|Developer||Digital Equipment Corporation|
|Written in||Assembly language|
|Latest release||7.1 / June 1988|
|Default user interface||Command-line interface|
The TOPS-20 operating system by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) was a proprietary OS used on some of DEC's 36-bit mainframe computers. The Hardware Reference Manual was described as for "DECsystem-10/DECSYSTEM-20 Processor" (meaning the DEC PDP-10 and the DECSYSTEM-20).
TOPS-20 began in 1969 as the TENEX operating system of Bolt, Beranek and Newman (BBN) and shipped as a product by DEC starting in 1976. TOPS-20 is almost entirely unrelated to the similarly named TOPS-10, but it was shipped with the PA1050 TOPS-10 Monitor Calls emulation facility which allowed most, but not all, TOPS-10 executables to run unchanged. As a matter of policy, DEC did not update PA1050 to support later TOPS-10 additions except where required by DEC software.
TOPS-20 was based upon the TENEX operating system, which had been created by BBN Technologies for Digital's PDP-10 computer. After Digital started development of the KI-10 version of the PDP-10, an issue arose: by this point TENEX was the most popular customer-written PDP-10 operating systems, but it would not run on the new, faster KI-10s. To correct this problem, the DEC PDP-10 sales manager purchased the rights to TENEX from BBN and set up a project to port it to the new machine. In the end, very little of the original TENEX code remained, and Digital ultimately named the resulting operating system TOPS-20.
Some of what came with TOPS-20 was merely an emulation of the TOPS-10 Operating System's calls. These were known as UUO's, standing for Unimplemented User Operation, and were needed both for compilers, which were not 20-specific, to run, as well as user-programs written in these languages. The package that was mapped into a user's address space was named PA1050: PA as in PAT as in compatibility; 10 as in DEC or PDP 10; 50 as in a PDP 10 Model 50, 10/50, 1050.
Sometimes PA1050 was referred to as PAT, a name that was a good fit to the fact that PA1050, "was simply unprivileged user-mode code" that "performed the requested action, using JSYS calls where necessary."
The major ways to get at TOPS-20 capabilities, and what made TOPS-20 important, were
The "EXEC" accomplished its work primarily using
Rather advanced for its day were some TOPS-20-specific features:
One could then type ? to find out what operands were permitted/required.
The following list of commands are supported by the TOPS-20 Command Processor.
JSYS stands for Jump to SYStem. Operands were at times memory addresses. "TOPS-20 allows you to use 18-bit or 30-bit addresses. Some monitor calls require one kind, some the other; some calls accept either kind. Some monitor calls use only 18 bits to hold an address. These calls interpret 18-bit addresses as locations in the current section."
Internally, files were first identified, using a GTJFN (Get Job File Number) JSYS, and then that JFN number was used to open (OPENF) and manipulate the file's contents.
PCL (Programmable Command Language) is a programming language that runs under TOPS-20. PCL source programs are, by default, stored with Filetype .PCL, and enable extending the TOPS-20 EXEC via a verb named DECLARE. Newly compiled commands then become functionally part of the EXEC.
Paul Allen maintained several publicly accessible historic computer systems before his death, including an XKL TOAD-2 running TOPS-20.
See also SDF Public Access Unix System.
Edited: 2021-06-18 18:37:34