VTserver

 

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VTserver  is a wonderful piece of software. It emulates two devices for a PDP-11: the console and a tape drive. Using this package, you can bootstrap disk images or 2.11BSD to a tabula rasa PDP-11 that has no tape drive.

Get it here.

VTserver was written by Warren Toomey to be hosted on UNIX and Linux platforms. I ported it to the PC platform Win32 console environment (not Windows). I developed and tested my port using Windows Millennium edition. Since I used Win32 calls for I/O and synchronization, rather than doing barefooted port I/O, it should run on any of the Win9x flavors and also Windows NT/2000/XP. This file contains the PC executable, the modified vtserver.c, and the .dsw and .dsp files for Visual C. Get the rest of the files from Warren's distribution.

VTserver sends a bootstrap program to a cold PDP-11 using ODT commands. The bootstrap loads the first record on the virtual tape into memory and runs it. If the first program is boot.dd, you can boostrap the rest of a 2.9BSD distribution. If the first program is "copy", you can copy a disk image from the tape to the hard drive.

My VTserver extends the block number in the packet header (in a backwards compatible way), so that files larger than 32 megabytes can be transferred. The standalones in the 2.9BSD-MSCP distribution include this extension.

I also fixed the terminal emulator so that you don't get garbage on the screen when UNIX boots and switches to 7-bits-even-parity.

I have written vtc, a VTserver client that runs under 2.11BSD, that reads a file from VTserver, and pipes it to its output. This solves the problem of loading the rest of 2.11BSD onto a machine that has no tape drive or removable disks.

Fred van Kempen is working on a new version of VTserver that solves these problems much more comprehensively and elegantly, but it's not available yet.

The terminal emulation is a bit crude. No matter -- it's adequate to get BSD loaded, then use Kermit for a console if you have to, but I recommend getting a real VTxxx terminal.

BTW,  when looking for a real terminal, I recommend the VT420. It has higher screen resolution, less EMI if you put it on top of a computer, higher data rates, and more configuration options. They are easy to find, cheap, and many are still in very good condition. If you get a VT420 or VT320 that has MMJ connectors (looks like a phone connector) you can get cables and adapters from L-com. (2005 update -- they may have discontinued pre-made cables, but they still carry the MMJ connectors).

 

Last modified: December 31, 2009