Found my favorite DOS editor

Chuck Guzis cclist at
Thu Sep 30 01:29:43 CDT 2021

On 9/29/21 10:22 PM, Ethan Dicks via cctalk wrote:

> I started on 8-bitters.  On minis, I first encountered EDT (on VMS),
> then Emacs (on UNIX, AmigaDOS, and even VMS), then years later when I
> was working for Lucent/Bell Labs, vi...

Okay, story time.   Back in the early-mid 1970s, I found myself on the
CDC STAR-100 project software being run out of Sunnyvale.  While we had
two 1/100th speed emulators on-site, the Real Thing was back in Arden
Hills at the end of a 9600 bps leased line, multiplexed locally to
several 1200 bps async lines. (Remember the Bell 209 modem?).

A WYSIWYG editor was out of the question at 1200 bps and fairly
primitive CRT terminals, a line editor was the choice.  The one supplied
with the system software was terrible and awkward, so I decided to
bootleg a better one.

For those of you who don't know the old iron, the STAR-100/(later CYBER
200) was a big (physically large) vector machine with virtual memory and
a huge instruction set.  Its fatal weak point was that scalars were
treated as vectors of length 1, and so created bubbles in the two vector
unit pipelines.

But golly, with a 48 bit addressing space, vector lengths up to 65K
elements, all sorts of fancy bitmapped control vectors, and the ability
to map an entire file into an address range (leave the I/O to the
pager), the thing was begging for some experimentation.

So I threw together a line-oriented editor using mostly vector and
string instructions and called it OGNATE (for Oh god not another text
editor). It only took a couple of days of scribbling.

I revisited the big vector scene a decade later after a detour into the
micro world, when CDC spun off ETA systems to produce a liquid
nitrogen-cooled version, initially called the GF-10, later the ETA-10.

On the west coast, we were doing our initial development on a VAX
11/750, but at some point I asked the folks back in St. Paul what they
were using for an editor.  OGNATE!  I was dumbfounded--you see, the
ETA-10 has many fewer instructions than the STAR-100 did, among the
missing were some of the more esoteric ones used in OGNATE.  Someone had
painstakingly coded emulations for each of those instructions.

Ah, memories...


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