You Asked For It - You Got It

DB ITS.1633. DDT.1546.
TTY 0
You're all alone, Fair share = 70%

I’m alone. Alone with one of the most legendary operating system of all times: ITS.

You really should try it. It will be easy to setup on one of your spare PDP-10s. Just in case you don’t have a spare PDP-10 lying around: there’s an excellent historic machine simulator called simh (Free Software and runs on most unices). Setting up ITS on the simulated PDP is not exactly simple, but I found this step-by-step description to work quite well.

It’s quite a nice thing to be able to emulate a monster like the PDP-10 on a small black plastic thingy called “Travelmate”. Tells you something ‘bout progress and Moore’s Law and stuff…

Now, after booting ITS greets you with the prompt showed above - and that’s it. There is no login needed.

Yes, you read that right: no login. Full access to everything. For everyone. On a multi-user operating system. Quite a pleasant environment! No wonder ITS was one of the roots of the hacker culture - free information, no barriers, flower power, right?

There’s a lot of ITS-based hacker folklore floating around. The standard editor on ITS, for instance, is commonly described as the unfriendliest piece of software ever made: TECO is probably the ultimate You Asked For It - You Got It program.

Just about any possible typing error while talking with TECO will probably destroy your program, or even worse - introduce subtle and mysterious bugs in a once working subroutine.

Now, that’s not unlike what the Windows-Guys say about vi and the unix shell, nowadays. So let’s step in and see what it’s all about!

:peek
(Please Log In)

DB ITS 1633  Peek 629   15/31/127 00:00:34359738367  Up time = 38
Memory: Free=408   Runnable Total=11 Out=5     Users: High=6 Runnable=1
Index Uname Jname Sname     Status   TTY    Core Out %Time    Time PIs
  0 SYS    SYS    SYS        HANG    ?        42   0   0%
  1 CORE   JOB    CORE       UUO     ?         0   0   0%
  2 ___002 HACTRN ___002     HANG    >        30   9   0%
  5  ___002 PEEK   ___002    +TTYBO  T0  C    11   3   0%
  3 TARAKA DMPCPY DMPCPY     SLEEP   ?         3   0   0%
  4 PFTHMG DRAGON PFTHMG     SLEEP   ?         6   0   0%
Fair Share 103%     Totals:                   92       0%
Logout time =         Lost 0%  Idle 97%  Null time = 38

A HACTRN (think DDT, think shell) is up and running - let’s start TECO:

:TECO
SYS: SYS3; TS TECO - NON-EXISTENT DIRECTORY

Hm, must be making something wrong… Let’s get some help:

:INFO
SYS: SYS3; TS INFO - NON-EXISTENT DIRECTORY
:LISTF
DSK: ___002; .FILE. (DIR) - NON-EXISTENT DIRECTORY

Eh, what?

Well, it seems that either my ITS installation is lacking some files, or I, as the prototypical luser, am doing something very stupid… Maybe I have to mount some stuff first?

I think I’ll start with reading the fucking manual

To be continued, I guess.


See Also

Previously: Nice Hacks 0

Next up: Blending In

The machine thinks that the Web-Log entries You Asked For It - You Got It, 26th Ludum Dare - Postmortem, and The German Programming Apprenticeship - A Review might be related to the topic so eloquently discussed above. The machine is sometimes right.