A report and a request from Al Kossow

Many people know of Al Kossow through his work on bitsavers.org, which I mentioned in a previous post. I’m very pleased to mention here Al’s recent appointment as the Robert N. Miner Software Curator at the Computer History Museum. Al is off to a great start on a variety of efforts including reading old magnetic media, etc. He asked me to post this item about an important recent development:

In the spring of this year, the Computer History Museum was contacted by someone who had several SDS 900 series machines, and told us that he had the entire SDS software library from Honeywell in the early 80’s.

The donation arrived at CHM on Friday, and I’ve spent the past few days going through it. It does, in fact contain ALMOST the entire collection as it existed at Honeywell in March, 1982. Unfortunately, the 940 timesharing system software was already gone from the library by 1982. Two 940 archive tapes, a set of user programs and the off-line diagnostics have survived.

There is a very large collection of user’s manuals, program writeups, paper and magnetic tape. This is the largest software collection that has survived largely in one piece from a 60’s computer manufacturer that I’ve ever seen.

Scans of most of the program library listings are on line now at bitsavers under pdf/sds/9xx/programLibrary. I’m in the process of post-processing several dozen programming and other user’s manuals.

There are about 100 7-track tapes which will have to wait until I have a reliable way to read them. The smaller program library programs were written to 9-track tape in 1982, and those have been successfully read and a machine-readable index of their contents have been started.

Do you know anyone who may have worked for computer companies in the 60’s or 70’s that was a pack rat? The companies themselves have either disappeared or discarded this stuff literally decades ago!

This discovery has reinforced my opinion that there may still be large archives of 60’s and 70’s software in the hands of individuals, and that the most important thing to do is to get the word out that CHM is committed to the preservation of these archives, and has the facilities to recover these latent archives and keep them for posterity.

So if you are one of these people or you know one of them, please contact Al.

Update 1/2/2016: Updated several URLs.

TENEX Interlisp

Tom Rindfleisch kindly supplied a set of TENEX Interlisp files from a system dump of the SUMEX-AIM <lisp> directory as of January 31, 1982. Tom notes:

This version of Interlisp should be both TENEX and TOPS20 compatible. It came at a time when lots of work was going on to port Interlisp to other environments, including the VAX and the new personal Lisp machines (Dolphins, etc.). This means little was changing in the TENEX/TOPS20 version.

There are links to these files here.

Speaking of TENEX Interlisp, TWENEX.ORG is offering free TENEX accounts on a simulated KL10B and they seem to have a version of Interlisp installed. I plan to investigate.

[Edited 10 May 2014: community.computerhistory.org/scc/projects/LISP/index.html#INTERLISP_ => www.softwarepreservation.org/projects/LISP/interlisp_family/#INTERLISP_.]

Progress with Lisp 1.5 source

Rich Cornwell (some of whose work I reported on earlier) and Bob Abeles (who was the first to point out to me the existence of the Fortran II sources) have recently completed a reconstruction of the card deck for the “Bonnie’s Birthday Assembly” of Lisp 1.5 (see Pascal Bourguignon recreates machine-readable source for LISP 1.5). Rich notes:

Bob Abeles has finished proof reading Lisp-1.5 and is pretty confident that the binary matches the listing. Unfortunately it still does not run. So we need someone with more lisp experience or possible compare it to some of other versions you have listed on your Lisp site. It currently does not work correctly under sim3.6 due to card reader bug. I will get this fixed in next couple of weeks. … But after two people proofing it (Bob & me) I am pretty sure that it matches now.

It is also possible that the lisp interpreter works correctly, but my test jobs is wrong.

Rich’s files are here if you’d like to take a look.

[Edited 10 May 2014: community.computerhistory.org/scc/projects/LISP/lisp1.5 => http://www.softwarepreservation.org/projects/LISP/lisp15_family/#LISP_I_and_LISP_1.5_for_IBM_704,_709,_7090_.]


My name is Paul McJones. I am using this weblog to discuss historic computer software and hardware among other topics. For several months I’ve been studying the early history of Fortran, and trying to track down the source code for the original Fortran compiler. Although I just set up this weblog recently (June-July 2004), I’ve created back-dated entries to document my quest in chronological order, starting here.

I welcome suggestions for additional topics, and also would like to invite others to contribute articles on the history of early programming languages, operating systems, database management systems, and applications.

If you like this web log, you might be interested in the System R website documenting the history of the System R relational database research project, which gave birth to the SQL query language.

Paul McJones (photo by Kelly Castro)