HP OpenVMS Systems

Celebrating 30 years of OpenVMS

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30th anniversary guestbook

Here is what some of our customers had to say on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the HP OpenVMS operating system.

I start my life in software engineering learning Basic- Plus-2 on a PDP11 and a VAX-750 on my University in Monterrey NL Mexico in 1981, I really loved that Basic and the DCL with all the libraries available.

Later I work for a company that uses two VAX-11/780 and I learn Cobol, RMS and RDB and develop thousand of lines of code (many are still running.)

The times changes and the 4GL appears and I learn to develop systems in Powerhouse, S1032, Oracle, Progress and some other DBMs and languages.

Now I’m seeing all the advances in the leaders OS in the market and I saw that all this I already know by the use of VMS long time ago (Quotas, UAF, Encryption, Spools, Batches, Logs, Clustering, Redundancy, High Availability, Storage Works, Fault Tolerant, etc).

Now I continue Developing Systems in different platforms, but I never forget that all my basis are in a robust, secure, well structured and unbeatable OS called VMS.

Long Life to VMS.

—Juan Paulo, Lara Ayala

Worked with DEC's PDP-11 (RSX-11M & RSTS-E) from 1986 and then to VAX 11/7500 VMS until 1990. Been with OpenVMS for the past 22 years. Worked with VAX-MACRO assembler, VAX BASIC, VAX FORTRAN (MANMAN), VAX C. Still working with OpenVMS 8.3 and Pascal. I still love OpenVMS. Most secure and robust o/s in the world!
—Ramadas Mannattil

"I have supported both VAX and Alpha clusters for over 22 years and have experienced the transition from Micro-Vax to 8250's with RA-81's/82's to a 4300 cluster using MTI Raid arrays...with only minor 'tweaking' and some additional startup procedures my organization still operates 24/7 and has since the initial installation in 1986!!!

To everyone who has never had the opportunity to manage a VMS environment...give it a try! "
—Dave Masini

"My first introduction to the wonderful world VMS goes back to 1980, and involved a 11/780 running v2. I subsequently worked on many varied VAX models, and from there onto Alpha. Today, 28 years on, I still get to enjoy working with VMS on a daily basis. It's been a fantastic trip, and I feel very lucky and privileged to have worked within its framework for all these years. On my travels around the globe, I have also had the pleasure of dealing with a truly great bunch of support personnel from the DEC, Compaq and HP eras."
—John Beard

"After doing PDP-11 RSTS/E things for 5+ years, I started working on VMS V3.7 in 1985. I have worked on VMS and nothing but VMS for the last 23 years as a computer consultant.

It is by far the best operating system out there. The most stable and the most productive operating system. It has always been a shame that more people did not understand just how fortunate the people who programmed, operated, and worked on VMS have been. I do wish the term "VAX VMS" was not used by a lot of computer professionals: both out and insiders. VMS is the great operating system that runs on a lot of hardware platforms. "
—Stephen Jackson

"As an old DEC remote field service guy, finally retired at the Compaq/HP transition. I worked with the 11780.11785, 11750, 11730, Alpha servers up to the Wild Fire, GS series. VMS for us was great due to the hardware upgrade capabilities and the customers ability to keep running while some of the hardware was being updated. VMS's error logs and other data was great for helping to solve problems we encountered on customer sites. We always heard that VMS was going away, etc, etc.. It's still here and glad to hear it.. Well done to anyone involved in any area of VMS."
—Ronald Lare

"I worked on PDP RSTS/E and RSX=11M and them VMS on Vax 11/780 in India and then on 8600 in Saudi Arabia till 2000 then I gave a long break in my career and came to Uk and started working as a VMS system Operator in Apr 2002 that too I got an opportunity to work on VMS . Really VMS is still the best operating system in the world, and the only one I use with complete confidence. The software and hardware designed by the original Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) are world class and have withstood the test of time. VMS has been my life, and it will be until the day I depart this planet for a better place"
—Shakeel Jawed

"From 1985 until 2002 I worked as system analyst on OpenVMS systems. And ...by god, even I had all the times problems to be solved for our customers, my love for VMS is endlessly, for me (and not only for me) it is the best system the world ever saw. Can you imagine what troubles I now have with Unix (you must be a programmer to understand this systems). VMS was the first system with a complete Network technology, REAL Cluster Software, REAL shadowing (all relevant phases) and with REAL disaster tolerance. Why the h*** is there UNIX? "
—Veronika Istinger

"It is so great to see this high availability and secure O/S still going strong. I was the WW Marketing Manager for the VAXStation 3100 series workstations back in 1986/87 at DEC. When these systems were announced, they blew away almost every current day benchmark when combined with OpenVMS. I am so proud to see the legacy of these great systems living on and still serving so many mission critical applications today. All my best for many more years of world class leadership with OpenVMS!"
—Jack Hart

Did you know?
Some of the computer utilities that people around the world take for granted and could not live without were initially conceived in skunkworks projects during the initial development of VMS. What we now know as Instant Messaging (IM) began grew out of DECphone a utility that the VMS engineers used because to communicate with each other "just for fun."

"Well, I know there have been longer uptimes for VMS but our story bears some merit. About 2 years ago we had an Alpha Cluster of two 8400's running an Oracle Database for our shopping service. It receives web transactions 24 hour a day 7 days a week. In July of 2006 we had just past our 1000th day of uptime, on both nodes in the cluster! I was getting ready to publish this milestone to the company when a July thunderstorm took out one of the three phases in our utility supply. Due to an unfortunate set of circumstances our data center blacked out that night, and we spent 16 hours bringing everything back online. The old adage 'Nothing Stops it' is pretty darn near true. This one took an act of God. I've been fortunate to stay with VMS Systems and System management since 1984, and regardless of what's new and improved, I am still in awe of the foresight of the designers of this remarkable operating system. Thanks to all of you for a career I never would have dreamed of in High School, and for an operating system that is still the best money can buy. I have lived it, so if you are from Missouri I'd be happy to show you."
—Peter Aldino


I worked with VMS, in programming and system administration, from the mid-1980s for about 20 years, when our system was converted to Unix (and since then to Linux).

I gradually adjusted to the change, but have always missed VMS.

I still use our otherwise-inactive (but unstoppable) Alpha 4100/VMS 7.2 as a communications springboard for connecting to our systems on various Linux servers.

Not long ago, I took an introductory course in Perl. Once, while I was momentarily not in the classroom, the instructor exclaimed that VMS was the best operating system ever developed. I was delighted when my colleagues related this to me afterward, but disappointed that I had not been present to hear it myself.

I'm glad to hear that VMS is still alive and kicking. Best wishes on this 30th anniversary celebration. "
—Yosef Branse

"1987, I first learned VMS. I was astonished by the stability of the system. Since that time, I watch the market, which never died. I observe the following: Whoever uses VMS, is going to have the same experience as he has with an excellent wine! You get used to a very nice level of comforts. It becomes a habit. As for the wine, the age always plays an important role. So as the wine ages it becomes more mature. You are on the way to appreciate it, really! The same is with VMS! Attention, don't talk loud about it. It is our Well-guarded secret. :-) But anyway, more and more people are on the way this to discover ! "
—René Aeberli, Spiez, Switzerland

"I have worked on different flavours of Unix , and also on Windows. But I have never seen any other OS as good as VMS. Robust,friendly and never say die. thats her style.

Its been four years. I am in deep love with you VMS. "
—Anup Malayil

Did you know?
Some of the computer utilities that people around the world take for granted and could not live without were initially conceived in skunkworks projects during the initial development of VMS. The concepts behind today's email started out as VAXmail, developed by the VMS engineers because they did not have the time for secretaries (Admins) to type, copy, and distribute memoranda.

"My name is Renee Culver and I worked for DEC for fourteen and was in the VMS CLuster and I/O group for four. I am humbly the inventor of Host-based Shadowing on VMS.

It feels almost impossible to say anything overly cogent because I miss that operating system so much along with Bliss-32 and the VAX instruction set. What can one say in a paragraph about fourteen years of really caring. Yes, VAX/VMS was a masterfully designed system and everything played so well together. In terms of it's architecture VMS has problems solved that Windows hasn't touched yet and VMS was elegant in almost every way.

We had Vaxes in DC before the announcement I was supporting RSX-11M and the VAX seemed like a strange beast. But this strange beast became a way of life. It really does not seem like thirty years ago and I know there is a plethora of incredibly valuable lessons the computer industry could learn today from VMS if only they would.

I smile as I think about scale. Shadowing was born out of the MCI-Mail project. I had my own 780 and the rest of the team had one. Thirty developers ran very comfortably on a 780 with 4MB of memory. Today my single user video card has 128 times that amount of memory. Our largest disks during those days were RA-81s and they seemed huge, but today, it would require four of them to hold the paging file on my PC. I think when people hear this today they can't imagine. We certainly did not feel limited in any way and none of the programmers on our team felt hampered in any way that they shared the same 4 megabyte machine with thirty other users.

This is the legacy of the VAX/VMS architecture. It's stable, crafted and elegant and always has been from the ground up. Why? Because it was a labor of love and you don't know how much you love them until they are gone. We were not there just to push iron, that was not our motivation. We were there to be a positive force supporting the way people lived. "
—Renee Culver

"I migrated to Australia in 1979, my first job was with DEC Australia. In 1988 I left DEC to work for a DEC customer in Telecommunications. In 1992 We installed a VAX 4000/400 OS VMS 5.2 then upgrades to 6.2 where today, Wed 05 Dec 2007 it is still running the same application, MOBITEX by Ericson non stop. Not one crash or hung state. I cannot claim full non stop due to the fact that we have relocated the system four times. The relocations all occurred without any major disruptions or problems, just "Shutdown-un-plug, plug and go(play)" isn't that beautiful?"
—Paulo Gama

Did you know?
Some of the computer utilities that people around the world take for granted and could not live without were initially conceived in skunkworks projects during the initial development of VMS. The online forums that pervade the internet today had their genesis in VAXnotes. VAXnotes provided globally available, documented "conversations" complete with topic separation and response streams. The VMS engineers developed VAXnotes to facilitate communication and documentation of that communication so that no idea went unrecorded. VAXnotes is still used today by many of the gurus in VMS Engineering and among our OpenVMS Ambassadors.

"VMS - Happiness!"
—John Wallace

"I started out on the DEC20 (tops20) machines in 1984 and began working on the VAX8650's in 1987. It was a very easy transition between the two OS's. The commands were very similar and some of the DEC20 engineers were also the VAX engineers. We are mainly a SUN shop now, but I still only support the OpenVMS platforms. It is still the best OS ever, even beating the MULTICS OS. Happy 30th anniversary and many more to go."
—Kevin Wyson

"Happy 30th to my first love (O/S). There have been other Operating Systems but nothing can compare!"
—Denise Thompson

"I came late to the VMS party (version 4.0 on a 750 with 4MB) and now installing 8.3 on an Integrity system and the reliability continues!! 160 users and only a PART TIME sys admin.

—Hank Vander Waal

"OpenVMS is just amazing. I am running just short of words while describing it. It's Robust, Reliable, scalable and commands are too much user friendly. VMS help is also fantastic. Sometimes unable to understand why customers are not opting it to run there business."
—Sandeep Singh

"I've been using VMS since 1994 on VAX 4000 Workstations. Then later on Alpha 1000A Servers, AlphaStation 255 Workstations, Alpha DS10 Workstations and also Alpha DS25 Servers. It's the most powerful and reliable Operating System that I've ever used. It will be a sad day if HP ever retires it."
—Jeffery Taff

"I've been running VMS since the "blue wall" (VMS 2.4). My current VMScluster uptime is over 8 years (since the last century!) and the hardware has all been replaced during that time. From Vaxes to Alphas and CI-based storage to EVAs, the cluster has stayed up. We've had a couple of data center power outages and the other data center has picked up the slack. We've done countless VMS and layered product patches and several major VMS upgrades but the cluster uptime keeps going in the right direction. Any time one of the other platform managers start to brag about uptime, I just show them my uptime and they shut right up :-)

At my last system management job, we peaked at over 3,300 simultaneous users on our VMScluster - all VAX based."
—Ed Wilts

"I have been working on VMS since February, 1980 when I went to a two week DEC training on VMS System Management. I was working for a company that was using a PHP 11/70 running RSX11M+ as an application developer. After 3 years, I was promoted to a System Manager on the PDP and was sent to the training to learn VMS. The machine that this company had bought was a VAX11/780 with 1.5 MB memory and it had been sitting, unused, in the server room for about 3 or 4 months. Once I got back from the training, I installed VMS V2.0. The feature that everyone immediately liked was the virtual memory -- no more task overlays when linking large programs. And it was fast.

I've been a VMS System Manager ever since (almost).

I've seen the rise & fall of the VAX and Alpha, and now the rise of the Integrity boxes. I've worked on everything from the MicroVAX II to the Alpha GS1280, except the VAX 11/50 & 11/30. I my current job, we're planning on getting some Blades to run VMS.

VMS has provided jobs for me for the last 28 year, and I hope for the next 28+ years. (I will be in my mid 80's by then!)

Here's to the best OS around."
—Ken Robinson

"Been using VMS since 11/780 days with the Air Force F-16 project with GD/Lockheed down in Texas. Continued to use it throughout the 90's in automotive industry and after being pretty much exclusively on Unix/Linux and Microsoft platforms from 2000 till 2007, I am just starting a new automation project that will use VMS 8.n in a ASP data center environment. Happy Birthday, VMS!!!"
—AJ Burke

"I always knew it would last, as the engineering of VMS is indisputable. I have worked with VMS since the early days initially on V4.0, which even then in the mid eighties, supported Clustering.

I am sure had the marketing been more aggressive, the OS landscape may well have looked considerably different now but alas we still have group of stalwart supporters and with Itanium, an affordable, future direction to sit next to the distributed rivals in the Data Centers across the world.

Well done for reaching 30 years and I wish you a good luck for the next 30, roll on 2037!"
—Matt West

"I have been working with VMS since 1979, first as a programmer, then as a system manager which I have done for the last 18 years. I worked for Digital/Compaq/HP supporting internal applications for 25 years. Over the years I have used UNIX, Linux, and Windows server and OpenVMS is, by far, the easiest of the operating systems to learn for new users, having trained many people over the years. DCL, the native script language, is very easy to use, and with the lexical library, easy to generate complex script programs. The stable hardware and VMSclustering (the only true cluster) makes for high availability for applications that are measured in years instead of weeks or months. The longest system uptime I had in my system farm was a VAX 6420 that was up 5.4 years and it would have been longer had we not had to change power distribution units, however, because it was part of a cluster, the application remained available to users. State transitions (freeze due to loss of a node) on my clusters are around 15 seconds. Lets see any other OS cluster do that!"
—David Hawley

"I was working for DEC in Rochester in 1987, and another DEC friend of mine was doing on the job training writing device drivers at Kodak, crashing the new microvax over and over again day after day trying to get it to work. When he finally had a breakthrough, he got the Stay Puff Marshmellow Man to display on the monitor and could even zoom in on it. Not too impressive in today's world, but we really laughed at the fact that Kodak spent a million dollars so they could zoom in on the Stay Puff Marshmellow man. I was quite impressed that he was able to get that to work while being mostly self-trained. This was cutting edge stuff at the time, and Kodak was a great place to work and we were on the first wave of helping them to develop their first image management systems."
—Patrick Farina

"While I no longer work where OpenVMS can be found I spent a significant part of the time period from 1984 to 2000 working with VAX/VMS and DCL. I still consider VMS the best OS ever engineered and had opportunity to work with OpenVMS on Alpha for a little while. At one point in my career I was responsible for two 10,000 line DCL programs the front-ended Digital's MMS and CMS code control/release offerings."
—Lee Murray

"Congratulations on 30 years of integrity. VMS is still true to its original design, yet still innovative. Truly the world's finest operating system."
—Ian Miller

"You know you're running VMS when you don't mind being on call since the beeper will never go off. The best thing about VMS is being paid to be on call when you *KNOW* you'll never get called for a downtime."
—Mike Parasich, United States

—Jing Zou

"HP sent me to Sacramento a few weeks ago. While I was there, I spoke with one of the folks I used to work with at an online brokerage, years ago. I knew they had used OpenVMS Clusters to scale up before I got there (they started on a single VAX 11/750 in 1983, and had grown to a cluster of 3 VAX 7700s and a VAX 7800 by the time I got there in 1996). While I was there they used OpenVMS Clusters to scale up capacity very rapidly during the dot-com boom (their workload doubled each of the four years I was there, except for the year that it tripled instead), adding the largest machines DEC/Compaq sold at any given point in time to their cluster, resulting in a very large cluster (peaking at 19 GS-140s at one point, before splitting the load across two separate clusters). But my friend pointed out one additional advantage of OpenVMS Clusters that they had taken advantage of after I left, that I had not thought of before. When the dot-com bust occurred, workload volumes (and resultant revenues) dropped drastically and dramatically. Now, their problem was not in rapidly scaling up, but in rapidly scaling back. Here the same ease of adding nodes to an OpenVMS cluster was seen in removing nodes from that same cluster, returning some leased machines to the leasing company each quarter, sometimes each month—and saving millions and millions of dollars as a result. This reverse-scalability helped the company survive during hard times. So it's not only in good times that OpenVMS Clusters provide an adaptive enterprise, but also in hard times as well."
—Keith Parris

"You know you're running VMS when your home computer's uptime is more than 150 days. Mine's at 193 days, 8 hours, 45 minutes as I type this! Well done to VMS, the Engineering Teams, and everybody associated with it, past and present. They give me a job with something I love!"
—Steve Reece, United Kingdom

Did you know?
When the first VAX was launched in 1977, Digital already had 1,000 employees, revenues of more than US$1 billion, and 181 offices around the world.

"Virus free, worm free; that's much more than you can expect from an operating system in theses days. Living with VMS since 1983 and hoping to do it until I retire! And with CSWS, Tomcat, and Java, it is a perfect platform for my business critical solutions on the internet. http://www.prova.de is an online magazine with daily updates. It is managed by a Tomcat-based CMS system—and all that runs on Alpha/VMS of course, as it has to be stable and secure. Although I developed everything on Windows-based notebook computers, I never thought about using that platform for our production environment. I have used VMS since Version 4.5 and I shall continue to do so until the last hardware dies and the world runs out of spare parts."
—Dieter Rossbach, Germany

"I was on a plane traveling to the West Coast, sitting next to the then CEO of the world's largest genetics research firm. He traded his own stocks and used Credit/Suisse directly, rather than through a broker. We were discussing reliability and why folks choose OpenVMS. I told him the story of the fire in the Credit/Suisse Paris office, and how OpenVMS clustering had saved ongoing transactions. He was shocked. As one of that company's major customers, he could not believe he never noticed it, nor was told about it. He was very impressed, to say the least."
—John Streiff, United States

"Walked into a large aerospace and manufacturing firm 4 years ago, discovered they are running 2,000+ people, Mfg (MANMAN), Accounting, ALL G/L, etc., plus timekeeping and payroll on ONE VAX 785, which has been running in the same spot since it was rolled in, and only rebooted 'every few years.' Tried to convince them to upgrade, or add another VAX as a fall back or failover. They said, 'We don't need it, this one works fine.' You KNOW you're running VMS when ... Reboot is what you do between the horse and the motorcycle. Thanks for thirty years of AWESOME!"
—Doug Thornburg, United States

"Windows NT 3.51 (WNT) was a son of VMS, as Dave Cutler knows. Not only some of the system messages showed that heritage, but also the following formulas: W=V+1, N=M+1, T=S+1."
—Julian Rodriguez, Spain

"Congratulations [Open]VMS! In a fast evolving industry where flaws are quickly fatal, surviving and even thriving for 30 years is a remarkable achievement, and the one that says more about the quality of VMS and its people than any other well-deserved accolade."
—Paul Beaudoin, United Kingdom

"I've been with OpenVMS since v0.6. Yes, before v1.0 was released. I have managed OpenVMS systems for 30 years and 7 months, and think it is the best operating system that exists. The only true supported cluster is OpenVMS. OpenVMS is the safest operating system with the fewest security patches that exists. It takes fewer staff people to manage OpenVMS systems than any other operating system. I personally managed 131 OpenVMS systems (51 in one cluster), while it took 6 people to manage 60 Sun platforms and 10 people to manage 200 Windows platforms at the location where I worked before I retired. I remember when OpenVMS was mostly RSX-11M running in compatibility mode. I remember VAX 11/780 configurations with three systems connected by multi-port memory. I remember the upgrade from v1.0 to v2.0, and having the system crash every other boot because the developers accidentally placed a portion of the system kernel in paged memory when it should have been placed in non-paged. I remember the HSC50 CI configuration with the first shared disk and tape farm. I remember the first cluster software being released, and creating my first cluster. I remember moving from VAX to Alpha and now Integrity. OpenVMS made all these changes easy to get through. I've written device drivers, system services, system applications, and general applications. I've written code for use on UNIX systems using OpenVMS to develop and debug the code because the OpenVMS tools were so much better then the UNIX tools. I moved these applications from the OpenVMS system to the UNIX system, recompiled, and ran with no change in the code. Thirty years of OpenVMS is just the beginning. OpenVMS continues to evolve and get better. I have managed SUN, Tru64, and HP-UX systems, and used Windows systems. None of these systems are as reliable and can perform as well as the OpenVMS systems. I look forward to the next 30 years."
—Craig Post, United States

"In 1979, I got a job as the manager of a brand-new VMS shop at an electrical utility in Denver. The only experience I had was with RSTS/E at a timesharing company. My best friend was Jodie Plante (RIP), a leading VMS expert within Digital for the western United States, especially at Top Secret sites. My new staff depended on me to know VMS, so when problems came up, I'd say, 'Hmmm, let me figure this out.' I'd hide in my office and secretly call Jodie. He'd tell me to do this, edit that, and run such-and-such. I'd go out and do all that, and presto, the problem would be solved, to my staff's amazement. I was considered a genius. Once, at a big party, I introduced Jodie to some other friends. 'Oh, this is Jodie Plante. He taught me everything he knows about VMS.' 'No, Phil,' he replied, 'I only taught you everything YOU know about VMS.' I have always pondered that, and yes, the difference between what he knew and what I knew was huge."
—Phil Jamieson, Software Partners, Inc.

"I want to congratulate you on the best thing that ever came to me: VMS, and now OpenVMS. Unfortunately, some people still think (and say) that these are different. In the 25 years I have been working with it, I'm very happy, and I dare to sleep when I have a file open in an editor, without saving the parts. Even so, I'm very happy to have knowledge of OpenVMS, so I know there are also operating systems you can trust. I thank the development team for their effort in all the lines of code, and for their good skills and thrust. I hope I can keep up using OpenVMS in all my next projects, and I see OpenVMS growing in usage. Thank you for creating it. I hope I can thank you by using it."
—Anton van Ruitenbeek, The Netherlands

"You know you are running OpenVMS when ... your VMScluster's transition time is two years older than the oldest hardware in the cluster. Congrats on 30 years."
—Brad Schafer

"My first year out of college in 1987 working for DEC, I deleted the sys$library directory on the cluster instead of the root that needed to come out... That was interesting..."
—John Ziomek

Did you know?
At the seminal DEC announcement on October 25, 1977, the VAX 11/780 "demolished" a human opponent in a demonstration game of Scrabble, a program written for the PDP 11 and ported to the VAX by Richie Lary and Stan Rabinowitz.

"Don't know if you can use it, but an interesting anecdote I'd pass by you ... One thing we take for granted is the reliability and uptime of VMS systems (for better or worse). I argue that the reliability actually kills sales since you don't have to replace reliable systems. Having said this, the VMS documentation set always has been, and continues to be, one of the best out there—BAR NONE! Were you aware that for the longest time, Sun Microsystems was sending its field service reps and solutions architects out for [Open]VMS training so they could learn the internals of ... Windows?! Compare the Internals and Data Structures manuals with "Inside Windows XXX" sometime."
—Tony Brack, Principal Engineer, Tech Support, EMC Global Services

"Almost all of my working days are related to VMS, all in Warsaw, Poland. First it was at the Institute of Electronic Technology (ITE). Beginning in 1985, my great boss, Waldemar Calka, introduced PDP and VAX. Bartek Bartkiewicz, as our team leader, was also great and extraordinary. I remember him sitting at the console back then, printer with the keyboard with miles of code flowing from it. I felt distinguished because everybody and everything was very special, and because there were restrictions for our country for this kind of hardware and software—and we had them. It was a great place, great people, and very good experience and atmosphere. It was a special start for me. Later, everything I did, I compared to this place and to VMS. In the few years my special managers established Digital in Poland, I went down a different path, but always close to VMS and Digital. I worked for two banks, close to VMS of course. Finally, I came to a GSM company—Polkomtel. I was there as an OpenVMS administrator from its very first start, and I am still there 11 years later. It also was an amazing, involving experience for me, the first steps of very fast-growing company."
—Ewa Skotnicka, Poland

"The VMS operating system is still the market leader in critical environments. I wish this anniversary to bring lots of awareness about its robust, rugged, reliable, and user-friendly environment. I am also delighted to be part of this VMS family, which gives consistent performance in the available range of products. Long live VMS, and I wish the very best to have a bright future. I have been working in VMS for the past 18 years, since 1989. I came across many operating environments and nothing can beat VMS. VMS the Great. Hats off to the people who developed this novel idea of having such a wonderful operating system. I also wish well for the people who have put in lot of efforts and hard work for this level of success, which speaks a unique language across the globe. I once again wish to say that I feel extremely happy and proud to be associated with VMS."
—Ganesan Ravi Chandar, India

"DEC PDP/VAX/VMS and I have worked together since 1977, and we're still going strong."
—Brian Barbour, United States

"To prove [Open]VMS is a PLATFORM rather than an Operating System: About 20 years ago, I worked at a customer site that contained a number of systems—besides big IBM iron, a DECSystem20 (TOPS20) and a VAX6000 (VMS 4.something). On the latter, we had encountered a severe problem that could be traced back to an error in the startup sequence—only after a reboot ... and in this environment, rebooting was no option unless unavoidable, which made redesign of all what was involved in booting out of the question. It happened that a VAX8000 was ordered. When it arrived, it came with a little white cube known as MicroVAX2000. It was on that small system that the whole startup of the VAX8000 (and VAX6000) was prepared and tested. Once done, a saveset was created on tape, and loaded into the VAX8000, to be used on reboot. This happened to be the same day the IBM mechanics were on-site for maintenance of the big iron. They were sneering, 'This won't work—from that little box to that big machine?' And, with them waiting to laugh at us, we rebooted the VAX8000, which did just what it was supposed to do: retrieve data from the DECSystem20 and start converting data. The IBM mechanics fell silent, and never could understand why this worked."
—Willem Grooters, The Netherlands

"I remember those VT100 art/animation files which used to be e-mailed around. Since they were hand crafted, anyone who watched them would exclaim, 'Someone has too much time on their hands!' But people would watch them over and over; and then forward them to everyone they knew. I think my favorite was the one which drew a Christmas tree with blinking 'reverse video' ornaments, and had a toy train running the base."
—Carson Hovey, United States

"With VMS, I have developed systems that controlled massive manufacturing processes and delicate devices that are implanted to keep people alive. With VMS I have helped implement systems that move the railroads and put men into space.With VMS I have had 30 years of real job satisfaction..."
—TW Heim Jr

"I can tell stories of hanging tape on 780s, pulling apart MicroVAX servers, debating what the plural of VAX is, VMSinstall, DCL, changing prompts on the terminal server and forgetting it until they got into production ... the list goes on. I can recall displays at DECWorld years ago that still no one has managed to get to market. I still have my DEC Internals book and an 'I love Digital' sticker. I can imagine how buggy Windows will remain at its 30-year anniversary."
—Sanjay Kumar, United States

"I have been with OpenVMS and HP_UX for the last 3.5 years. I am currently working with VMS and VAX. So it is really a very reliable and stable system."
—Amit Khare, India

Did you know?
The first Digital offices were in an old woolen mill in Maynard, Massachusetts. It housed three employees and 8,500 square feet of production space.

"I still keep several VAX machines and VAXstations running just so I can continue to use OpenVMS. Every time one of my other machines crashes, I marvel once again at the total reliability of OpenVMS. I haven't had an update for many years, but I don't need any updates because the system simply works. The machines that don't stay up are Windows-based machines. I eventually adopted the habit of restarting them periodically to prevent problems from memory leaks and other cumulative issues. With my VMS machines, though, I can always look at the uptime since the previous restart to determine when we last had a power failure! Another reason for using my VMS machines is that they support TPU, which is the basis for a text editor that is far better than anything else for editing source code."
—David Pheanis, United States

"Our customers are still growing their OpenVMS environments. One is actively planning IA64 migrations. The other is in the operating system upgrade phase to position them for 8.x and a possible IA64 conversion. I've personally been supporting OpenVMS for 27 years."
—James Cristofero

"Long life to OpenVMS!"
—Enrique Pedregosa, Spain

"We have been running the worldwide centers for announcing astronomical discoveries of new comets, minor planets, satellites, novae, supernovae, etc., on VMS since 1979—with a dial-up computer service starting in 1983. People who do not understand the power of VMS (versus Unix® and other operating systems) for the sort of work we do have been trying for years to get us to abandon our dear VMS computers. We have resisted, making our work infinitely easier and more productive than if we had to use Unix/Linux/Microsoft/Apple. We track objects here that might someday hit the earth, all on VMS—and we're the source that space agencies go to in order to get data and information about where to send spacecraft concerning small bodies of the solar system ('asteroids,' comets, and so on). Many thanks to HP for keeping OpenVMS going!!!"
—Daniel Green, United States

"I am delighted to see VMS reach its 30th anniversary. It will precede my own 30th anniversary with Digital/Compaq/HP by only a few months. When I was hired into Digital in 1978, I was offered two jobs in technical training: one for the then-flagship product DECSYSTEM-10/20, and one for this new operating system VMS. When I interviewed with the VMS folks, it was in the basement of in Maynard, and I'm afraid I let the surroundings influence me more than they should have. I was convinced that VMS would never last on the market and took the DECSYSTEM10-20 position. Who knew?! Congratulations VMS!"
—Gail Blizard, United States

"I have been a system admin for VMS for more than 15 years, and to me it is the easiest operating system to manage. The ability for it to have clusterwide batch queues for users is the best."
—John Geilow, United States

"One of the best, most outstanding operating systems I ever worked with. Simple, and flexible for disaster recovery."
—Sudhindra Nagaraja Rao, India

"VMS is still the best operating system in the world, and the only one I use with complete confidence. The software and hardware designed by the original Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) are world class and have withstood the test of time. VMS has been my life, and it will be until the day I depart this planet for a better place."
—Ed Rockwell, United States

"Wow, 30 years! I haven't been on the VMS bandwagon THAT long, but I think it's 25 years for me. Being a hardened PDP 11 guy back then, I stayed away from VMS until the RSX feel started to disappear. I think that was around version 3.0. VMS sure did grow from there, and the PDP 11/RSTS/e machines disappeared, leaving me as a VMS guy. And guess what? I still sing the praises of OpenVMS today. You can't find a safer place for your data then on a VMS system."
—Doug Mallory, Canada

"It's hard to believe that I'm going to be 50 this year—and that I've been involved with VMS for more than half of my life. At first, it was just as a user, running a few programs. Then, I moved into a factory-automation company that used VMS as embedded systems. I then did a seven-year stint at a financial company that did bill payment using VMS. Now, I have my own company, doing mostly VMS. I deal with Linux and Windows, too, but the VMS systems have been the most reliable by far. I've never had to erase a VMS system and rebuild it from scratch, but I do that with Windows regularly. VMS isn't only just an operating system. There's a community behind it that loves its design, extends it, and uses it wherever possible. Maybe only Linux approaches that dedication. Now that we're porting open-source code into VMS we're more 'hooked in' than ever before."
—Stanley Quayle, United States

Did you know?
Microsoft Windows NT borrowed many of its design concepts from VMS. In fact, Windows NT was designed by many of the people who created the VMS operating system.

"For me, the concept of DECservers and console management is a key technology that developed from the VAXcluster Console System (VCS). But I'm not sure if that started from us, or if we adapted technology from others. It's certainly grown since then, but from my perspective, ILO got its roots from VCS."
—Alan S. Muir, OpenVMS Ambassador, HP TSG

"You know you are running OpenVMS when ... You feel bad about a brief unscheduled outage because you had one last year, too. The system recovered quickly, but you still feel bad because this was the first time it happened two years in a row."
—Jim Becker, United States

"At this very moment, I am still using three of the first Alpha's that I bought over 15 years ago for my employer as my current test systems at home. They currently run OpenVMS v8.3. What more can you say about value for money, quality, compatibility, support, and longevity?"
—Emile Houben, The Netherlands

"My VMS experience dates back to the beginning of 1983. I spent quite a few hours in front of a VT100 and I still vividly remember the 11/750s and 11/780s of those days. They looked so cool (and still do). They could have easily won an industrial design award. The build quality was outstanding, just like a lab instrument. But what really won me over then was ... yes, the operating system, of course. It was just a far cry from the mainframes of those days. Now THAT was the system I could and wanted to work with until late night, prepping my Master's thesis! And then, in 1986, my first MicroVAX II in its oh-so-nice BA123 chassis. The first VMS I installed and managed. The TK50s I used for backups. The RD53s ... People saying, 'Gosh, are they really ... did ya say they're seventy-one megabytes? You mean, both total? Each one? Wish I had one...' Pride of ownership—in spades! But again, if it were not for the VMS V4.x, another major step forward, and for VAXset that made development so much easier, who the heck would care about those nice looks and figures? 'OK, you cranky old farts always go, "Those were the days," but what about now?' Well, guess what platform my Oracle is now running on?"
—Dmitry Bessonov, Russia

"I was there! UK launch training, first week in November, 1977, in London amidst the blackouts with Ruth, Sam, Pete—No problem, my pleasure. (Although I haven't touched a VMS system for several years; I did get a question about one a few months ago!) BTW: The first VAX I used was in The Mill, and was called PROTO4 (obviously, fourth prototype). It still had bits of PDP11/70 attached to it; I think from the 'bootstrap' operation. That was May, 1978."
—Ken Punshon, UK

"I'm a happy user of VMS and OpenVMS since version 4.2. I've worked at Digital, Compaq, and HP since October 1, 2007. Twenty-seven years, and all these years it is nice to have a good and friendly-to-use operating system OpenVMS. I hope and it will do for a minimum of the next 27 years or longer! I was one of the first OpenVMS specialists for the MicroVAX I and II."
—René Gieltjes, The Netherlands

"Still unsurpassed in security and stability."
—Kel Boyer

"You know you are running OpenVMS when the system uptime crosses the 365 day mark. The best things about OpenVMS are that it is feature-rich and the command language is plain English—no cryptic abbreviations or silly command names, and the options (command qualifiers) are consistent. VMS 'invented' clustering, and is unsurpassed even to this day. Because of OpenVMS, my business (my employer) is able to focus on productivity rather than the malware-du-jour."
—David J. Dachtera, United States

"I work for HP TSG/ESS/STSD, Bangalore, India. I entered the industry 13 years back, and my first computer system was a VAX 11/780. Since then, I have worked on various VMS systems ranging from VAX 11/780, VAX 11/785, MicroVAX, DEC3000, DEC2000 workstations, and so on, until OpenVMS 6.1 was released. This was during my first job at Indian Satellite Research Organiztion (ISRO). Later, when I joined HP, it was mainly on HP-UX until very recently (two months back), when I was asked to manage an OpenVMS compiler project. It was a nice experience to go back to the good old days of VMS and its operating system. I can bet that no other operating system can beat VMS, and I am glad that we have a roadmap on Integrity. Kudos to the entire VMS community and good luck!"
—Suresh Shanmugam, India

"True story: You know when you're running VMS when a customer calls and wants to pay you to help them reboot the system because it's been so long they forgot how."
—Rick Wells, United States

"I can't believe I've been working with VMS almost from the start, and I am still in the groove. Here's wishing everyone still working with OpenVMS health, wealth, and many more years using maybe the best operating system there is. I started at Export Credit Corporation in 1978 working as a MUMPS programmer, having worked in BASIC on BASIC IV systems prior. When I started, there still was paper tape controlling the printers, the drives (05s) were huge in size but not content, and we had to remember the registers in order to boot. Digital Field Service was out for some issue or other, sometimes very complex issues, very regularly with preventative maintenance an ordinary occurrence. Now we rarely see Field Service, and most of the kinks are rare, and I'm still coding away."
—Mitchell Bell, United States

"Thirty glorious years! I have been fortunate to have been involved with VMS for about 23 of those years—and I do believe it is about 23 years since I first heard that VMS was soon to be terminated! Thanks to all those unsung engineers who made VMS the bulletproof system it is today, and to those who fought so hard to keep it a secret. Here's to the next 30."
—Paul Jerrom, New Zealand

"I have to congratulate our living lovely Tyrannosaurus on his toughness."
—Hiroyuki Shimizu, Japan

Did you know?
The microprocessor in the Rigel chipset contained a picture of a Tyrannosaurus rex driving a convertible sports car. It was intended as a pun on the then-current competitive marketing campaign to brand VAX and other CISC chips as dinosaurs.

"I first used VAX/VMS in 1981 as a student, and after graduating in Computer Science, worked at Central Washington University as a VMS SYSMGR and system programmer. We were an early VAXcluster customer. I eventually joined Digital at the World's best Customer Support Center ever—in Colorado Springs from 1988 to 1994. There were also those wonderful OpenVMS events at DECUS, which I was fortunate to be a part of. What a ride! I continue working in networking and security today, but the best operating system I ever worked on was VMS! Every now and then, I enter a customer site still running VMS for one reason or another, and it brings back fond memories!"
—Micahel Metzler, CISM, CISSP, Ph.D.

"OpenVMS uptime measured by a different standard: decades."
—Martin Baechtel

"I've been a VMS system manager (I still like this title better than system administrator) in some capacity or another for more than 20 years now. I can say that among all of the positive attributes, features, etc., it is by far the most system manager 'friendly' operating system I've ever worked with, then and now. It's designed that way. It's like they know what we go through and what 's really important, which translates to giving my customers a higher level of service."
—Stephen Higgins

"Working in F.A.&T in the early 80s exposed me to the new operating system, OpenVMS. Back in those days, hardware was delivered from the stock room and built/put together on the test floor. Modules were added to the UNIBUS, addresses were set up, and devices were attached. The SBI devices were added and then VMS was loaded on the system. Mag tape (if you were lucky, TU16, TU77/78) was loaded and so were the removable drives (RP06/RM05). Volumes were initialized. An install of VMS would take about 30 minutes (at 1600 BPI) and then a burn-in run of the Users Environment Test Package (UETP) was performed for 30 hours prior to the deletion of VMS and final shipment to the customer. The same process was done for every VAX system shipped from the Kanata Plant. (KA0 for those that remember the serial numbers.) For some reason, I seem to remember working on version 2.0, but something tells me it was earlier than that. Eventually DCL programs were created to interface to the F.A.&T UETP processes and the UETP runs did not look anything like the field runs done during customer acceptance onsite. It is very hard to believe that I have been exposed to an operating system for this many years (27). I have had opportunity to work with 'other' operating systems, but nothing quiet as strong as OpenVMS. I still work on OpenVMS systems in my current job and it is hoped that I will retire working with it. Congratulations OpenVMS—many more years to come."
—Harold Swaffield

"Congratulations to everyone at OpenVMS on the 30th Anniversary. I had the privilege of working with many talented and dedicated engineers and business managers during my tenure in Spitbrook Road during the 1990s. In my role as a customer support manager, I worked with hundreds of customers worldwide, and the one thing that everyone had in common was that we knew OpenVMS was the most reliable operating system in the world. A particular word of congratulations to Sustaining Engineering, the OpenVMS Ambassadors, and the Customer Support Centers who work tirelessly with customers to resolve problems, and feed back into product development. What a great group of people, and I hope that you are all celebrating in style."
—Ronnie Millar

"Since the late 1970s, the Minor Planet Center and the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams, which both operate at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, MA, have been using OpenVMS. The Minor Planet Center is the worldwide clearing house for astronomers who observe minor planets (asteroids) and comets, particularly those that can come close to, or possibly hit, the earth! The Central Bureau is the worldwide clearing house for reports of transient celestial phenomena (.e.g. novae, supernovae, high-energy bursters). As such, we run a 24x365 operation and downtime could have dire consequences for the planet. This need for near-continual availability of internal and online services had required us to run an operating system that is rock solid, well documented (both in printed form and at the command line), well designed (e.g., consistent use of command qualifier names), easy to learn yet powerful, resistant to viruses, with excellent Fortran compilers and built-in-from-the-ground-up security. We could not shut down operations in order to install patches to fix gaping security holes every few days or weeks, like users of other operating systems around here have to do. Taking all this into consideration, this has meant OpenVMS is the only option for us. We started with an early v4 version on a pair of MicroVAXes; we currently run v8.2 on a dozen Alpha-powered workstations and servers."
—Gareth Williams

"In 1976, as a customer, I was working at Universisty of Compiègne (France). We were using a PDP 11/45 for digital signal processing. Then in 1978, I got the chance to work with the first VAX 11/780 in Europe. The VMS version was 1.2. It was really amazing; the virtual address space seemed unlimited, we no longer had to overlay our images, and the debugging was easy. In 1987, I joined the VMS support team at DEC. I'm still at HP, supporting my favorite operating system."
—Georges Szafranski

"The renaissance of VMS, a has-been from that operating system, is here again. Always mentioned in the past as one of the main marketing pieces from its owner's company, it has always been deep inside the systems managers, programmers, and users that have believed in it. John F. Kennedy said, 'A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on.' I have been a VMS user since 1982."
—Cesar Gonzalez

Did you know?
The world record for continuous application availability may be held by the Irish National Railway, which is said to have logged an unbroken 17 years running on OpenVMS version 3.2. A 6.6-year VMSculster uptime is documented here.

"I remember a true story which my former DEC CS colleague (deceased) told me about 15 years ago. I would like to share it with you. My colleague (let's call him Tim) got a service call from a customer who wanted Tim to do a VMS update on his VAX, which had been running normally in production for about two years. On the agreed time, Tim arrived at the customer and started doing a routine check of what hardware and software was installed on the system, and if there were any reported errors. He found out that VMS had logged 100,000 memory errors and blew a long whistle. He asked the customer if he had experienced any problems with his VAX. The customer replied, 'No, nothing special. Why?' Then Tim told him that there was a huge amount of memory errors, and that he had to replace a memory board before doing anything else on the VAX. 'Well, VMS is reliable, isn't it?' said the customer. 'Yes, very,' Tim replied. 'I've never seen this many errors on any VAX before and VMS is still running fine. Amazing!' Tim concluded. So that's a very short story about the reliability of VMS. It is a typical case, but also remarkable on the other hand. I wish I could remember more details about what happened, but unfortunately I don't and my friend and colleague passed away a few years ago so I cannot ask him anymore. I'm sure he would have contributed with many nice stories about his work with VMS as a CS Engineer."
—Kari Uusimäki

"The longevity of OpenVMS testifies to its validity and the continuing need for an operating system with the stability, security, and flexibility that only OpenVMS has had. I've worked with OpenVMS for 27 years and even have my own VAXcluster at home. It is, and always has been, the best operating system out there."
—Larry Brown

"I worked for Digital Equipment Corporation in Nashville, TN, and supported a field test site in Huntsville, AL, for SDC for the first version. I was in the second internal training course led by the Corporate Operations Group (COG)—Ruth Goldenberg and company—in Maynard, MA. Upon return to Nashville, I installed VMS v1.01 on the first VAX 11/780 in Tennessee at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN. The one thing I remember is that the v1.0 distribution had some system parameters set too low to run, so you immediately had to load the 1.01 patch (floppy) to get started. I also remember when a COBOL compiler distribution kit grew to about 12 to 14 floppies. I have a copy of an oversized comic book that some fellows in a marketing group published called 'VMS Wars.' It pits Digital Dog and Virtual George against a company that is a takeoff on IBM. I would be happy to donate this to HP if someone wants it."
—Jenny Butler

"I have worked on VMS and OpenVMS systems since 1979, and with VMSCluster systems since I started as a computer operator in 1979. Our first VMS system was a VAX 11/785, followed by a number of VAX 11/750 systems. I have since worked with many VAXen and Alpha systems. I have also worked extensively with Microsoft Windows, Linux, and several other brands of UNIX. For me, nothing compares with VMS, especially in terms of clustering (with the possible exception of Tru64). We were doing things with VMS clustering in the mid-1980s that some operating systems still struggle to emulate. I still work with VMS from time to time and it always come as a breath of fresh air when compared with anything else. It is the most robust multi-purpose operating system in the world. Long may it continue!"
—Lee Mason

"We've been using OpenVMS since 1992 to process gamma ray spectroscopy samples and plant effluent reports in support of the Sequoyah Nuclear Power Plant, which is near Chattanooga, TN. OpenVMS has been extremely reliable, not presenting any errors for that entire 15-year period. Very, very stable operating system—the best I've used in the last 40 years."
—John Stewart

"I was on a working holiday from Australia and got a job as a contractor with CSC in Reading. I was the first contractor at the site, the staff having finally agreed when told that contractors were just like them—they don't have flashy suits and drive up in Porsches. Okay, I didn't have a flashy suit, but I did have a Porsche (benefits for Aussies at the time). I not only met a great bunch of people who made me so welcome, but I also met VMS version 1.0. My background was RSX-11D/M, so VMS was quite an exciting product back then. Actually, it is still pretty exciting, and I am still working on it. Thirty years old? Only a young fellow!"
—Des Aldridge

"You know you are running OpenVMS when ... You get a good nights sleep... Downtime means a good night's sleep... You can enjoy your personal time... Vacations are worry-free... You like going to work..."
—TW Heim Jr

"I overheard Dan talking about how VMS had the first instant messaging (IM) product. I assume you mean PHONE. PHONE was written by Paul 'The Greek' in 1980 based on TALK written by Tim Halvorsen. Tim Halvorsen and Len Kawell also did the first version of NOTES for VAX. However, Tim's and Len's work on NOTES and TALK (which begat PHONE) was not invented here. Those programs started back in the mid-1970s at the University of Illinois on a system called PLATO. PLATO was the beginning of NOTES (theirs was from 1973), as well as TALK-O-MATIC (the real first instant-messaging chat room) and TALK (another variant of TALK-O-MATIC). Tim and Len saw this stuff at U of I and brought it to Digital and re-implemented it." For more information, see Wikipedia, IRC HIstory, and cyper1.org.
—John Reagan

"OpenVMS is still the best operating system in the world, so why it continues to occupy such a small share of the market is beyond reason."
—Paul Cotton

"VMS and its layered products are excellent and perfect."
—Mitra Joyanto

"There were not enough VT100 terminals to go around, so you had to sign up for half-hour intervals. Toward the end of the half hour, the next person would be standing behind you to remind you to finish up because they were not going to let you overlap with their time. The VT100 terminals were set to 2400 baud to slow people down so more could work at the same time. I remember feeling like quite the expert hacker when I figured out how to set my terminal and my terminal line to 9600 baud. If the lab managers came by and noticed, they would yell at you."
—Carson Hovey, United States

Did you know?
Digital Equipment Corporation was founded in 1957 in by Ken Olsen and Harlan Anderson. Employee number 3 was Ken's brother, Stan Olsen, who was also an engineer.

Pedro del Oso likes the following conversation he had with a customer:

"So, you use OpenVMS to control the traffic of half the city," I said.

"Oh, yes and many of the most important cities in the country," the customer answered.

"How many traffic lights do you control?"

"800 traffic lights in this city and 2,000 vehicle detectors."

"And how many OpenVMS systems do you use?"

"Oh, just one!"

"Just one! What would happen if there is a problem with it?"

"Well, traffic lights have pre-programmed sequences just in case, but it is very rare we need them."

"Okay. By the way, the other half of the city is controlled by another company. Do you know which platform they use?"

"They use OpenVMS, too...!"

—Pedro del Oso, Spain

Did you know?
In 1982, Digital Equipment Corporation was ranked as the second largest computer company, with sales of US$14 billion.

Siobhan Ellis shares three stories from her career:

1990, DECville conference. I was showing the latest automated data center management products that Digital had to offer. Various countries dominated the conference on certain days, and this day was definitely "German day." A customer walked up and said "What do you have to do to add a disk?" This, obviously, completely threw me. I was expecting questions on Console Manager, or MCC, or SLS, not "How do you add a disk?"

"What do you mean?" I said

"You get a new disk from Digital. What do you have to do to add it to the system?"

"Well, you unpack it ... get an engineer to install it ... plug it in, give it a name, and there it is."

"Ah," he said, "and how long does it take? This whole process?"

"About one hour, maybe two."

"No, the whole process, installation, naming, everything."

"About one or two hours, depending on the disk."

He looked at me strangely

"Why do you ask?" I said.

"With IBM it takes two days!" he said.

 * * * 

It was my first demo to a customer. British Gas, as it was then. They were looking to buy an office automation system. We did a two-day demo where they threw scenarios at us. We had MicroVAX IIs as a cluster of ALL-IN-1 servers on a LAVc, and VAXmates as the PC side. Everything was connected up to the network. In those days we were a tad more trusting and naive, so it was the office network.

The customer wanted to know what would happen if we pulled an Ethernet cable out of the back of the VAXmate.

"Nothing" I replied, "except the VAXmate will loose visibility of the cluster."

He looked at my quizzically and said "This is your office network, right?" I confirmed. "Hmm, he said, "well, I don't want to be responsible for bringing down your network ... you do it." Apparently their incumbent system provider had a problem with that. We won the deal.

 * * * 

1986. Digital Office, Warrington, UK. Warrington was the first Digital sales and service office anywhere in the world that had moved completely from DECmail to ALL-IN-1. Imagine, 1986, and you could e-mail any person in a company of 125,000 people anywhere in the world, and it would get there within one hour and with over a 99 percent success rate. All you needed was a name and location code.

The scene: It was a Monday night, and I did backups EVERY Monday and Friday night until about midnight or 1 a.m. (I'm a storage consultant now!) The ALL-IN-1 system, a VAX 11/780 with an RA81 as a user disk, an RA60 as a system disk, and a TU80 tape drive supported 24 concurrent users.

I went to back up the system disk to the TU80, and the tape drive was dead. So, I took the system pack out, and put in the first RA60 to backup the user disk. I stated the backup. Sometime later the console (an LA100) was beeping for the next disk. I took out the first RA60 pack, put n the second one, and typed "Yes" to continue. I hit the enter key and the backup continued. I looked at the cover of the RA60 pack ... I had just put the system disk back in! And wiped it! Any other night, I could've restored from the TU80 ... but not tonight.

The next day, the whole office of over 100 people was down. Even in 1986, everyone relied on e-mail, and I had killed the system. What was worse was that I had to wait for the parts to arrive so I could restore a four-day-old backup. EVERYONE knew what I had done. My boss's reaction? "Well, that's your mistake for this year, isn't it?" By 1990, I was an SLS expert!

—Siobhan Ellis, Australia

Did you know?
Digital was issued its first patent for magnetic core memory in 1964. The inventors were Ken Olsen and Dick Best.

Robert Comarow shares his views of the origins and history of the OpenVMS operating system.

The key to the quality and success of OpenVMS, starting from the VAX in 1977, was long term planning and discipline. Fads were ignored; scalability and standards over decades were key. Uptime was often measured in years. Growth and change was built into the design.

At that point in time, the decisions of Ken Olson and Digital were based on a timeline of decades, and were a great example of long-term planning. The company rewarded loyalty, and short-term monthly and quarterly results were not the directing factors. I remember my manager saying that employees should not suffer for management's mistakes. Digital was the place to work. Employees gave their all as a labor of love.

A large part of this success was that VAX/VMS was the standard for the educational market. Most universities and scientific establishments were using VMS, and the leaders of the future understood the quality and standards of VMS. Even our military technology often used VMS as the core.

As the company leaders were replaced, profits were squeezed from the educational marketplace. At Fordham University, a VMS license per machine cost US$10,000. While I was at Digital Education Services, I was shocked to find we did not give educational discounts. Digital should have welcomed professors to their courses, and it was obvious that VMS should have been promoted in the university market.

Virtually nothing was spent on public awareness of VMS, and if you asked the public what Digital was, they would typically say, "They make watches, don't they?"

Then a Digital employee, I watched my managers change their focus to short-term measurements. Long-term training was reduced, and the company, instead of celebrating the fact it was unique, became like other companies. They began to have layoffs, sold off products for short term profits, and continued not to market or promote VMS.

Moral was at a low, and Robert Palmer took the reins. He actively promoted a lower quality, third party operating system, NT. The employees suffered, the stock prices plummeted, this decision made no sense.

VMS survived despite these incredible odds, without marketing, and despite attempts to move the customer base away from it. The users of VMS realized how fundamentally solid it was, and the quality of support from VMS support was unsurpassed in the industry.

The survival of VMS is testimony to the early long-range planning, so rare in American business today. The loyalty earned in those early years, and the quality achieved, are testimony to a remarkable product. VMS is as viable today as it was 30 years ago.

A philosophical foundation of VMS was its ease of use, with insight into the layers of the operating system. While point and click may be easy to use, the layers are hidden. While Unix® may provide availability to its operating system, it remains cryptic. Only VMS is easy to use and easy to program, yet allows one to access the depths of the internals. In many ways, VMS remains the mark of excellence. The ability to cluster, natural implementation of what is now called virtualization, a rock-solid file system, reliability and security keep VMS alive.

VMS remains fundamentally solid, able to scale in all directions, and should be promoted as the best-in-class operating system available. Many attempts to convert from the VMS environment have ended in failure. It took the attempts to convert that demonstrated the excellence of VMS.

—Robert Comarow, United States

Did you know?
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This long and amazing story by Jack Harvey was originally published under the title "The Immortal Murderer" on January 18, 1989, on DECUServe, the DECUS member bulletin board. It is reproduced in numerous places on the Internet, and was submitted for this guestbook by Rich Crosbie.

VAXen [plural of VAX], my children, just don't belong some places. In my business, I am frequently called by small sites and startups having VAX problems. So when a friend of mine in an Extremely Large Financial Institution (ELFI) called me one day to ask for help, I was intrigued because this outfit is a really major VAX user—they have several large herds of VAXen—and plenty of sharp VAXherds to take care of them. So I went to see what sort of an ELFI mess they had gotten into.

It seems they had shoved a small 750 with two RA60s running a single application, PC style, into a data center with two IBM 3090s and just about all the rest of the disk drives in the world. The computer room was so big it had three street addresses. The operators had only IBM experience and, to quote my friend, they were having "a little trouble adjusting to the VAX," were a bit hostile towards it, and probably needed some help with system management. Hmmm, hostility ... sigh.

Well, I thought it was pretty ridiculous for an outfit with all that VAX muscle elsewhere to isolate a dinky old 750 in their Big Blue Country, and said so bluntly. But my friend patiently explained that although small, it was an "extremely sensitive and confidential application." It seems that the 750 had originally been properly clustered with the rest of a herd and in the care of one of their best VAXherds. But the trouble started when the Chief User went to visit his computer and its VAXherd. He came away visibly disturbed and immediately complained to the ELFI's Director of Data Processing that, "There are some very strange people in there with the computers."

Now, since this user person was the Comptroller of this Extremely Large Financial Institution, the 750 had been promptly hustled over to the IBM data center which, the Comptroller said, "was a more suitable place." The people there wore shirts and ties and didn't wear head bands or cowboy hats. So my friend introduced me to the Comptroller, who turned out to be five feet tall, 85 years old, and a former gnome of Zurich. He had a young apprentice gnome who was about 65. The two gnomes interviewed me in whispers for about an hour before they decided my modes of dress and speech were suitable for managing their system and I got the assignment.

There was some confusion, understandably, when I explained that I would immediately establish a procedure for nightly backups. The senior gnome seemed to think I was going to put the computer in reverse, but the apprentice's son had an IBM PC and he quickly whispered that "backup" meant making a copy of a program borrowed from a friend and why was I doing that? Sigh.

I was shortly introduced to the manager of the IBM data center, who greeted me with joy and anything but hostility. And the operators really weren't hostile—it just seemed that way. It's like the driver of a Mack 18 wheeler, with a condo behind the cab, who was doing 75 when he ran over a moped doing its best to get away at 45. He explained sadly, "I really warn't mad at mopeds but to keep from runnin' over that'n, I'da had to slow down or change lanes!" Now the only operation they had figured out how to do on the 750 was reboot it. This was their universal cure for any and all problems. After all, it works on a PC, why not a VAX? Was there a difference? Sigh.

But I smiled and said, "No sweat, I'll train you. The first command you learn is HELP," and I proceeded to type it in on the console terminal. So the data center manager, the shift supervisor and the eight day operators watched the LA100 buzz out the usual introductory text. When it finished they turned to me with expectant faces and I said in an avuncular manner, "This is your most important command!" The shift supervisor stepped forward and studied the text for about a minute. He then turned with a very puzzled expression on his face and asked, "What do you use it for?" Sigh.

Well, I tried everything. I trained, and I put the doc set on shelves by the 750, and I wrote a special 40-page doc set, and then a four-page doc set. I designed all kinds of command files to make complex operations into simple foreign commands, and I taped a list of these simplified commands to the top of the VAX. The most successful move was adding my home phone number. The cheat sheets taped on the top of the CPU cabinet needed continual maintenance, however. It seems the VAX was in the quietest part of the data center, over behind the scratch tape racks. The operators ate lunch on the CPU cabinet and the sheets quickly became coated with pizza drippings, etc. But still, the most used solution to hangups was a reboot. I gradually got things organized so that during the day when the gnomes were using the system, the operators didn't have to touch it. This smoothed things out a lot.

Meanwhile, the data center was getting new TV security cameras, a halon gas fire extinguisher system, and an immortal power source. The data center manager apologized because the VAX had not been foreseen in the plan, and so could not be connected to immortal power. The VAX and I felt a little rejected but I made sure that booting on power recovery was working right. At least it would get going again quickly when power came back. Anyway, as a consolation prize, the data center manager said he would have one of the security cameras adjusted to cover the VAX. I thought to myself, "Great, now we can have 24-hour video tapes of the operators eating Chinese takeout on the CPU." I resolved to get a piece of plastic to cover the cheat sheets.

One day, the apprentice gnome called to whisper that the senior was going to give an extremely important demonstration. Now I must explain that what the 750 was really doing was holding our National Debt. The Reagan administration had decided to privatize it, and had quietly put it out for bid. My Extremely Large Financial Institution had won the bid for it and was, as ELFIs are wont to do, making an absolute bundle on the float. On Monday, the Comptroller was going to demonstrate to the board of directors how he could move a trillion dollars from Switzerland to the Bahamas. The apprentice whispered, "Would you please look in on our computer? I'm sure everything will be fine, sir, but we will feel better if you are present. I'm sure you understand?" I did.

Monday morning, I got there about five hours before the scheduled demo to check things over. Everything was cool. I was chatting with the shift supervisor and about to go upstairs to the Comptroller's office. Suddenly there was a power failure.

The emergency lighting came on and the immortal power system took over the load of the IBM 3090's. They continued smoothly, but of course the VAX, still on city power, died. Everyone smiled and the dead 750 was no big deal because it was 7 a.m. and gnomes don't work before 10 a.m. I began worrying about whether I could beg some immortal power from the data center manager in case this was a long outage. Immortal power in this system comes from storage batteries for the first five minutes of an outage. Promptly at one minute into the outage, we hear the gas-turbine-powered generator in the sub-basement underneath us automatically start up, getting ready to take the load on the fifth minute. We all beam at each other. The 3090s and all those disk drives are doing just fine. Business as usual. The VAX is dead as a doornail, but what the hell.

At precisely five minutes into the outage, just as the gas turbine is taking the load, city power comes back on and the immortal power source commits suicide. Actually it was a double murder and suicide because it took both 3090's with it.

So now the whole data center was dead, sort of. The fire alarm system had its own battery backup and was still alive. The lead acid storage batteries of the immortal power system had been discharging at a furious rate keeping all those big blue boxes running and there was a significant amount of sulfuric acid vapor. Nothing actually caught fire but the smoke detectors were convinced it had.

The fire alarm klaxon went off and the siren warning of imminent halon gas release was screaming. We started to panic but the data center manager shouted over the din, "Don't worry, the halon system failed its acceptance test last week. It's disabled and nothing will happen."

He was half right. The primary halon system indeed failed to discharge. But the secondary halon system observed that the primary had conked out, and instantly did its duty, which was to deal with Dire Disasters. It had twice the capacity and six times the discharge rate.

Now the ear splitting gas discharge under the raised floor was so massive and fast, it blew about half of the floor tiles up out of their framework. It came up through the floor into a communications rack and blew the cover panels off, decking an operator. Looking out across that vast computer room, we could see the air shimmering as the halon mixed with it.

We stampeded for exits to the dying whine of 175 IBM disks. As I was escaping, I glanced back at the VAX, on city power, and noticed the usual flickering of the unit select light on its system disk indicating it was happily rebooting.

Twelve firemen with air tanks and axes invaded. There were frantic phone calls to the local IBM Field Service office because both the live and backup 3090s were down. About twenty minutes later, seventeen IBM CEs arrived with dozens of boxes and, so help me, a barrel. It seems they knew what to expect when an immortal power source commits murder.

In the midst of absolute pandemonium, I crept off to the gnome office and logged on. After extensive checking, it was clear that everything was just fine with the VAX, and I began to calm down. I called the data center manager's office to tell him the good news. His secretary answered with, "He isn't expected to be available for some time. May I take a message?" I left a slightly smug note to the effect that, unlike some other computers, the VAX was intact and functioning normally.

Several hours later, the gnome was whispering his way into a demonstration of how to flick a trillion dollars from country 2 to country 5. He was just coming to the tricky part, where the money had been withdrawn from Switzerland but not yet deposited in the Bahamas. He was proceeding very slowly and the directors were spellbound. I decided I had better check up on the data center.

Most of the floor tiles were back in place. IBM had resurrected one of the 3090s and was running tests. What looked like a bucket brigade was working on the other one. The communication rack was still naked and a fireman was standing guard over the immortal power corpse. Life was returning to normal, but the Big Blue Country crew was still pretty shaky.

Smiling proudly, I headed back toward the triumphant VAX behind the tape racks where one of the operators was eating a plump jelly bun on the 750 CPU. He saw me coming, turned pale and screamed to the shift supervisor, "Oh my God, we forgot about the VAX!" Then, before I could open my mouth, he rebooted it. It was Monday, October 19, 1987. VAXen, my children, just don't belong some places.