Bits and Chaos

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Between bits and chaos, a sysadmin stands.

Thanks VMS, and thanks Dave, for everything

VAX/VMS was my first exposure to the real world of real operating systems. Before it, I had had only MS-DOS as operating system.

I remember the complexity, resilience and structure of this beautiful system, capable of extracting every single cycle of power from hardware as powerful as an Intel 386 (more or less) ┬ásustaining two dozens of terminals at the time being. I remember the scheduler, that has two main classes of programs, batch and real time. I remember the extensive documentation (the joy of seeing a couple of shelfs filled with documentation manuals (even the help system has its own manual, both for the average user and for the developer). I also remember when, it was 1994, I wrote a keylogging to steal the SYSTEM password (authorized and in fact challenged by my CS teacher, and to say you a simple truth, the two passwords – yes there were two of them – were part of a motto published in the entrance of the computer lab). RUN AUTHORIZE was my first exposure to what, twenty years later, would be the Linux capabilities system.

So, today is a sad day, because HP has announced that it will discontinue OpenVMS, the notable heir of VMS. Many reasons for that, probably some short sighting for the DEC-DIGITAL-COMPAQ executives who didn’t believe in a multi-user, multi-program system quite different from Unix. If they did so, the history of computing would have been probably different, because VMS on a Alpha processor was quite a number crunching beast.

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