Design a site like this with
Get started

Kara’s OpenVMS Page

The OpenVMS® Operating System


OpenVMS, or VMS as it is still affectionately known to us VMS stalwarts, is a high reliability, high security operating system produced, if not very well marketed, by Digital Equipment Corporation. Their current slogan for OpenVMS is “24×365”, which whilst not very catchy, is pretty accurate in what you can expect from a well configured VMS system.

It is quite common for VMS sites to go a couple of years between reboots, power supply allowing. Due to the gradations of privilege that can be granted to users or particular images, it is fairly straight forward to create a secure, robust environment to keep your business going “24×365”. Or “5x24x52” if you’re closed weekends.

Have a look at my VMS Free Software Page for various bits of software ported to VMS. These include a Web Page Hit Counter (Muhammad Muquit’s “odometer” style counter), GifMerge GIF Animator, TGD the GIF scripting program, and LiteClue help bubbles for Motif Applications. A list of VMS related web links, including more Freeware, is at the bottom of this page. To see the latest information on OpenVMS go to VMS Software.

If you want to run your own VMS hobbyist system, the VMS 7.2 CD with various compilers including C++, C, Pascal, Basic, Fortran and Cobol, plus the licenses for lots of layered products, including clustering and TCPIP, can be obtained from Montagar Software for about $30. You can pick up a second hand  VAXstation from Ebay or a brand new Alpha for $499 from Island Computers. Ask for David Turner and tell him Kara sent you!

Nemonix Engineering also specialize in hardware, software and repair of VMS systems, maintenance, and hardware upgrades. They will diagnose any board for a flat fee, plus you pay the freight. Business from hobbyist VMS systems is welcome. See Nemonix Engineering Web Site, ask for Roger Boyle and mention my web site.

If you want to read or write a DVD or CD from a VMS system, there is an excellent commercial program from Dr. Eberhard Heuser-Hofmann which supports VAX, Alpha and Integrity (Itanium) architectures, and a good number of DVD drives, plus ACARD SCSI-IDE-bridges. See for details. Eberhard has kindly made DVDWrite available free for VMS Hobbyists.

For some good advice on connecting your Hobbyist VMS system to the internet,
contact me or see VAXman’s Tips and Hints for Getting Your OpenVMS Hobbyist VAX or Alpha on the Internet which gives lots of good advice about connecting via dialup, ISDN, DSL and cable modem. I started off using a 3COM Courier modem using SLIP on a VAXstation VLC to connect to Demon in the UK (who gave you a static IP address), but now have rather faster (!) cable internet, and my Hobbyist VMScluster lives behind a firewall with port forwarding to map services to the appropriate places.

If you want a good VT terminal emulator to run on a PC, I would recommend the
free PuTTy Telnet/SSH Client. You can use it for plain telnet, or if your VMS
machines are running the free OpenSSL based

Secure Shell Server
, you can use SSH and log in over the network without
sending your password in plain text. It works on Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, 2000
and XP on Intel x86, and Windows NT for Alpha.

VAX VMS Systems

The VAX 11/780 was the first computer to run the VMS operating system. It was introduced in 1977, and cost about $200,000 which was a lot of money in those days. Version 1.0 of VMS shipped to customers in February 1978.

The Digital internal code name for this machine was the Star, and this is why the system library used to search for unresolved symbols at LINK time is called SYS$LIBRARY:STARLET.OLB. The venerable 11/780 was followed by the 11/750 in 1980, and the rather underpowered, but lowest cost to that date, VAX 11/730 in 1982. Clustering was unveiled in May 1983, and was supported up to 96 nodes, though in fact some places succeeded in clustering over 200 machines. The first VAX workstation, the appropriately named VAXstation 1 was introduced in October 1984, and I remember using one of the first of these at CERN shortly after that date. There is a great VAX timeline , made for the VAX 20th anniversary in 1997, showing the rest of the VAX evolution.

If you want a hobbyist VAX system, I would suggest one of the 4000 series of workstations, such as the VLC, the model 60 or model 90. I find that Seagate SCSI disks work very well with these models. Search on Ebay to find one. These workstations are small, self contained and don’t use much power. They have a Motif/X-Windows user interface, are very nicely built, and fun to run. You will probably want to find a compatible CD ROM drive from which to install VMS – they need to support 512 byte blocks as well as 2048 to boot VAX VMS from CD, whereas Alphas can use either. I use a MATSHITA CD-ROM CR-506, and SEAGATE ST32550N system disk.

Alpha VMS Systems

What is an Alpha
? The Alpha AXP chip is the 64 bit RISC microprocessor designed for the next millenium (so DEC say) ! Because of its cunning PALcode, Alphas can run VMS, Unix, or Windows NT.The SRM console firmware is used if the Alpha is to boot VMS or Digital Unix,and the ARC console firmware is needed for WNT – assuming that you have the licenses to run the software.

The RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Chip) CPU has 32 integer and 32 floating
point registers, all 64 bits wide, and has on chip instruction and memory
caches and multiple issue pipelining. To take advantage of these features the
compiler has to particularly clever in scheduling the instruction stream, which
leads to the criticism from some people that RISC really stands for
“Relegate the Important Stuff to the Compiler”!

The Alpha chip is designed to give the most efficient memory access for
naturally aligned data. Hence it is a good idea, when declaring structures or common blocks, to make quadwords (8 bytes) start at quadword offsets, longwords (4 bytes) start at longword offsets, and words (you guessed it – 2 bytes) start at word offsets. Occasionally this means adding padding bytes, though this can usually be avoided by declaring members in decreasing order of size. Byte addressing was added as a feature by the time the 21164A chip came out, and is supported on that and later Alpha chipsets.

Due to economic considerations, the Alpha chip was discontinued after the
EV7 version. Compaq ported VMS to run on the 64 bit Intel® Itanium™.

For hobbyist use, I would recommend one of the Alpha workstations such as the
433au, 500au, 600au, or the DS10, DS20 or XP1000 if you are feeling a bit
richer. See Island Computers for some great deals, and for spares and upgrade instructions. I should perhaps add that I am not in any way affiliated to Island Computers, other than as a satisfied customer.

BBC micro VMS Systems

Unfortunately, these don’t exist. A BBC micro emulator that runs on VMS systems does, however (almost as good) ! I ported James Fidell’s XBeeb emulator to VAX and Alpha. This can be found on my Free Software page.

VMS Tutorial

If you have never used a VMS system before a good place to start is my VMS Tutorial. This was updated recently but still requires a bit more work to bring it up to date.

Porting VMS Applications to OpenVMS

  1. Wave arms about.
  2. Say “Izzy Wizzy let’s get busy” !
  3. That’s it.

OpenVMS is VMS, it’s just those marketing boys trying to confuse us.
Seriously though, [Open]VMS does conform to more of the Posix standard
than most supposedly “open” Unix flavours.

Windows NT to Windows XP

Windows NT is available for the EISA and PCI bus based Alphas. The NT allegedly stands for New Technology, but it’s a bit suspicious that the team
leader of Microsoft’s WNT team was Dave Cutler who contributed large parts of
VMS when he worked for Digital, and if you add one to the character codes, VMS
becomes WNT ! Windows NT has many of the features that VMS programmers know and love, and has kernel threads, mutexes, semaphores, critical sections and numerous system service calls to play with.

You’ll find some Windows NT/2000/XP freeware on my Free Software Page
with more, to come as I get the time to write it. The latest version of
Windows, Windows XP is very full-featured and has excellent reliability too.
Compaq ceased supporting the Alpha chip for Windows, so although you can have a dual boot Alpha running Windows NT 4.0 and VMS, you will have to ge the Intel® Itanium™ if you want a system that will run VMS and Windows XP.

Switching between the ARC and SRM Consoles

If you have an Alpha machine that you wish to swap between Windows NT and VMS you will need to change the console to the ARC (Windows NT) or the SRM
(OpenVMS) console. There are excellent instructions for doing this at the
Island Computers web site, which also sells the hardware for upgrading
433a/500a/600a machines, which can run Windows NT or Linux, to 433au/500au/600au machines which can run Windows NT, Linux, Tru64 Unix and OpenVMS. For some models of Alpha, such as the AlphaStation 255, only one console at a time can be held in flash ROM, so it also involves upgrading the
firmware. Newer models like the 600au can have both resident at the same time.

Instructions for this are also give in the VMS FAQ at
, for example.


Digital Unix was formerly known as OSF/1, since it was designed to meet the
IEEE Working Group 1003 standards intended to establish a standard operating
system interface and environment based on Unix, endorsed by the Open Software Foundation. The current Compaq Unix is known as Tru64. I am not a Unix fan, as you can tell from my web pages.

Yezerski Roper

Yezerski Roper Ltd. employed a whole bunch of clever, talented people who could do just about anything with VMS and Windows. Sadly they are no more, and like Merlin, have disappeared into the Pennine Hills until such time as the land is in time of peril, and needs their magic again.

VMS Web Links

Here’s a few of my favourite web pages related to VMS.

Thanks to David L. Cathey of Montagar Software Concepts, I have been able to
add a new item. I converted David’s DECUS presentation on how to delete a
process stuck in RWAST from PostScript to HTML. It contains numerous
useful tips and information and some example code in MACRO. Click on the
following link to read David’s Resource Waits in the
OpenVMS Operating System
also known as
What to do when you R-WASTed by OpenVMS.


This bibliography is based on postings to the Info-VAX mailing list by
Professor David D. Miller, Arne Vajhoj and others, with additions, corrections,
and formatting by Richard B. Gilbert. Some books may appear in more than one
category. Some books may be out of print.

Introduction to VAX/VMS – for new users

Advanced VAX/VMS Users

VMS Systems Management

Introduction to VAX/VMS Internals

Advanced VMS Internals

DCL Books

  • Anagnostopoulos, Paul C.
    “Writing Real Programs in DCL”.
    Digital Press, 1989
  • Leisner, K.M. & Cook, David B.
    “VAX DCL Programmer’s Reference, VMS 5”.
    Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1990, 256 pages ISBN 0-442-31840-2
  • Shah, Jay.
    “VAX/VMS Concepts and Facilities”
    McGraw-Hill 1991
  • Spencer.
    “The Complete Guide to Pathworks”
    Cardinal Business Media (formerly: Professional Press), 1993

VAX Architecture and Assembler Language

  • Brunner, Richard A.
    “VAX Architecture Reference Manual”.
    Second edition,
    Digital Press, 1991
  • Frank, T.S.
    “Introduction to VAX-11 Architecture and Assembly Language”
    Prentice-Hall, 1987
  • Levy, Henry M. and Eckhouse, Jr., Richard H.
    “Computer Programming and Architecture – The VAX”.
    Digital Press, 1989
  • Kapps, Charles and Stafford, Robert L.
    “VAX Assembly Language and Architecture”.
    Prindle, Weber & Schmid (PWS Publishers), 1985
  • Sebesta.
    “VAX Structured Assembly Language Programming”.
  • Baase, Sara.
    “VAX-11 Assembly Language Programming”.
    Prentice-Hall, 1983
  • Federighl, Francis D. and Reilly, Edwin D.
    “VAX Assembly Language”.
    MacMillan 1991

VMS Books

  • De Klerk, Theo.
    “Writing VAX/VMS Applications Using Pascal”
    Digital Press, 1991
  • Davis, Roy G.
    “VAXcluster Principles”.
    Digital Press, 1993
  • Merusi, Donald E.
    “Software Implementation Techniques – VMS, UNIX, OS/2 & MS-DOS”.
    Digital Press, 1992 (Digital order number EY-J822E-DP) useful.
    The book runs examples in parallel for all four systems – sort of a Rosetta
  • Sethi, Joginder.
    “OpenVMS Performance Management”.
    Digital Press, 1995
  • Shah, Jay.
    “VAX C Programming Guide”.
    McGraw-Hill, 1992
  • Shah, Jay.
    “VAX Clusters: Architecture, Programming and Management”.
  • Sites, Richard L.
    “Alpha Architecture Reference Manual”.
    Order number EY-l520E-DP, ISBN 1-55558-098X, Digital Press, 1992

Motif and X-Windows books

  • Brain, Marshall.
    “Motif Programming, The Essentials…and More”.
    Digital Press
  • Scheifler, Robert & Gettys, James.
    “X Window System: The Complete Reference to XLIB, X Protocol, ICCCM, XLFD – X Version 11, Release 5”
    Digital Press
  • Asente, Paul & Swick, Ralph.
    “X Window System Toolkit: The Complete Programmer’s Guide and Specification”.
    Digital Press
  • Rost, Randi J.
    “X and Motif Quick Reference Guide”.
    Digital Press, 1993
  • Heller, Dan.
    “Motif Programming Manual for OSF/Motif Version 1.1”.
    O’Reilly & Asscoiates

Miscellaneous Books

  • Sandler, Corey and Benedict, Tom.
    “VAX to VAX”.
    John Wiley & Sons 1990.
  • Simon, Alan R.
    “Application Migration: IBM to VAX”.
    Van Nostrand Reinhold 1992, 300 pages, ISBN 0-442-00146-0
  • Pendharkar, Sumant S. and Biegel, Richard A.
    “dBASEIV for VMS and UNIX: Technical Support Approach”.
    Van Nostrand Reinhold 656 pages ISBN 0-422-00908-9
  • Malamud, Carl.
    “Analyzing DECnet/OSI Phase V”.
    Van Nostrand Reinhold, 544 pages, ISBN 0-0442-00375-7
  • Weinman, David G.
    “VAX Fortran, Second Edition”.
    PWS-KENT Publishing Company

Publisher Addresses

Contemporary Publishing Co.
508 St. Mary's Street
Raleigh NC 27605
Ph: 919-821-4566

Digital Press
80 Montvale Avenue
Stoneham, MA 02180
(Call DEC Direct or 1-800-DIGITAL)

CBM Books (formerly Professional Press Books)
1300 Virginia Drive, Suite 400
Fort Washington, PA 19034
Ph: 215-643-8105
Ph: 800-285-1755
FAX: 215-643-8099

O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
103 Morris Street, Suite A
Sebastopol, CA 95472
(800) 338-6887
(707) 829-0515
(707) 829-0104 (FAX)

PWS-KENT Publishing Company
20 Park Plaza
Boston, MA 02116

Van Nostrand Reinhold
115 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10003
(800) 926-2665

Back to Top

%d bloggers like this: