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My first OpenVMS

Published: 31-03-2018 | Author: Remy van Elst | Text only version of this article

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(You can read all my OpenVMS articles by clicking the picture above)

Last week I registered myself with the DECUServe OpenVMS system. I alsoregistered with HP as an OpenVMS hobbyist and got OpenVMS 7.3 for VAX. Thissmall blog item describes my first steps with the hosted DECUS OpenVMS system.I'm excited since I now know how to create folders, navigate the filesystem andedit files. Oh and I had a nice chat with another OpenVMS user via the PHONEprogram.

If you like this article, consider sponsoring me by trying out a Digital OceanVPS. With this link you'll get $100 credit for 60 days). (referral link)

As I like to mess around with legacy systems like the PDP-8 and the PDP-11,VAX/VMS and thus OpenVMS seems to be a great step forward. Started out as ahardware project to be a a 32-bit virtual address extension for the PDP-11, theVAX saw it's birth at DEC around 1977. Accompanied with several operatingsystems, like DEC systems before, the VAX could run a lot of software includingPDP-11 software. Also released around 1977 was VMS, one of the operating systemsfor the VAX-11/780. Renamed to VAX/VMS with the release of version 2 in 1980.Ported to the Alpha architecture and renamed OpenVMS with version 6 in 1992. In2001 with version 8.2 it was ported to the Intel Itanium architecture and nowalso being ported to the x86 architecture, hopefully ready in 2019, a port byVMS Software Inc. (VSI). A venerable operating system with lots of historybehind it and a great future ahead.

Lively among hobbyists (Dutch article), with recent articles on clustering and installing OpenVMS, I wanted to enjoy this as well, so I decided to register as a hobbyist with HP Enterprise's OpenVMS Hobbyist program. It is required to be part of a 'chapter' of OpenVMS Hobbyists, and DECUServe seems to be the only club left that allows registration and is open to all.

At first I did not fill in a number and chapter, but was contacted by HPe toregister with DECUS before I could become a member. So I did, via

DECUServe Online

Using the following SSH command you can connect to DECUS and register:

ssh -oHostKeyAlgorithms=+ssh-dss

Follow the online interactive instructions and you're good to go.

As I registered I can login with my username and password:

                                N O T I C EThis is Encompasserve.  Access is for subscribed individuals only. o  By logging into the system you agree to abide by the Encompasserve    Canons of Conduct. o  Source code or any other information posted on this system is not    warranted in any way.  YOU USE IT AT YOUR OWN RISK. o  If you submit source code to or post information on this system, you    must allow its unrestricted use.  You must have the right to grant    such permission. o  Refer to the Encompasserve Canons of Conduct, posted in the    DECUServe_Information conference topic 4.3, for further guidance. o  Report problems in DECUServe_Forum.For information about Encompasserve please login under -> Username INFORMATIONTo subscribe to Encompasserve       please login under -> Username REGISTRATIONTo report any form of a problem     please login under -> Username PROBLEMSTo renew an Expired account         please login under -> Username's password:    Last interactive login on Thursday, 29-MAR-2018 03:22:35.36        1 login failure since last successful login             You have 1 new Mail message.%DCL-S-SPAWNED, process EXAMPLE_45713 spawned  User [EXAMPLE] has 63 blocks used, 9937 available,  of 10000 authorized and permitted overdraft of 0 blocks on DISK_USER $Subprocess EXAMPLE_45713 has completed

Navigating the filesystem

Now for the most exiting part of my OpenVMS journey yet, navigating thefilesystem. It is not as you would expect on a Linux/UNIX system, as lsdropped me into some sort of file editor:

 $ ls[End of File] Buffer: $MAIN                                                                                                                                                            | Write | Insert | Forward(Pressed CTRL+Z)LSE> exit$

Okay, that's not working. Lets try the (Windows) alternative:


To be honest, I found out that command after reading through 9 chapters ofOpenVMS documentation from HP.

As you can see I managed to create some files and a folder. As you might alsonotice, the names and structure is way different that a Linux filesystem.

This is my understanding so far. OpenVMS directories are not seperated by a /(as on UNIX) but a dot (.). A full file path can be addressed by it's filespecification that has the following format:


So in the case above, there is an INDEX.HTML file in the WWW folder, whichcan be addressed via:


As far as I know a folder should be surrounded by [brackets] and the dot infront of WWW specifies the current folder. I could also write the full filespecification:


Creating a folder is not done with mkdir:

 $ mkdir raymii%DCL-W-IVVERB, unrecognized command verb - check validity and spelling \MKDIR\

But with the logically named create command, and the correct folderspecifications, with brackets and a leading dot:

 $ create /dir [.RAYMII] $ dir [.RAYMII]%DIRECT-W-NOFILES, no files found

Changing folders, again, not done with cd. Printing the current folder is notpwd as well, but show default:


Changing the folder is set default:

 $ set default [.WWW] $ dirDirectory EISNER$DRA3:[DECUSERVE_USER.EXAMPLE.WWW]INDEX.HTML;1Total of 1 file.

Changing back to the previous folder:


Editing text files

I very briefly dabbled with EVE to create some files:

EVE REMY.DAThelloprintthis is a test[End of file] Buffer: REMY.DAT                                                                                                                                                         | Write | Insert | Forward5 lines read from file EISNER$DRA3:[DECUSERVE_USER.EXAMPLE]REMY.DAT;2

It seems to be an interactive editor, pressing CTRL+Z saves the file:


Other editors are available, like TECO, which was on several PDP-8 operatingsystems as well. To be continued in a new article.

File versioning

As you saw in the above examples, OpenVMS by default supports file versioning.On every file on it's filesystem. How awesome is that? 32,767 versions aresupported by default and there is nothing you have to do or remember. Justcreate and edit files!

Managing versions is quite easy as well. Since the version number is appended tothe filename (REMY.DAT;1) after a semicolon, you just use file system commands(which I haven't figured out yet) to remove or edit specific versions.

Editing version 2 of the file REMY.DAT:


Or using the TYPE command (cat on linux) to show the difference:

Version 2:

 $ type REMY.DAT;2helloprintthis is a test

Version 1:

 $ type REMY.DAT;1hellothis is a test

I don't understand we don't have this as an option on modern linux systems toenable. Windows has something like it, VSS, but that has to be set up andprovides only timed backups. This however is default and awesome.


Using the SHOW USERS command I was able to see a list of currently logged inusers:

 $ show users      OpenVMS User Processes at 31-MAR-2018 14:46:06.54    Total number of users = 9,  number of processes = 11 Username         Interactive  Subprocess   Batch EXAMPLE                  1 HARROD                1 HENKLE                2         1 JACKSON               1 MALMBERG              1 PARRIS                1 REICHERT_D            1 SCHENKENBERG          1 SPALDING              1

There was a user online and I used the PHONE program to initiate a chat withCORNELIUS (hi George). It was a nice chat, until work required attention. Exitwith CTRL+Z.

Thank you George for the nice talk we had!

The above image shows my discussion with George and my enthousiasm on justhaving figured out how to create a folder on this OpenVMS system.

Other commands

I found out, with the documentation, some other commands.

The show command shows general information:

 $ show systemOpenVMS V8.4-2L2  on node EISNER   31-MAR-2018 14:32:46.22   Uptime  9 03:43:15  Pid    Process Name    State  Pri      I/O       CPU       Page flts  Pages00000201 SWAPPER         HIB     16        0   0 00:00:04.75         0      400000204 LANACP          HIB     14       69   0 00:00:00.03       112    13800000206 FASTPATH_SERVER HIB     10        9   0 00:00:00.03        78     9500000207 IPCACP          HIB     10       10   0 00:00:00.00        37     5100000208 ERRFMT          HIB      8    13946   0 00:00:03.87       113    134 $ show networkProduct:  MULTINET      Node: Address(es):  DECNET        Node:  EISNER               Address(es):  11.91 $ show cpuSystem: EISNER, AlphaServer DS20 500 MHzCPU ownership sets:   Active               0,1   Configure            0,1CPU state sets:   Potential            0,1   Autostart            0,1   Powered Down         None   Not Present          None   Hard Excluded        None   Failover             None $ show memory              System Memory Resources on 31-MAR-2018 14:39:40.52Physical Memory Usage (pages):     Total        Free      In Use    Modified  Main Memory (1.50GB)            196608       21718      163141       11749Extended File Cache  (Time of last reset: 22-MAR-2018 10:48:42.07) Allocated (MBytes)            749.39    Maximum size (MBytes)           768.00 Free (MBytes)                   0.04    Minimum size (MBytes)             3.12 In use (MBytes)               749.35    Percentage Read I/Os                92%

The HELP command is very good as well:

 $ help showSHOW     Displays information about the current status of a process, the     system, or devices in the system.     Format       SHOW  option  Additional information available:  Description           ACCOUNTING ACL        AUDIT      BROADCAST  CLUSTER    CPU        DEFAULT    DEVICES    DISPLAY    ENTRY  ERROR      FASTPATH   IMAGE      INTRUSION  KEY        LICENSE    LOGICAL    MEMORY     NETWORK    PRINTER    PROCESS  PROTECTION QUEUE      QUOTA      RMS_DEFAULT           ROOT       SECURITY   SERVER     SHADOW     STATUS     SYMBOL     SYSTEM  TERMINAL   TIME       TRANSLATION           USERS      WORKING_SET           ZONE


I'm very happy this system exists and that there are still other people aroundto keep it running and let new folks like me enjoy and learn about it. The lasttime I was so enthousiastic about navigating a file system was with the PDP-8and OS/8, and now with OpenVMS. I do expect to learn more about OpenVMS andeventually installing my own system with simh and the Hobbyist binaries I gotfrom HPe, including a ISO image for OpenVMS 7.3 for the VAX architecture.

I do have one unread email, but no idea how to read that. So that will be thenext challenge ahead, figure out how to read and reply to emails. Fun timesahead!

Oh and I also don't know yet how to exit an SSH session other than closing thewindow.

Tags: alpha, blog, dec, decus, itanium, openvms, pdp, simh, vax, vms