PDP 11/73 on the Internet

Kirn Gill segin2005 at gmail.com
Sat Jun 6 13:10:41 CDT 2009

Hash: SHA1
Ethan Dicks wrote:
> On Fri, Jun 5, 2009 at 3:58 PM, Kirn Gill <segin2005 at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>> Well, out of curiosity, I'm going to attempt to build gzip and
>> wget on it. I hope it doesn't crash.
> It probably won't crash, but the compiler might or might not be
> able to wedge all that code into the available code space.
> Checking on a handy 64-bit Linux system, the gzip binary is under
> 64K total size, so that might not go so poorly.  OTOH, wget is
> nearly 256K.  That will be "fun" to adapt.  I recommend paring back
> unneeded features and learning how overlays work.
> I can just about guarantee that you'll have Makefile issues for
> projects large enough or new enough to use configure scripts.  Back
> in the day, we crufted Makefiles by hand and edited source from
> other variants of UNIX to make them work in our own environments.
> That's why we have configure scripts now - you don't have to know
> as many fiddly details and you can gather, configure and compile
> projects with an absolute minimum of human input.
>> I've never used anything from this era before, in terms of
>> "capable" computers. Apple ]['s don't count.
> I started with BASIC and Assembler on the 6502, and the Apple II
> counts (to me) because I earned my living off of it for nearly a
> year. After that place closed (due to external factors like our
> publisher, Reader's Digest, changing direction radically), I
> learned C on an 11/750 (VMS 3.x and 4.0BSD, when they were new).
> Wow, what a difference.
> I think you should give it a shot, but when you run into problems
> and issues, just remember that back in that era, we all ran into
> the same sorts of roadblocks and issues all the time, especially
> 16-bit-pointer issues with the PDP-11.  Some of that wisdom is
> still available to search through in Usenet archives, but ISTR the
> rise of Usenet and the rise of 32-bit computing are somewhat
> intertwined.  16-bit computing was still around, of course, but in
> the DEC world, it was vastly tilted towards RSX and RSTS and RT-11,
> not so much with Unix by the mid 1980s.  You might also get some
> good advice looking into Minix issues - the 286 isn't close to
> identical to the PDP-11, but 16 bits is 16 bits.  Even reading up
> on code development on MS-DOS will be illuminating (before the
> advent of "32-bit extenders").
> Linux started on a 386, bypassing these sorts of growing pains, so
> experience gained there is mostly only helpful for user-level
> familiarity, not working through small memory model compiling
> issues.
> -ethan
> -ethan

I've messed with Minix on a 286; I used to keep a copy of i86 Minix
with the DOSMINIX laucher on a flash drive because it would run on
NTVDM (Windows NT's DOS VM). I've also messed with DOS programming.
It's a pain and a half and I avoided it like the plague; DOS is dead
and not of any intristic value unless you enjoy playing corny-looking
games or running horrid multitasking GUIs made by Microsoft. I know
enough C to make compilers shut up when porting code; I have tried
writing software on my own and I can show you some failed attempts I
just left behind (also due to lack of motivation, I get tired of doing
all the work myself)

If the /pointers/ on a PDP-11 are 16-bit as well, then I know what I
am up against. I've done a bit of coding with ELKS and
(aforementioned) Minix for pre-386 chips.

I wouldn't write any software on the machine, there's nothing useful I
can think of writing that I would actually deal with using. The fact
that the local 'vi' doesn't respond to ANSI/VT100 directional keys,
and only responds to h, j, k, l instead is enough to make me hate it.

And no, that's not going to motivate me to write a better editor. I
don't know how. If I did, I would have already done it and the holy
Emacs vs. Vi war would have been over, both sides having both lost.
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