[TUHS] New V7 port available

Michael Kerpan madcrow.maxwell at gmail.com
Fri Oct 5 04:44:27 AEST 2007

On 10/4/07, Robert Nordier <rnordier at nordier.com> wrote:
> A new port of UNIX Version 7 to the x86 (IA-32) based PC is now
> available.  The port, called V7/x86, was originally done around
> 1999: "as something to do with the UNIX source code", when the $100
> source licences first became available.  Over the last year or so,
> I've been working intermittently at preparing it for release.
> In classic porting style, the port includes a 16- and 32-bit
> UNIX-style x86 assembler written from scratch, though the next step
> of conjuring pcc to emit 32-bit x86 code was not done.  Originally,
> the system used the TenDRA C compiler, but TenDRA is huge and this
> was never a good match.  (Without demand paging, and with restrictions
> on the size of the buffer cache, there is a definite limit to how
> big you want much-used binaries to be.)  However, since the Amsterdam
> Compiler Kit was released as open source, the ACK K&R compiler,
> with a backend revised to speak "as" rather than "ACK assembler",
> works very well.
> V7/x86 currently supports ATA (IDE) hard drives, ATAPI CD drives,
> a 1.44M floppy drive, and standard serial ports, in addition to the
> usual PC screen and keyboard.  For easier installation and setup,
> supplied utilities allow access to CD (ISO 9660) and FAT (MS-DOS)
> filesystems.  Boot code uses the PC BIOS.  At present, there is no
> SCSI support.
> Overall, the system is stable and quite generally usable.  For
> instance, it is an easy-ish task to build the V7/x86 distribution
> on V7 itself, including packaging it as a small CDROM image.  When
> using the C shell, together with contemporary versions of vi and
> more, one even tends to forget this is V7.  (Given the absence of
> X and TCP/IP, the overall "feel" of the system is something like
> an early SCO System V release: though possibly not so unreliable.)
> The port was originally done more for the sheer pleasure of getting
> to grips with the V7 source code than for any good reason.  But
> I've since spent a bit of effort trying to put together a fairly
> usable release -- though there will be plenty of rough edges -- in
> the hope that, for instance, some school or college might eventually
> take the thing up as a vehicle for students to get practical
> experience on.  After all, it really is possible to write (say) a
> device driver from scratch and get it working in the course of only
> one or two evenings.  Of course, the PDP-11 original can be (and I
> hope still is) used for that purpose, but presumably PC architecture,
> and devices, and assembly language, would all be part of a modern
> curriculum, anyway, leaving fewer layers of obscurity for the
> student.
> Anyway, if any of you would like to take a look at the thing (even
> if only to point out some of the more egregious of the remaining
> errors) the link is
>         http://www.nordier.com/v7x86/
> Apart from actually installing the system on some suitable PC, it
> is also possible to boot from the CDROM or floppy image and then
> simply quit out of the install utility to the shell prompt.
> Alternatively, the system can be fairly readily run under Bochs or
> some other emulator, using the available "demo" image.
> There is a short user-oriented introductory document, with examples,
> here
>         http://www.nordier.com/v7x86/doc/v7x86intro.pdf
> What is presently lacking is a document containing a more technical
> description of the port, but I hope this will be available before
> too long.
> As far as the web pages are concerned, these were originally set
> up before the 10 August 2007 Judge Kimball ruling in favour of
> Novell.  No changes have been made (to copyright notices, licence
> information, etc.) in the light of that ruling, though of course I
> will willingly make changes if and when I know what they should be.
> Incidentally, there's been mention, here, in the past, of one or
> two projects to port V7 or 32V to the PC.  For all I know, these
> may still be ongoing: V7/x86 is an unrelated effort.
> --
> Robert Nordier
> ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
> Nordier & Associates       rnordier at nordier.com   Telephone: +27 31 261-4895
> PO Box 11266, Marine Parade, 4056, South Africa   Mobile   : +27 72 265-2390
> ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
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Awesome work. I notice that you require at least a 486 to run this
though. Is there any technical reason, or could this be moved to a 386
by means of a simple recompile? Also, how 32-bit IS the port? Would it
be hard to build a 286 version or even 8086/8088 version to give a
real OS to the old XT/AT in the basement?

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