Especially since Dennis Jerz’s discovery of the original Adventure source code, there’s been some interest expressed around the IF community and even in academic circles in experiencing PDP-10 software in its original form. The good news is that, thanks to projects like SIMH and archives like bitsavers.org, the tools are out there to recreate history on an everyday PC. The bad news, though, is that getting everything working can be tricky for anyone who didn’t administrate these systems back in the day. Having recently navigated these waters and finally come out with a working system I’m happy with, I thought maybe I could help some others out by offering as close to a one-click installation of a PDP-10 running TOPS-10 as I could manage. So, here it is: TOPS-10 in a Box, being a typical installation circa 1976-1983.
In addition to a complete and healthy TOPS-10 operating system, this distribution also includes FORTRAN and BASIC compilers and — probably of most interest to readers of this blog — Crowther’s original and Woods’s completed Adventure, both in source and executable form. Now you can experience these relics in their original incarnations. The completed 1977 Adventure is particularly interesting to experience on the “real thing,” what with its implementation of “cave hours” and “magic mode” and its strange save system.
In addition, this should serve as a solid TOPS-10 “starter system” onto which you can install games and even other programs. (There’s a nasty rumor that entertainment was not the PDP-10’s prime purpose, although I’m not sure I believe it.) To do that, you’ll have to get to know SIMH and TOPS-10 a bit better, but this system should still give you a leg up in getting started.
The readme file included with the download should tell you everything you need to know to get up and running. Do be aware that you need to acquire one other piece of software, the SIMH emulator itself, and also that this distribution is not small: it’s a 60 MB download in compressed form, and will expand to about 300 MB on your hard drive. So, it’s one for the hardcore time traveler only — but perhaps a few of you who find this sort of window into the past as fascinating as I do can make good use of it.