My Introduction to Retro-Computing

This is my first attempt at establishing a blog. Up to now I have hesitated because I want it to be something that has the potential to be useful to others. In recent months I have revitalised my interest in DEC computers.
I was at school in the late 1970’s when my Mathematics teacher got the father of one of my fellow pupils to do a short after-school course on computers. I went along and that is how I got hooked. The first computer I ever used was at the Trent Polytechnic (now the Nottingham Trent University), I think it was a PDP-11/70 running RSTS/E. I wrote some very simple BASIC programs. At the time I was very naive about computers and thought they knew everything, so I was very disappointed when I typed in "PRINT ELECTRO-CHEMICAL-SERIES" (something I had been studying in Chemistry at the time), and it responded "?WHAT" or something similar. This is when I realised that computers were really pretty simple devices.
Shortly after these first experiences, in the summer of 1978 the Polytechnic installed a brand new DECSYSTEM-2050 (or just DEC-20) running TOPS-20 (V3?). I think it had 256K words of memory and a KL-10 processor. This is the system on which I really cut my programming teeth and I shall be forever grateful to the staff at the Polytechnic who helped and supported me. I mostly programmed in Basic Plus 2, but I also taught myself Fortran, Macro and Algol68 (we had a port of the Algol68C compiler, if anyone has a copy of this do let me know).
A couple of years later I went to University where I used a variety of machines, but eventually I got to use the DEC VAX (an 11/780) running VMS. I did my M.Sc on this machine and my professional programming career really started on the VAX and the MicroVAX. I used mostly Pascal and some Fortran on these machines.
I went through a spell of using HP-UX, but nowadays I program on the Windows platform and use .NET, which I think is great. However, I have always missed the old DEC technology and wanted another chance to use it again.
A little while ago I discovered the excellent SIMH simulator (see and since then I have been busy getting a simulated TOPS-20 system up and running. Recently I acquired a real VAXstation (3100 M38) and I am also starting to use SIMH to simulate a VAX. I suppose it is my version of a mid-life crisis.
This section of my blog is all about my adventures in getting these environments up and working.
This entry was posted in Retro-Computing. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s