[TUHS] AOS and IBM/RT [Re: Amdahl UTS, AIX/370, AIX/ESA

Dan Cross crossd at gmail.com
Fri Nov 22 06:53:00 AEST 2019

On Thu, Nov 21, 2019 at 11:16 AM Chet Ramey <chet.ramey at case.edu> wrote:

> On 11/21/19 9:19 AM, Dan Cross wrote:
> > On Thu, Nov 21, 2019 at 8:07 AM Brad Spencer <brad at anduin.eldar.org
> > <mailto:brad at anduin.eldar.org>> wrote:
> >
> >     For a brief time a long time ago, I used a 4.3BSD based Mt. Xinu,
> >     microkernel, OS on the IBM-RT as an alternative to AOS.  Ran well
> >     enough, but was disk and memory constrained.  We had source to much
> of
> >     the system (or perhaps all of it, don't remember), but I seem to
> recall
> >     that compiling it was a big pain.  Something like you had to use a
> >     specific compiler (perhaps referred to as High C??  hc command
> perhaps)
> >     to compile some of the source.  gcc had a backend for the ROMP
> >     processor, but it had a hard time making usable binaries.  I think
> that
> >     some variation of pcc was the usual compiler.  I remember it being
> >     pretty stock 4.3BSD with NFS and minus YP/NIS.  We used them mostly
> as X
> >     terminal workstations.
> >
> >
> > "High C" (or perhaps "Hi C"? It's been a while...) was the name of the
> > system compiler on AOS; I thought it was installed as `cc`.
> "High C", and it was installed as cc and hc.

Yeah, that matches my (vague) recollection as well.

> Some RT enthusiasts kept those machines running well beyond their prime.
> > Why? I'm not entirely sure; as you say, they were memory and disk
> > constrained. They were also very slow.
> I had one running in my basement into the late 90s, with my own self-
> maintained kernel. I did a considerable portion of the bash-2.0
> development on that box, and my wife wrote all of her doctoral thesis on
> it (using a troff macro package I wrote to do APA style formatting). It
> didn't make the cut when I moved from that house. Why did I have it?
> Because it was free, and it did what I needed.

We kept a couple of them running through the mid- to late-90s as well. By
that time, however, it seemed like Linux and the BSDs on PCs had greatly
eclipsed whatever was possible performance or software-wise on the aging
RTs, which were also starting to fail in odd ways. But until that point,
they were free and ran Unix, and for a long time that was kind of a special
thing. We ended up replacing a 6150 with a 486 running FreeBSD and life was
pretty good, though.

The spiritual descendent of that (those) machine(s) now runs OpenBSD on a
VPS somewhere. A while back, I found some old NIS data files (in ndbm
format, of course) that we'd preserved from some ancient backup; I was able
to get the ndbm library from an old BSD distribution and compile it and
extract the data, which was kind of fun.

        - Dan C.
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