Summary: is there any word processing software for the pdp11?

Mark Wickens mark at
Tue Dec 2 08:29:07 CST 2014

Jacob, I went along a similar journey with VAX to find a terminal based
word processor. I used ALLIN1 back in the day so knew that was a
possibility - the word processing module is a successor of WPS-8 called
WPS-PLUS - this was a stand-alone application for a while before ALLIN1
came along.

Skip Walter, one of the original architects has written about it here:
There are a couple of other articles on his site too.

I installed and used ALLIN1 for my Retrochallenge 2009 Winter Warmup entry,
there are some screen shots and information here:

What I have found is that terminal based word processing software is pretty
thin on the ground across the board. The other alternative I've played with
is WordPerfect for Unix. I have that running on a Sun Ultra 5 under Solaris
2.9 - there is both a graphical and command line executable. Others have
tried to find similar software - a word processor you can telnet to
effectively - but there isn't a great deal out there.

To bring this full circle I also connected a daisywheel printer (a JUKI
6100) to the Ultra 5 and successfully printed out articles written in

If I could find a language I was comfortable with and a PDP environment I'd
give writing a rudimentary word processor a go (think the kind of
application you might have found on a CBM-64 back in the day for example).

Finally, TeX (or probably more likely LaTeX) is a great tool that easily
gets you hooked once you've had a play. It is *extremely* powerful so you
have to put a bit of effort in for anything fancy, but for banging out
letters you're in a straight ASCII text editor  - no frills (or maybe
thrills?) required. Definitely requires a page-based printer however
(inkjet/laser) - happy to be proved wrong but unless you have an
application to print pixels on your daisywheel (it has been done mind!)
you're out of luck using that as an output device from LaTex (actually that
might be a bit harsh - lots of documentation systems can convert to LaTeX
and I remember a terminal based preview application so maybe there would be
a bit of milage in there but it would mostly be a clash of technologies I


On 2 December 2014 at 14:00, Jacob Ritorto <jacob.ritorto at> wrote:

>   I was seeking the "best" pdp11 prose text editing experience for typing
> in manuscripts, composing, letter writing, etc. (not programming language -
> that was just a side effect of some editors actually being programming
> languages in and of themselves).
>   Since this is such a highly relative subject, I expected a slew of
> answers and got them (thanks, all!).
>   While not part of the originally-intended scope, the conversation has
> inspired me to at least try composing in TeX, which I've sort of meant to
> do for years, but never got a round tuit.  Sounds like it'll stay out of my
> way and allow me to just flow ideas and not even address layout until the
> end, which is, in essence, what I'm after.  That said, I think the most
> convincing answer to my original question so far, not having actually
> reviewed them yet, is some kind of emacs, most likely Jove since it's
> already there in 2.xBSD and keeps me from having to mess with/re-learn
> other operating systems (oh, shoot!).  As a side note, I used teco and edt
> back when pdp11s running DEC operating systems were still being phased out
> and found them to be unsatisfying; however, I do admit that I was an
> amateur at them.
>   My other point here was to get the Diablo 630 going and have it type
> nice, letter-quality copy for me.  Since my kid had a report due this
> morning, I caved and temporarily connected it to an old Sun machine and
> just threw lpd at it.  Pretty straightforward:
> lpadmin -p diablo -v /dev/cua/b -o stty=300 -o banner=never
> enable diablo
> accept diablo
> So the thing's up and accepting jobs.  Prints like a war zone :) !!!
> Once one of the '11s is up, on the net and stabilized, I'd like to have it
> take over this role as well.
> thx again for all the discussion around this & feel welcome to continue the
> thread!
> jake

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