Running OpenVMS

The OpenVMS Logo - the word OpenVMS with a stylised shark fin over the letter EThe 2024 OpenVMS Logo1

One of my hobbies is to use, either on original hardware or in emulation, computers and operating systems that I used in the past. But with one caveat: only if the system is still usable. This rules out things I’ve loved in the past, like the Apple Newton, because while they still power up, exchanging data with them — making them the Personal Digital Assistant they once aimed to be — is near–impossible nowadays.

Not so with OpenVMS and emulated VAX minicomputers. The operating system is still being updated, there are ports of communication components essential for modern interoperability, there are even extensions for VSCode to provide a modern code development environment. Even better — the operating system runs on commercial x64 processors now, which makes it possible to run OpenVMS in virtual machines.

For me, running OpenVMS is an exercise in nostalgia rather than practicality — even though I have them configured to serve web pages and send and reply to internet email, it would be much faster and convenient to do the same on the computer hosting the virtual machines. However, it was the first big computer operating system I encountered at University. And knowledge of it and its way of working helped bootstrap my career. And I find it kind of fun to run an operating system whose hardware cost millions even back then, on a 5 year old Mac Mini.

I’ll be writing a series of posts on how to get OpenVMS up, running and doing something useful 2. I’ll index them here.

  • Getting Started
  • Virtual Machine configuration
  • Creating your first server
  • Now an OpenVMS Cluster!
  • More to come…
  1. I love the stylised shark fin in the OpenVMS logo. It’s a neat callback to Vernon, the VMS Mascot from years gone by: An old OpenVMS Logo - a drawing of a stylised shark, in a circle, with the OpenVMS logo in text above it and the Digital logo underneath it 

  2. For small values of useful.