OpenVMS Resources: VAX • Alpha • Itanium • x86-64

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Note: OpenVMS Programmer's Corner has moved here


NSR Resources on this page

NSR Resources located elsewhere

VMS Software Inc.

Cannot Locate VMS/OpenVMS documents?
  • some VMS/OpenVMS stuff was junked by Compaq after the purchase of DEC
  • more stuff was lost or discarded by HP after the merger with Compaq
  • more stuff was lost or discarded during the split between HP and HPE
  • getting rid of stale links: on 2022-09-30 I wrote a little script to auto-modify every link on "all the pages of this website" from or to
    • I used regex so their was "a lot" of wild-carding
    • a small number of those links were hardware oriented so sorry about that

DEC founder, Ken OlsenNostalgia

Free DCL Accounts

Hardware Sources

  • Island Computers is an American company selling new and used OpenVMS capable hardware (Alpha, Itanium and x86-64)
  • Nemonix Engineering is an American company supporting the VAX and Alpha marketplace
  • System Resale is a Canadian company selling used "VMS and OpenVMS capable" hardware

How VMS (OS Software) separated itself from VAX (hardware)

A very brief overview of major highlights:

  • In 1977 Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) introduced the 32-bit VAX-11 architecture as a successor to the 16-bit PDP-11. (VAX-11 could run PDP-11 application software in PDP emulation mode)
    • At this same time, Digital Equipment Corporation introduced the VMS operating system and IS/IT staff in large corporations have not been able to think about VMS without VAX ever since.
  • In the mid-to-late 1980s, DEC experimented with RISC technologies by building systems around chips from MIPS
    • At this same time they were working on two skunk-works projects:
      • porting VMS to Intel's IA-32 family (80386, 80486)
        • this project was cancelled causing the human talent to go to Microsoft to produce Windows-NT
      • building their own RISC chip which would be called Alpha
  • In the early 1990s DEC released systems based upon Alpha along with a revamped OS known as OpenVMS (version 7.0)
  • DEC was sold to Compaq in 1998
  • in 2001 during merger talks with HP, Compaq (a huge Intel customer) announced their plans to phase out Alpha in favor of Intel's new enterprise chip called Itanium or IA-64 (Intel Architecture 64-bit).
    • Compaq sold all Alpha intellectual property to Intel (along with ~ 300 Alpha engineers)
    • Compaq was sold to HP in this same year (did HP negotiations have anything to do with Alphacide?)
  • HP pre-released OpenVMS-8.0 for Itanium on 2003-06-30 for internal use as well as third-party developers
  • HP pre-released OpenVMS-8.1 for Itanium on 2003-12-18 for internal use as well as third-party developers
  • HP released OpenVMS-8.2 for Itanium and Alpha on 2005-01-13
  • HP released OpenVMS-8.3 for Itanium and Alpha on 2006-06
  • HP released OpenVMS-8.4 for Itanium and Alpha on 2010-06
  • HP announces no more development of OpenVMS on 2012-06 (I think I see a pattern here)
  • On 2014.07.31 HP announced they have licensed OpenVMS source code to a new company named VMS Software Inc (VSI) who intend to:
    • complete OpenVMS qualifications on Poulson
    • port/qualify OpenVMS to 8-core Kittson when that chip is released by Intel in 2017
    • port/qualify OpenVMS to x86-64
  • In the middle of 2015 HP split into two companies: HP (to handle the consumer business) and HPE (HP-Enterprise to handle corporate customers)
    • since many people saw Compaq as a PC company, wouldn't this action be interpreted as undoing portions of the HP-Compaq merger?
  • On 2016.02.09 HPE and Intel announced their plans to go ahead with the successor to Poulson called Kittson
  • HPE announced that Kittson will debut mid-2017

Prism/Mica/Emerald/GEM (the birth of Alpha and Windows-NT)

In the mid 1980s DEC started the Prism project to develop RISC technology which would eventually succeed their CISC-based VAX. Dave Cutler headed Prism (hardware) as well as Mica (software) which would attempt to port VMS to RISC. In July 1988, DEC killed Prism and Mica so they could build systems based upon RISC chips from MIPS. Dave Cutler resigned the following month in August 1988. In October 1988 Dave Cutler, as well as ~40 of his DEC staff, were hired by Microsoft to incorporate VMS 4.x concepts into a new 32-bit GUI OS which became known as Windows-NT (new technology). This technology later morphed into Windows-2000, Windows-XP, Windows Server Edition 2003, etc.

The remainder of my research has been moved here:

The DEC Alpha CPU (successor to VAX)

Alpha Links

My First Alpha

Our machine looks like this; just a little less full...

Our skunk works has just (99.11.30) been asked to attempt a trial port of some OpenVMS applications from VAX to Alpha. We acquired six AlphaServer 4100 machines (with DUNIX 4.1 installed) from a cancelled project within our company and now one of them is in my lab. We also scooped up two AlphaServer 2100 machines.

This specific machine is an AlphaServer 4100 5/300 which was manufactured in 1996. It contains a single 21164 (EV5) CPU running at 300 MHz with 2 MB of cache and 256 MB of RAM. Five modules can be installed in the CPU chassis (one for the PCI/EISA interconnect and four for CPU's). Because of the clock speed I thought this machine might be a bit of a dog but it "seems" much faster than my VAX-6430 (at least it boots up five times faster).

The disk subsystem is based upon MYLEX configurable RAID controllers which connect to five "storage works" arrays (each filled with six 4-GB SCSI drives). Since all RAID functions are handled in hardware, the CPU can pay more attention to running the OS and apps. The controller can be modified with a configuration program to support RAID-1 (mirroring), RAID-0 (striping), RAID-10 (one plus zero) and RAID-5 (complete multiple disk redundancy).

All the chassis boards (except CPU and memory) are either PCI or EISA based so these machines are considerably less expensive than the VAXs they are about to replace.

Click here for more details

Intel Itanium (successor to DEC Alpha)

Itanium Links

My First Itanium

Itanium rx2800-i2
Our skunk works just (2015.06.23) bought a new rx2800-i2 from HPE and are having a lot of fun moving our OpenVMS-based production software from Alpha.

Click here for more details

Intel releases Tukwila (February 8, 2010)

Intel releases Poulson (November 8, 2012)

  • Poulson is now officially known a Itanium 9500
  • 8-core hyper-threaded packages (software sees 16)
  • 3.1 billion transistors
  • moves from VLIW to a more conventional (RISC) pipeline.
  • Even though they began work on migrating/qualifying OpenVMS on Poulson, HP announced they will not complete the work (thus leaving OpenVMS with no future)
  • On 2014.07.31 HP announced they have licensed OpenVMS source code to a new company named VMS Software Inc (VSI) who intend to:
    • complete OpenVMS qualifications on Poulson
    • port/qualify OpenVMS to 8-core Kittson when that chip is released by Intel in 2017
    • port/qualify OpenVMS to x86-64

Intel releases Kittson (2017)

Intel's Itanium to live on as HPE commits to new servers with the chip

Intel will EOL Itanium in 2021

Recommended OpenVMS Books

The Minimum You Need to Know "book series" by Roland Hughes of Logikal Solutions

"The Minimum You Need to Know to Be an OpenVMS Application Developer"

  • 800 pages with a CD-ROM
  • Covers: DCL, BASIC, FORTRAN, COBOL, C, C++ Interfacing to: FMS, RMS, CDD, CMS, MMS, Message Files, VMS-Mail, VMS-Phone, MySQL, Oracle-Rdb
  • comments:
    • highly recommended for OpenVMS programmers (especially those new to OpenVMS who need a good bootstrap).
    • DO NOT begin any new database projects without first reading chapter 13 (MySQL) and chapter 14 (Oracle-Rdb).

"The Minimum You Need to Know About Java on OpenVMS (Volume-1)"

  • 351 pages with a CD-ROM
  • comments:
    • This introduction states "The Minimum You Need to Know to Be an OpenVMS Application Developer" is a prerequisite.
    • This Java book is Volume-1 but there are no plans at this time to publish Volume-2 (which will contain HTML centric lessons) at this time.
    • Any Java programming books I've read attempt to convince the reader that Java is the way-of-the-future and that all other languages will soon be obsolete. Not so with this book. The author presents Java with all of its warts while continually comparing it to C++ and sometimes C. If your superiors are forcing you to implement Java on your system then you must read this book first so you know what you're getting into.

"The Minimum You Need to Know About Service Oriented Architecture"

  • 370 pages with a CD-ROM
  • My Notes:
    • This introduction states that both "The Minimum You Need to Know to Be an OpenVMS Application Developer" and "The Minimum You Need to Know About Java on OpenVMS Volume-1" are prerequisites.
    • I just (2008-07-26) received this book today but it looks like it will help me with a new problem. Our group has just been told the following:
      • You can stay on OpenVMS - Alpha (with eventual migration to Itanium)
      • develop a plan before the end of 2008 to replace "FMS and VT-220 terminal emulation" with web browsers
      • develop a plan before the end of 2009 to replace RMS with something relational (Oracle-Rdb or MySql)

Writing VAX/VMS Applications Using Pascal

  • Published 1991 by Digital Press
  • Author: Theo De Klerk
  • this rare gem contains some of the best descriptions and examples of OpenVMS system calls from a high level language
  • I've found it relatively easy to translate these examples to other languages like HP-BASIC and HP-C
  • This out-of-print book is still available from
  • highly recommended for programmers

Writing Real Programs in DCL, Second Edition

  • Published 1998-1999 by Digital Press
  • Authors: Steve Hoffman and Paul Anagnostopoulos
  • Caveat: Just as it is nearly impossible to acquire a copy of the Apple II Red Book (1978) by Steve Wozniak, you will not find available copies of Writing Real Programs in DCL unless you are willing to fork over $150.00 to $500.00 to the used book market. I personally do not own a copy but have been able to read it online at work since my employer has a paid up subscription to (just search the titles for "DCL")

DEC is DeadDEC Is Dead, Long Live DEC: The Lasting Legacy of Digital Equipment Corporation (2003, 2004) by Edgar H. Schein

Digital Equipment Corporation achieved sales of over $14 billion, reached the Fortune 50, and was second only to IBM as a computer manufacturer. Though responsible for the invention of speech recognition, the minicomputer, and local area networking, DEC ultimately failed as a business and was sold to Compaq Corporation in 1998. [HP bought, er, merged with, Compaq in 2002]. This fascinating modern Greek tragedy by Ed Schein, a high-level consultant to DEC for 40 years, shows how DEC's unique corporate culture contributed both to its early successes and later to an organizational rigidity that caused its ultimate downfall.

  • introduction
    1. Purpose and Overview
    2. Three Developmental Streams: A Model for Deciphering the Lessons of the DEC Story
  • part one: The Creation of a Culture of Innovation: The Technology, Organization, and Culture Streams are One and the Same
    1. Ken Olsen, the Scientist-Engineer
    2. Ken Olsen, the Leader and Manager
    3. Ken Olsen, the Salesman-Marketer
    4. DEC's Cultural Paradigm
    5. DEC's "Other" Legacy: The Development of Leaders (by Tracy C. Gibbons)
    6. DEC's Impact on the Evolution of Organization Development
  • part two: The Streams Diverge, Causing an Organizational Midlife Crisis
    1. The Impact of Changing Technology (by Paul Kampas)
    2. The Impact of Success, Growth, and Age
    3. Learning Efforts Reveal Cultural Strengths and Rigidities
    4. The Turbulent 1980s: Peaking but Weakening
      • DEC Launches Three PCs
      • Gordon Bell's Departure and its Consequences
      • Turmoil in the Engineering Organization: Competition with IBM, and PRISM, Aquarius, and Alpha [and MIPS]
    5. The Beginning of the End: Ken Olsen's Final Efforts to Save DEC
  • part three: Lessons and Legacies
    1. Obvious Lessons and Subtle Lessons
    2. The Lasting Legacy of Digital Equipment Corporation
  • Appendixes
    1. DEC's Technical Legacy
    2. DEC's Manufacturing: Contributions Made and Lessons Learned (by Michael Sonduck)
    3. DEC, the First Knowledge Organization (a 1991 Memo by Debra Rogers Amidon)
    4. Digital: The Strategic Failure (by Peter DeLisi)
    5. What Happened? A Postscript (by Gordon Bell) <<< This is a 'must read'

OpenVMS System Management Guide (second edition)

  • Published December-2003 by Digital Press/HP
  • Authors: Lawrence Baldwin, Steve Hoffman, David Miller
  • 656 pages
  • Available from various sellers including Amazon
  • conversational boot, common system disk, retransmit limit, login command procedures, bootable environment, device control libraries, autostart queues, system dump file, system login procedures, standalone backup, system startup procedures, datalink address, default version limit, default boot device, installing freeware, restart control, product authorization key, user login procedure, node eqs, default login directory, cumulative incremental backup, system logical names, manual boot, full image backup, volume shadowing
  • Additional References, Disabled Stopped, Digital Press, System Manager's Manual, Bus Model Name Nickname, Management Station, Oracle-Rdb, Digital Equipment Corporation, Ethernet Basics, Identifying Resource Dependencies, Monitoring Application Performance, Qualifier Keyword Meaning, Controlling the Queue Manager, Managing Accounts, Monitoring Hardware Errors, Page Read, Reducing Login Time, Security-Related Login Parameters, Sue Rosselet, System Dump-File Considerations, System Memory Resources, System-Startup Sequence, Using File Expiration Dates, Cluster Configurations, Configuring Default Boot Control Flags

 Rdb: A Comprehensive Guide - Third Edition

  • Published 1999 by Digital Press (Butterworth-Heinemann)
  • Authors: Lilian Hobbs, Ian Smith, Ken England
  • a must-have book for anyone using or supporting Oracle-Rdb
  • this edition is very SQL oriented (probably a good thing) but...
    contains very little information about RDO (which is only bad if you need to maintain some very old Rdb applications still using RDO). Earlier editions may differ from this statement.

 TP Software Development for OpenVMS

  • Published 1994 by CBM Books (101 Witmer Road, Horsham, PA. 19044)
  • Author: John M. Willis
  • this rare gem covers "transaction processing" on OpenVMS. Topics include: ACMS (Application Control Management System), CDD/Repository, DECforms, SQL, Rdb. High level program examples are in COBOL.
  • highly recommended for business applications developers and "Oracle-Rdb" programmers

OpenVMS Community

Professional Associations

Encompass LISTSERV

Function Email Address Subject
Sending a message VMS-SIG@LISTSERV.ENCOMPASSUS.ORG whatever

OpenVMS News Group Info

Note: newsgroups are accessed with a news reader on port 119. Alternatively you may use a browser like so:

OpenVMS Freeware, Shareware, and Generally Cool Info

Freeware from the good folks at VSI (VMS Software Inc)


Name Product(s) Sites
Mark Berryman MariaDB, PHP
Brett Cameron Erlang, gSOAP
Mark Daniels WASD HTTPd
Jean-François Piéronne MySQL, Python, ZLIB


Miscellaneous OpenVMS Links

My Links

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Neil Rieck
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.