VMS 5.4 Consolidated Software Distribution

This is a major exclusive in a long history of exclusives for this site! I purchased the VMS 5.4 ConDist CDs on E-bay so that you don’t have too! I also posted supporting pdf files including the list of what’s on each CD! Yay! This is a very early ConDist, but it’s all there; Fortran, Lisp, UCX, C, and more! Much more! Four CDs full of VAX VMS software, some of which like Lisp is hard to find. You of course need to provide the required licenses. Unfortunately, it sounds like HP might be dropping the VAX VMS hobbyist license program. I figured out how to use the utility that shall not be named because I was afraid this would happen one day.

I’ve installed VMS 5.4 and UCX from the first CD image in Simh and it works. I can read all CD images in Simh. I burned the images to CDs and I can read all of them on a real VAXstation 3100. I have not installed anything from them on a real VAXstation but I will eventually. These are being provided for historical reasons and for hobbyist use. So, if you have a VAX running a nuclear reactor, don’t use these to install VMS.

As usual, WordPress, limits the file extensions that you can use. So, if you download a CD image, change the *.doc extension to *.iso. Then you can burn it to a CD Or mount it in Simh and you should be good to go.

Windows Terminal

Long time since my last post! My work on VAXen has slowed down but I do have other stuff to share. I just haven’t got to it yet. Below is information on using the Windows Terminal with Simh. I have an excerpt from my settings.json file which Microsoft vaguely documented (1994 called and wants it’s *.ini files back). The cmd.exe stuff comes with Windows Terminal. What I have below that is my text that allows a retro experience. Google “Glass TTY VT220 Medium” and you’ll find a nice font that resembles VT terminals. The dollar sign icon was found with a Google search. I don’t remember where I found it, so if you have the copyright and don’t want me to share, let me know and I’ll remove it.

                // Make changes here to the cmd.exe profile.
                "guid": "{0caa0dad-35be-5f56-a8ff-afceeeaa6101}",
                "name": "Command Prompt",
                "commandline": "cmd.exe",
                "hidden": false
                // Make changes here to the VAX Terminal profile.
                "name": "VAX Terminal",
		"icon": "c:\\Users\\Owner\\Desktop\\DEC.png",
    		"initialCols": 80,
    		"initialRows": 25,
		// Use DCL emulator from http://www.michelvalentin.net/
		"commandline": "C:\\PCDCL\\dcl2.exe",
		"startingDirectory" : "C:\\Users\\Owner\\Desktop\\VAX3900",
                "closeOnExit" : true,
                "colorScheme" : "Retro",
                "cursorColor" : "#00FF00",
                "cursorShape": "filledBox",
                "fontSize" : 15,
                "padding" : "5, 5, 5, 5",
                "tabTitle" : "VAX Terminal",
                "fontFace": "Glass TTY VT220"
                "guid": "{b453ae62-4e3d-5e58-b989-0a998ec441b8}",
                "hidden": false,
                "name": "Azure Cloud Shell",
                "source": "Windows.Terminal.Azure"

    // Add custom color schemes to this array.
    // To learn more about color schemes, visit https://aka.ms/terminal-color-schemes
    "schemes": [
                "name": "Retro",
                "background": "#000000",
                "black": "#00ff00",
                "blue": "#00ff00",
                "brightBlack": "#00ff00",
                "brightBlue": "#00ff00",
                "brightCyan": "#00ff00",
                "brightGreen": "#00ff00",
                "brightPurple": "#00ff00",
                "brightRed": "#00ff00",
                "brightWhite": "#00ff00",
                "brightYellow": "#00ff00",
                "cyan": "#00ff00",
                "foreground": "#00ff00",
                "green": "#00ff00",
                "purple": "#00ff00",
                "red": "#00ff00",
                "white": "#00ff00",
                "yellow": "#00ff00"


screen shot

Connecting an LCD Monitor to a VAXstation 3100

Sorry that I don’t post more often. Don’t let that fool you because I’m still actively working on my VAXen and will respond to comments. But working two jobs gets in the way of taking the time to document what I’m doing. So, I have a little bit of a back log. Here’s one off the list though.

I’ve found all kinds of information on the interwebs about connecting modern monitors to VAXstation 3100’s. Here’s some detailed information on what I was able to do.

First of all, I’m getting rid of my ancient Samsung CRT. Yeah, it’s retro and I really do appreciate that, but it doesn’t have a very sharp picture, it sucks power, and it’s only a matter of time before it fails. It’s also the second CRT I used for my VAX because my first one died.

So, here’s what I rigged up for my VAXstation that has a GPX 8-plane video adapter. I found some female BNC to male RCA adapters. I used three; one for red, one for blue, and one for green. Then I bought an RGB female to VGA adapter. I got all of these from Newegg and have part numbers and pics to show the what I ordered.

There are some things to be aware of when you do this though. Not all LCD monitors can handle sync on green from the GPX. From what I tried, it seems that higher end LCD monitors (i.e. $$$) can deal with sync on green from the GPX video card. Cheaper ones can’t. Another problem is finding a monitor that can physically accommodate the space required by the adapters. I used my Dell UltraSharp – kind of a pricey monitor to use on a VAX, but of course, I think it’s worth it.

Once again, enjoy!

VAXstation 3100 Maintenance Guide

Some days I feel like I’m the Indiana Jones of computer archeology. On the download page is the maintenance guide (EK-285AA-MG-001) for the VAXstation Model 30 and 40. This is the manual that tells you what all the error codes mean from the console tests and the LEDs on the back of the VAXstation.

I don’t think this guide can be found anywhere else on the Interwebs at the time of this posting. So download your rare, vintage, original PDF while supplies last!

VAXstation 3100 ‘dual head’

There’s a switch on the back of a VAXstation 3100 that allows you to select between a monitor and a serial terminal. If you have a monitor, it’s nice because you can run DECwindows. If you don’t have a monitor, you can use a serial terminal or even a PC with a terminal emulator. What happens if you connect both a monitor and a terminal? I always assumed one of them wouldn’t work. Then I came across some old drawings at my company that showed a CRT and terminal connected to a 3100.

I did a test. If you have the switch set to use the monitor, the VAX boots with the monitor as the terminal and it ignores the serial terminal. Once the VAXstation is booted though, you can log in with both the monitor and the terminal. So, two users could be logged into the VAXstation simultaneously.

Another VAXstation Stuff exclusive…thank you very much!

FTP on VMS 5.3 and 5.5-2

I’ve finally got rid of all the new fangled OpenVMS 7.3 installations that I had on my VAXen. I’ve switched to 5.5-2 with DECwindows on my 3100/GPX. On my 3100 that I terminal into, I’ve gone with VMS 5.3. Yeah, real old school.

No matter the version, VMS often coughs up hairballs when you FTP files to it. This is a particular problem with save sets. You can zip and unzip files to help with this. That’s what I did on 7.3. You can also search the interwebs for RESET_BACKUP_SAVESET
_ATTRIBUTES.COM. This DCL command procedure can be used to fix the corruption that occurs to a save set’s file attributes. I found out the hard way that this doesn’t work on older versions of VMS.

What you need to use on VMS 5 is a program called fixrec.exe. An explanation with executables and source code can be found at http://antinode.info/dec/sw/fixrec.html

I used the executable linked to at this site on VMS 5.5-2 and it worked. You’ll probably need the C runtime installed for it to execute though.

Benchmarking and Dhrystone 2.1

What’s the sense of having a computer unless you can benchmark it? The typical benchmark from the 80’s is Dhrystone, version 2.1 in particular. This benchmark only tests integer performance and it’s also synthetic. That is, it doesn’t measure performance of actual software running typical workloads. What’s nice is that it can be run on many different CPU architectures which allows comparisons. Are the comparisons accurate? Probably not, but it’s still fun to do.

The Dhrystone source code I used is on the download page. Typically, Dhrystone is used on UNIX type OS’s. The copy I found has been modified to allow compilation on many, many different OS’s. You just have to uncomment the appropriate ‘define’ statement in the timers.c file. I successfully compiled this on Windows 7 Pro x64 and VMS 5.5-2.

I did all my VAX testing on my VAXstation 3100s. It was done under OpenVMS 7.3 (with & without DECwindows) and 5.5-3. I also tried optimization. If we round the results to two significant digits, there’s no difference. So, I won’t muddy the waters by showing all that. Now the results:

System                                                  VUPs
VAXstation 3100                                     2.5
Precision 3500 (XEON W3670)           13,600

VMS 5.3 and 5.5-2 ISOs

Well, in a convoluted sort of way I posted these two ISOs to the down load area. Yup, you can get 25 year old OSs that only run on a computer that hasn’t been made in over 15 years. I hope the traffic to this site doesn’t bring down WordPress. And speaking of WordPress, they limit the file extensions that you can use. So, if you download, change the *.doc extension to *.zip. Then you can extract the ISO file. Burn it to a CD and you should be good to go. I’ve installed both on a VAXstation 3100 including DECwindows and the images work.

Another VMS compatible CDROM


There are several lists around the InterWebs of CDROM drives that are compatible with VMS. One CDROM that I haven’t seen mentioned is the Toshiba XM-5301B. The first XM-5301B I used in a VAXstation 3100 was from an old DEC PC with a 60 MHz Pentium CPU and on-board SCSI. Recently I bought one from Ebay that was intended for an HP 9000 Series 700 workstation …. that’s what it’s manual said. It worked great too. So, another VAXstation stuff exclusive!

VAX/VMS privileges

IMG_20151114_221620 IMG_20151114_221550

So, you want to load software on your VAXstation that says DEC/Digital and VMS instead of Compaq and OpenVMS. Yeah, I’m an engineer so I ruminate about things like this. Why? Because they’re important.

VAX/VMS 5.3 is a little too old. I don’t think it’s POSIX compliant and the only FORTRAN compiler I can find for it is a *.tap image that should work easily with SIMH (yay Bob Supnik!), but would be difficult to use on a real VAX. It turns out that OpenVMS/VMS 5.5 will work with Fortran 6.6 which is readily available in an image that will work on a real VAX.

Why do I say OpenVMS/VAX you ask? Well, 5.5 is POSIX compliant and is considered OpenVMS. However, Digital didn’t get around to changing the text in the OS to say OpenVMS. It all says VMS which appeals to my inner (and outer) geek. By the way, 5.3 and 5.5-2 CDROM images are floating around the interwebs.

So, you install 5.5-2 and try to register a FORTRAN license using DECterm. Hey! You have no privileges, but you’re SYSTEM! (that’s root for you UNIX/Linux geeks or Administrator for you Windows geeks). WTF, you say.

Well, once again, VMS is ahead of it’s time. In DECterm, you don’t automatically get all your SYSTEM privileges. You need to go in FileView, Customize, Privileges… and select all privileges. Well, that’s a shotgun approach. There’s only three you really need, but this works. Who’ll hack your VAX anyways? And you do know what you’re doing, right? Everything will be allowed after you change that….