My first ‘professional’ programming job was on a DEC-10. I learned enough COBOL in high school that I managed to convince the Data Processing department at Texas State University to hire me as a programmer. They were an excellent IT shop and I learned lessons that have never left. However, I was paid less than minimum wage at the time, and within a year I move to a commercial shop where I doubled my pay. The DEC-10 was replaced by a VAX system within a few years and I never saw one again.
The DEC-10 was an influential system in its time. It was one of the early time-sharing systems and was installed in many universities. Bill Gates and Paul Allen used its 8080 emulator to write their first version of BASIC. Many influential games were written on it.
A few years ago I was researching something or another and stumbled across a DEC-10 emulator. I had some free time so I decided to figure out how to get one running for myself. Although I had written code for a DEC-10 I never acted as an operator. I had no idea how to get one running to the point where I could login and play with it.
You can find the PDP-10 emulator at
You also need a pre-built system (O/S installed into a hard drive). Go to
Once you have the parts you need to get the system up and running. Here are the notes I made to myself when I was learning how to operate the system. These notes not only include boot up/shut down but also using SOS to edit files, running batches, operating the printer, tape drives, etc.
Once the DEC-10 is running, you can telnet into it:
If you take the time to build this emulation and get it running, you will find that TOPS-10 has many similarities to MS-DOS. I expect the early microcomputer O/S’s were influenced by this machine.
Last year I went with a friend to the Living Computer Museum in Seattle to find almost certainly the last running DEC-10 in the world. Paul Allen decided he didn’t want this (and other) systems to disappear and has maintained a running DEC-10 there.
This is a pretty accurate representation (in terms of hardware being used) of the system I used: