Retro-computing Texts

This is a collection of retro-computing texts. Most of what is here describes older computer architectures or operating systems. Some texts are more like eye witness reports from the time.

Sometimes, however, it's hard to say what is 'retro' and what is not, so some texts you think should be here might as well be in my Interesting Documents list.

DECSYSTEM-20 Assembly Language Guide (TXT)

Frank da Cruz' and Chris Ryland's introduction to assembly language programming on DEC-20s under TOPS-20.

CHAOS FILE protocol (TXT)

Remote file system used on CHAOSNET as used at MIT between LispMs and ITS.

ITS Calls (TXT)

ITS operating system calls.

MIDAS Manual (TXT)

Manual for the MIDAS assembler as used under ITS on PDP-10s.

Minnow Project

Usenet post from Dan Murphy about the Minnow Project, a deskside PDP-10!

Dartmouth Timesharing System (PDF)

A description of the early timesharing operating system DTSS.

Fortran 77 ANSI Standard (TXT)

ANSI Standard for the Fortran 77 programming language.

PCLSRing: Keeping Process State Modular (TXT)

Alan Bawden's paper on how the ITS operating system made system calls restartable.

ITS 1.5 Reference Manual (TXT)

The Incompatible Timesharing System was an influential operating system for the PDP-10 architecture from MIT. A few years ago, I found a listing of a memo in the MIT AI Lab Library catalogue and asked the librarians to scan it. To my surprise, they did, and subsequently published AI Memo 161A online as scanned EPS images. Now, Dave Carter has typed it all in again and I provide it here as text.

An Introduction to ITS for the MACSYMA User (TXT)

A tutorial on how to use the Incompatible Timesharing System mentioned above.

Burroughs B5500 Extendel Algol Manual (PDF)

The scanned (and therefore huge!) reference manual for the very nice Algol dialect used on Burroughs B5500 machines and, as I've been told, still used on the Unisys mainframes running MCP.

Sagan om AMIS (TXT)

Detta är berättelsen om sju hackers som ville göra en editor, den kända EMACS-klonen AMIS. Skriven av Per Lindberg.

Modified Report on the Algorithmic Language Algol 60 (PDF)

The description of the Algol 60 programming language. This is the final Modified Report from 1976, the follow on from the earlier Revised Report and the original Report on the Algorithmic Language Algol 60.

Multics Emacs: The History, Design and Implementation (TXT)

Bernard S. Greenberg's text on the history of the first Emacs implemented in and extensible using the Lisp programming language.

RFC1 Host Software (TXT)

The very first RFC ever.


A transcript from RMS's visit at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1986.

TOPS-10 Symmetric Multiprocessing (TXT)

A paper by Allan B. Wilson and James M. Flemming (JMF) on PDP-10 SMP as used by the TOPS-10 operating system.

EMACS: The Extensible, Customizable Display Editor (TXT)

RMS' text describing the development, background and future of the original EMACS.

Reply to Your Recent Message to Bug-OZ (TXT)

A humourous form letter that was suggested to be used when people complained about the ITS installation known as OZ (there was an ITS installation in Australia!?). Probably from 1983. I don't know who wrote it, but I like its BOFHiness.

CP/M 2.2 Operating System Manual (Postscript in Bzip2)

The manual for the CP/M operating system from Digital Research.