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  Kermit Software for the Digital Equipment Corporation DECsystem-10

PDP-10 memorabilia
    (Click image for a gallery of DEC-10/20 publications)

Frank da Cruz
The Kermit Project, Bronx NY.
Most recent update: Sat Apr 8 14:46:21 2023 New York time
Flip to Kermit-20

Photo of KL10 CPU
KL10 operator console. Photo: Wikipedia
Digital Equipment Corporation's 36-bit PDP-10 was, arguably, the birthplace (together with its sibling, the DECSYSTEM-20) of both the Internet and the Open Source movement, and without argument, the source of many of the most influential software applications, including EMACS, TEX, ISPELL (the first spell checker), MACSYMA, SCRIBE, numerous LISP dialects, MM and other pioneering email clients, and Kermit.

The PDP-10 was the successor to the PDP-6, which appeared in 1964. PDP-10s came in four models: KA10, KI10, KL10, KS10. The primary operating system for the DECsystem-10 was DEC's TOPS-10 ("Timesharing Total Operating System-10"). The typical PDP-10 installation included multiple full-size cabinets for CPU, memory, controllers, networking front ends, and magnetic tape, plus washing-machine sized disk drives, line printers, and so on, requiring a large machine room with serious air conditioning and a great deal of 3-phase power; the electrical bill alone ran into the thousands of dollars per month, ditto for hardware maintenance. This was typical of any mainframe of the era.

Photo of KL10 CPU
A large DECsystem-10 installation. Photo: DEC
Other PDP-10 operating systems included MIT's ITS, Stanford's WAITS, Tymshare's TYMCOM-X, the version of TENEX that Xerox PARC ran on their MAXC PDP-10 clone (more or less equivalent to a KA-10 with BBN pager), and maybe some others. The PDP-10 line was canceled by DEC in 1983 and the machine gradually faded from view in the ensuing years. Manufacturing ceased in 1988. Some machines or clones remained operational through the 1990s (and a handful even to this day as museum pieces), and then in 2001 a renaissance of PDP-10 culture began with the release of several Unix- and/or Windows-based PDP-10 emulators (see Links section).

The distinguishing feature of PDP-10 is its rich instruction set and powerful repertoire of system services. This combination made the PDP-10 more fun to program than any other computer before or since (except the DECsystem-20!), and spawned a generation of prolific programmers ranging from Richard Stallman to Bill Gates.

PDP-10 Gallery ]

DECsystem-10 Kermit 3(136) April 2006

Photo of KL10 CPU
PDP-10 ad 1968 (KA10)
DECsystem-10 Kermit, or Kermit-10, was written in 1983-86 by Bob McQueen and Nick Bush at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken NJ, in DEC's Common Bliss cross-platform implementation language. Version 3(136) from Nick Bush consolidates the patches that have accumulated over the years and fixes a few bugs. Kermit-10 shares common source with Kermit-32 (the VAX/VMS version that was retired in 1987 in favor of VMS C-Kermit) and Kermit for the long-forgotten DEC Professional (PDP-11 based) workstation with P/OS. Recognizing that most sites never did and never will have a Common Bliss compiler, MACRO-10 versions of the source files are also available, output by Bliss-36, suitable for input to MACRO-10. As of version 3(136) the Bliss and Macro files are once again synchronized and the binaries produced from either set of sources are identical.

Kermit-10 source code is available in tar and Zip archives: "tarballs":

The files listed above as a Unix tar archive of text files in Unix format. Transfer in binary mode to Unix, uncompress with gunzip, and then de-archive with "tar xvf".

The files listed above in a Zip archive; extract them with unzip.
The files are also available separately as follows. Some of these file types, such as .mac, are nowadays associated with applications that might try to play them as music or show them as movies, so you might need to right-click on the link and then choose "Save as" or whatever:

k10.ann     Announcements
k10133.mem  Update notes
k10133.rno  Runoff source for update notes
k10com.req  Common Bliss header file
k10err.r36  Bliss-36 error number definitions
k10glb.bli  Bliss source file
k10glb.mac  Macro source file
k10mit.bwr  Kermit-10 "beware" file
k10mit.ccl  Kermit-10 link file
k10mit.ctl  Batch control file to build Kermit-10
k10mit.hlp  Kermit-10 help file
k10mit.mac  Macro source file
k10mit.rnh  Runoff source for help file
k10msg.bli  Bliss source file
k10msg.mac  Macro source file
k10sys.mac  Macro source file
k10tt.bli   Bliss source file
k10tt.mac   Macro source file
k10unv.mac  Macro source file
k10v3.mem   Kermit-10 V3 release notes Runoff source
k10v3.rno   Kermit-10 V3 release notes
k10wld.mac  Macro source file

Kermit for MIT's ITS Operating System

In January 2017, Lars Brinkhoff informed me of a version of Kermit in Maclisp for ITS, MIT's Incompatible Timesharing System. It was adapted in 1988 from a Common Lisp version (not sure which one yet) by Jonathan Rees of Scheme48 fame. Here are the files:

The main Kermit program

EMACS Info file for Kermit (original name: kermit.4).

Kermit dumper (needed for Maclisp)

Library of macros and subroutines for Maclisp

Lars notes, “I don't have the file AI: MATH; COMMON > which is referred to in lines 16 and 40 of kermit.170“. If anybody else has a copy, please let me know.

Kermit for Other PDP-10 Operating Systems

To my knowledge, no Kermit programs were ever written explicitly for TENEX, WAITS, or TYMCOM-X, but since Kermit programs were written in various LISP dialects, including Common Lisp, which presumably would have worked anywhere that Common Lisp was available. (The Emacs LISP version wouldn't have helped because PDP-10 EMACS was based on TECO, not LISP, and I don't think there was ever a TECO Kermit either!)

PDP-10 Kermit / Columbia University / kermit@kermitproject.org / 1 May 2015 / 8 April 2023