no multiple processor support, no resource management, no dynamic linking, no real virtual memory system, no observability and poor debuggability. It reminds me how far we have come -- even before we embarked on the far more radical technologies found in Solaris 10...

Now, does anyone know of a Language H compiler for the PDP-11?

OBEY

Comments:

"I'm also stunned by how anemic its facilites are: it has no TCP/IP stack, no real filesystem, no multiple processor support, no resource management, no dynamic linking, no real virtual memory system, no observability and poor debuggability. It reminds me how far we have come [...]" Actually, didn't Multics have half or more of those things by the end of the 1960's? Relative to your description of VENIX it does sound like we've come a long way, but in the grand scheme of OS ideas, I'm not as sure...

Posted by David Oppenheimer on November 24, 2004 at 11:43 PM PST #

phew, this brings back memories. i actually owned and ran a dec pro 350 (<em>my personal pdp-11</em>) with venix for many years as my home ack/development machine (editing with split i/d version of jove, and networking with kermit :) for lisp and scheme (psi) work; i think i finally discarded it around early nineties,still functional. venix worked just fine, but i always regretted not running bsd/11 on that pro/350.

Posted by ozan yigit on November 25, 2004 at 12:42 AM PST #

I adminned an 11/45 and a PE32220 (first no-dec port of unix). I believe that internally (at Sun) we have a copy of the v7 code hanging around. Wouldn't be interesting to actually get a true v7 running :)

The real interesting thing would then bee getting the Sydney Uni stuff in there and turn it into an AUSAM/AUSAS.

Ahhh Edition VII, those were simpler days.

Alan.

Posted by Alan Hargreaves on November 25, 2004 at 06:23 AM PST #

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