Source article:
VMS revival is coming
Tech Update
October 23, 2001 5:44 AM PT

In response to "Compaq: VMS is alive, well -- and kicking" reader Gene Hirschel writes:

I have been using VMS since 1985. I started in the computer world with TOPS-10 and moved on to TOPS-20, perhaps one of the best operating systems ever created. I moved to DEC's smaller machines, PDP-11s (a 16 bit operating system, precursor to the VAX, still supported by a 3rd party company) at Manufactures Hanover bank. Just imagine: weighing in at 1.5 meg of memory, a 88 megabytes x 2 disks, and these systems ran several terminals, report printers, four high speed connections to the Federal Reserve Bank (Fedwire) and many connection to the bank's back-end systems. Billions of dollars ran through that system, reliably, day after day. Sort of gives one perspective.

They told me they were phasing out the DEC systems and threatened to send me to a nine-month fully paid, ground up training on IBM big iron: VM/CICS, etc. I was outta there.

I went to Digital Equipment Corp. learned the new-fangled 32 bit OS (VMS), and stayed for years until I began consulting on my own. I learned clustering, client server, networking: all terms we think were invented in the '90s. DEC had client server systems in the early '80s. They invented the term: "The network IS the system". DEC also had the first CRT as an interface to a computer--so much for stealing the "look and feel" of a product. Sorry, Mr. Gore, but the Internet, as well as Unix, was invented on DEC systems. And VMS clustering...two, three, or many systems working together; one goes down, the others take over the work.

And Bill Gates tried to "invent" that concept back around the later '90s. I learned, then later taught for Digital, concepts within VMS to insure memory integrity and memory management. Every process in the system "thought" it has its own 4 gigs of memory. Quite a concept back in 1978 when VMS was germinated.

And of course, the story I tell everyone as an example of VMS's staunchness: When I worked for DEC, I was trying to solve a system problem with a customer. I asked when the system was last booted. He didn't know. I suggested a reboot, and the system manager, obviously a junior person, didn't even know where the system was! We looked in electrical closets for 30 minutes before we found the system, up and running for over 4 years, with a layer of dust in top. In fact, the record for VMS uptime is, and I kid you not, 18 years without a reboot or any downtime! Now THAT is an operating system.

For those that don't know, Windows NT was actually VMS ported to the PC architecture. For those that doubt that fact, the team leader, David Cutler, was hired from DEC by Bill himself when he found that Mr. Cutler was working on a version of VMS for the PC within DEC, and DEC didn't want any part of it. The page and swap file is named the same, there is a Diskquota file and file access lists, all examples of many structures taken from VMS without so much as a thanks nor the decency to at least change the names.. If that doesn't convince the skeptics, the name Windows NT was a back-formation of the letters VMS, taken to the next sequential letter: V > W, M > N, S > T, as HAL from the movie 2001 was one letter before IBM.

So, even if XP is the sole survivor of the mid 2000's OS wars, both concepts and code, not to mention the file structure of VMS will live on for the foreseeable future. And to use an operation system that is so friendly, rugged, dependable, with built-in help and an intuitive user interface, well, it just makes me happy. Actually, I see VMS having a renaissance/revival that nary an operating system has ever seen.

VMS on a notebook...I'm counting the days...

Gene Hirschel
Principal Consultant
Dynamic Resources, Inc.