Category talk:DEC VAX systems

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Duplication of "VAX" categories?

There are two categories about VAX computer

They overlap a great deal, and I find it very irritating and disturbing.

Could they possibly be merged into one category? Vaxorcist (talk) 14:02, 22 May 2023 (CEST)

I am not in favor of this; the ideas of the two do not overlap (below). (If individual pages overlap, the first is a sub-category of the second, so no pages should be in both; if you find one in both, delete one tag.)
The concept, which I think is a good one, is that specific machines (e.g. VAX-11/780) go in Category: DEC VAX systems; Category: VAXen is the most general VAX category, and includes both i) sub-categories which wouldn't fit in the machine-specific category (e.g. Category: VAX Operating Systems, Category: VAX Peripherals), as well as ii) VAX-specific pages which don't fit in the machine-specific category (e.g. VAXcluster, VUP).
Category: DEC VAX systems might not be the best name, but changing it would be a nightmare; we'd have to edit every page in it; so I think we'll probably have to live with it. (The name pre-dates me; also, 'DEC VAX systems' is good because there are some non-DEC clones, e.g. CM 1700.) Same thing for Category: VAXen; if I were doing it, and starting from scratch, it would be Category: VAX, but it too pre-dates me.
Having said that, the VAX categories are not perfect, and can possibly/probably use some cleanup. In addition to individual pages which might be in the wrong category, looking at Category: VAXen, I can see several other potential new sub-categories (in a structure which parallels that elsewhere in the DEC category hierarchy): Category: VAX Buses (most are currently in Category: DEC Buses, along with Category: VAXen; and 'series' pages (VAX 10000 series, VAX 4000 series, etc) - we could set up a Category: VAX Series for them.
One either idea; if Category: DEC VAX systems has too many pages in it, we could split it up into Category: VAX workstations, etc.
In short, I don't think we have too many VAX categories, but too few. But I am interested to hear what you think. Jnc (talk) 15:58, 22 May 2023 (CEST)

Aha, now I understand (at least I think so ...). So in my opinion the following are wrong in "DEC VAX systems" and should go into "VAXen" instead:

The name of the category VAX 9000 Model 400 series does not really fit in "DEC VAX systems"; maybe it should be renamed to "VAX 9000 Models 4x0" or something similar.

I would not split "VAXen", because the computer names are clearly "speaking", although on the other hand a lot of VAXen are still missing, e.g. the MicroVAX 3100 models or the VAXservers 6000, for example. For a lot of (Micro)VAX/VAXserver variants the only difference between the two in a pair is a flag in the system ROM saying "I am a Multiuser VAX" or "I am a VAXserver".

It's good to have someone to talk to about these things - I feel I would be able to not find a reasonable solution on my own. Vaxorcist (talk) 18:31, 22 May 2023 (CEST)

Right, I know there are a lot still missing; I was working through Special:UncategorizedPages to catch them all. (They dropped out after I modified Template:InfoboxVAX-Data to not add pages that used it to Category: DEC VAX systems - I object to Infobox templates automagically adding articles that use them to categories - because I like to see categorization shown explicitly in article source.)
I will leave, for now, the idea of having a Category: VAX Series; but I will probably come back to it as some point.
I will look at those errors you pointed out; I agree they are probably wrong. Jnc (talk) 18:54, 22 May 2023 (CEST)
As you perhaps saw, doing them now. Will finish tomorrow morning. Jnc (talk) 02:46, 24 May 2023 (CEST)

Split up category?

I've been thinking that maybe we should split up Category: DEC VAX systems; many of the big machines can stay there (which will mean that we won't have to edit the pages :-), but I think we should maybe have Category: VAXstations as a sub-category. Any others?

I can't work out if we should have a Category: MicroVAXen for the MicroVAX 3100 series, etc, or if there should be a Category: Personal VAXen into which the VAXstations, most MicroVAXen, etc should go. (The issue is that VAXservers are technically MicroVAXen, but aren't personal machines; so should not go into such a category.) I guess maybe the Right Thing is to have a number of small bottom-level VAX categories, above which we do not have to have a strict tree; e.g. Category: MicroVAXen could hold Category: VAXservers (since many of the latter are the former), but if we have a Category: Personal MicroVAXen, that category could go into both Category: MicroVAXen and Category: DEC Personal Computers. (And obviously, once we have article pages assigned to smaller categories, it is easy to re-arrange the category structure above them, without having to edit individual pages.) Jnc (talk) 21:18, 11 August 2023 (CEST)

It's most likely a good idea to split Category:DEC VAX systems because of its size. But I would never create/use Category: Personal MicroVAXes; "Personal MicroVAX" wasn't common at all at DEC, but "VAXstation" was ubiquitous. There were Personal DECstation RISC systems, but that's a different matter. Putting together VAXstations and MicroVAXen into ONE sub-category would be wrong in my opinion, so maybe "VAXstations", "MicroVAXen", and "(bigger) VAXen" is the way to go for sub-categories below "DEC VAX systems".
I don't think we have to restrict ourselves to using category names which were used at DEC, because the whole point of the category system is to make it easy for current readers to find things. With that goal foremost in mind, the use of names that clearly (to a modern reader, who may be a novice in this historical area) describe what is included makes sense. E.g. Category: QBUS Storage Controllers; not a term that DEC used (the 'Microcomputer Products Handbook' lumps them all under "Peripheral Interfaces"), but a name that makes clear to modern readers what is it in. (Although perhaps 'QBUS Mass Storage Controllers' would have been better.)
So what's a clear, concise name that you would use to describe all the 'personal computer' VAXs (since I think that is a natural category to have, no matter what we name it)? I don't think we should use 'VAXstations', because that is a name DEC formally used on a particular group of products. Jnc (talk) 16:08, 13 August 2023 (CEST)
Onto the matter of (Micro)VAXen and VAXservers: Although not very well known and probably not sold very often, there were also "Server" versions of the "big" VAX systems, such as the VAXserver 6000 and also the VAXserver 9000 models. This made me think of an extra sub-category "VAXserver", which then includes the "small" ones as well as the "medium" and "big" ones. We/I should of course add cross-references from the (Micro)VAX models to the VAXserver models (and vice versa) if they do not already exist.
No problem with a Category: VAXservers, but I think we should have a different name for the 'VAX servers' category (of which Category: VAXservers should be a sub-category), because, again, 'VAXserver' is a name DEC formally used, and I don't think we should put in that category anything DEC didn't apply that name to. So what do we call the 'VAX servers' category? Jnc (talk) 16:08, 13 August 2023 (CEST)
I'm a little confused: What "VAX servers" are there that were not made by DEC? DEC called all their VAX servers "VAXservers" - even the MicroVAX II had a variant called the "VAXserver 100". So I would vote for a "(DEC) VAXserver" category without any other "VAX server" category above it. By the way - should "DEC" be included in the category names? Vaxorcist (talk) 17:35, 13 August 2023 (CEST)
Last but not least another rather unknown (and rare) kind of VAXen - the family of Real-Time (RT) VAXen, that should get its own sub-category, again ranging from the smallest to the big ones. Vaxorcist (talk) 18:17, 12 August 2023 (CEST)
No problem with having a category for them - what should we call it? Jnc (talk) 16:08, 13 August 2023 (CEST)
"(DEC) rtVAX Realtime Computers", or is that too long? Another question that arises: How much difference is between a "computer" and a "system"; and if there is any, what is it? Or only two names for one? Vaxorcist (talk) 17:35, 13 August 2023 (CEST)
Another one I forgot: the family of "VAXft" Failure Tolerant VAX systems, very special, very rare and - as far as I know - developed in France! Vaxorcist (talk) 17:35, 13 August 2023 (CEST)

We have a similar problem here, as we do over with Category:DEC Disk Drives‎‎; we can divide things up into i) functional groups ('personal computers', etc), ii) DEC product groups (e.g. 'VAXstations'), or iii) both. I have no particular preference. (Except that there are a lot of VAX personal computers which aren't 'VAXstations'. Are they all 'MicroVAXes'? To out it another way, were there any VAX personal computers which were neither MicroVAXes nor VAXstations?)

No, there weren't - all "VAX personal computers" (I cringe when I use that term) were VAXstations. All MicroVAX computers were multi-user computers, although some of the smaller ones (e.g. MicroVAX I, MicroVAX II, MicroVAX 2000) sometimes had just a single user consuming all of the MicroVAXs capacity. Vaxorcist (talk) 08:47, 14 August 2023 (CEST)

To me, a 'VAX server' would be a VAX whose only role would be to provide services over the network (files, booting, batch jobs), and which people didn't usually log into. If DEC did call all their VAX servers "VAXservers", this problem goes away. I guess nobody bought 'regular' VAXes to use them as servers? To put it another way, all the VAXes sold as 'servers' were branded 'VAXservers'?

Yes, all VAXes sold as "servers" were branded "VAXservers" - as you can see from their nameplates. Access to VAXservers was limited to two interactive logins for management purposes. If you wanted to use a VAXserver as a (Micro)VAX you had to buy an expensive upgrade option (new CPU Board, multi-user OS license, and new nameplate). DEC didn't tell anyone that the difference on the CPU board was merely the ROM! And yes, no one would have bought a "regular" (Micro)VAX solely for server usage - far too expensive. Vaxorcist (talk) 08:47, 14 August 2023 (CEST)

I tend to leave 'DEC' out of category names unless it is necessary; to distinguish a category from a super-cat which contains non-DEC things; e.g. Category: DEC Mainframes and Category: Mainframes. But just Category: QBUS, 'not 'DEC QBUS', etc, etc.

I'm not sure how much difference there is between a 'computer' and a 'system'; those terms are both too loosely defined to be definite. To me, 'systems' can be quite large (to me, the Internet is 'a system'; and in theory, the Earth's entire biosphere is 'a system'). But to me a 'computer' is a more indivisible thing; a 'computer' is either up or down. Multi-processors make it complicated; one CPU in some multi-processors can be powered off but the 'computer' keeps running. (In fact, one of the big 3-CPU Multics machines, at MIT; they would take one CPU down, disconnect it, bring it up as a single CPU system [for debugging] - while people 'stayed logged into, and using, the original system! And later they could reverse the process; add that CPU back into the system, again, without the logged-in users there noticing.) 'It is a complicated question', as they say! Jnc (talk) 21:57, 13 August 2023 (CEST)

While we are thinking about it, there are probably some parts of the (large, in total) effort we can get started on. I think we're agreed that no matter what we do about the functional/product decision, we should have a Category: VAXstations, containing all the VAXstations (except the VAXstation 100, which isn't a VAX at all, but a UNIBUS peripheral). If so, I can go ahead and set that up, and move all the VAXstations into it. Jnc (talk) 05:55, 14 August 2023 (CEST)

Proposal: 5 sub-categories
  • VAX computers
  • MicroVAX computers
  • VAXserver computers
  • VAXstation computers
  • rtVAX computers
The VAXft computers could possibly be included in the VAX category, as they were multi-user ones Vaxorcist (talk) 08:47, 14 August 2023 (CEST)
I see there is a problem with my proposal: We would have the same name for the top category and first of the second-level ones "VAX computers". Possible solution: Name the top level "Family of VAX computers", and the second level "Big VAX computers (4000/6000/7000/8000/9000/10000)". Or is that too long a name? Vaxorcist (talk) 13:44, 14 August 2023 (CEST)
Category: Big VAX computers (4000/6000/7000/8000/9000/10000) is definitely too long (although I like the idea for the category, in terms of what is in it); Category: Big VAX computers would be the one to use. Actually, I'd probably put them in a different name, Category: Mainframe VAX computers, so Category: Big VAX computers could be used for the 780-8650 (and maybe a few more, which are chronologically after the 8650; I forget the later history).
I see we never got started on this project; they are all still in Category: DEC VAX systems. So I'll do the two above; I think we also wound up going with Category: VAXstations and Category: VAXservers. I will start on it soon. Jnc (talk) 21:36, 3 December 2023 (CET)
I've been turning this over in my mind. Category: Big VAX computers is not great; 'big' means very different things to different people, so that category name won't put a clear idea in people's minds. However, going from the precedent of Category: Mainframe VAX computers, which does give a clear idea (I think), how about Category: Supermini VAX computers? (The remaining ones left after that we can think about. :-)
Also, I'm going to create a new, special category, Category: VAX Families, so that all the 'family' pages have a place to go, other than just Category: VAXen, where they are now. That can go in Category: VAXen, and also Category: DEC VAX systems, to help finding them. Comments? Jnc (talk) 20:17, 1 January 2024 (CET)
Ok, Category: VAX Families is done, so Category: VAXen is now not so full. Also, I decided to set up Category:QBUS VAXen (by analogy with Category:QBUS PDP-11s), but I have only just started to tag all the VAXen that use a QBUS for their I/O bus. That'll get done slowly - no rush.
I still would like to get feedback on the latest ideas for the cats to split Category:DEC VAX systems up into. Jnc (talk) 01:37, 2 January 2024 (CET)
To be honest: I don't like "Supermini" at all. It is contradictory in itself - kind of a weird advertising naming. You will most probably not find it in any technical DEC document. And misleading/irritating for anyone reading it for the first time. How about "Large VAX computers" or "VAX Datacenter computers"? Vaxorcist (talk) 20:35, 2 January 2024 (CET)
Well, 'supermini' is not a term I personally use (much), but it was (at one point) a fairly common term in industry trade publications, etc (e.g. here, in this marketing survey prepared for DEC). It was, of course, not a term that DEC used a lot, but they did use it occasionally; e.g. in the MICRO/PDP-ll Handbook, which explicitly uses that term for the /780: "a superminicomputer like the VAX-11/780" (although that book mostly uses the short form, 'supermini').
I have the same reaction to 'Large VAX computers' that I had to 'Big VAX computers'; it's a name that does not necessarily mean the same thing to everyone; 'large' is just too vague a word. I suggested 'supermini' because it accurately, in a way that would have almost the same meaning for all readers, named computers that were larger than a 'minicomputer', but smaller than a 'mainframe'.
I do not know if there was an official DEC name for the larger VAX machines; even if there was, I might not use it. I know that sounds like I am ignoring my usual preference for 'use the name that DEC used', but I have a reason for changing course in this case. Generally, if you have a physical thing, then with a few exceptions, there was not a generally-used term that everyone uses for it that is different from DEC's name - well, maybe 'straight 8' for the PDP-8 - but DEC FS used that too, informally! There isn't really an advantage to using a non-DEC name for objects. For more abstract things, though, there might be - if it's a term that is more generally understood.
(I remember someone from IBM came to MIT to give a talk to a group of CS graduate students, and he kept talking about "DASD". Essentially nobody had any idea what he was talking about, so someone asked; the reply - "round brown"! He meant disks. So, to bring it back here, if I were doing an article about a particular IBM disk drive, I might title the article 'xxx Direct access storage device", if that was IBM's formal name for it - but I would put it in Category: IBM Disk Drives, because that would be a name that everyone would understand; Category: IBM Direct Access Storage Devices, perhaps not so much.)
I'm all about thinking about what is best for the readers. If you do not like 'supermini', I can live with that; I did not have my heart set (as the expression in English goes) on using it. But then you have to come up with an alternative that is as equally as precise to use instead! :-) Jnc (talk) 21:20, 7 January 2024 (CET)
We still need an alternative to 'supermini'; a word that mrans 'bigger than a mini, but smaller than a mainframe'. Jnc (talk) 21:36, 30 January 2024 (CET)

The basic scheme

After letting this 'simmer' in the back of my mind for a while, I have the solution. We will have two parallel category groups:

Inclusions in the first groups will be purely based on the DEC formal names; inclusions in the second groups will be purely based on common sense. (Oh, and I think I'm going to rename that last one to Category:Mainframe VAXen, so it looks like the other ones.)

Exactly how to tie them in to the existing VAX category structure is the question. There are two possibilities: i) put them in Category:VAXen‎ (which I take to be the absolute top-level category for everything VAX-related), and ii) in Category:DEC VAX systems). I am still turning over in my mind how to handle this; if they are all put in both, one of those two categories would be redundant. At the moment I am thinking that all the first groups ('formal'), along with Category:VAX Families, should go in 'VAX systems', because they are subsets of the set of all 'VAX systems'; the other groups ('functional') should go in 'VAXen' (and maybe in 'VAX systems' too, to make them easy to find - which is, after all, the main point of the whole category system).

It will take a lot of work to make this all happen; I'm not going to do a big 'thrash', to make this happen as quickly as possible, but instead I will just work away at it slowly. Jnc (talk) 18:53, 6 May 2024 (CEST)


OK, started.

In retrospect, names like 'Mainframe VAXen' were not great; I know a lot of people used 'VAXen' as a 'cute' plural for 'VAX' but I'm not sure it's a good idea to use it here. So I renamed Category:Mainframe VAX Computers to the short, and clean, Category:VAX Mainframes. The other 'VAXen' category names that maybe we should eventually rename are:

I'm not sure what to do about them; we can't just reverse the word order, the way we (well, I) did with Category:VAX Mainframes. We can't just do 'Category:VAX Personals', and you said you didn't like 'Category:VAX Personal Computers' (which I can understand!); maybe Category:Personal VAXs? (What is the plural of 'VAX', anyway: 'VAXes' or 'VAXs'? Well, I'm sure some DEC documents will give it.) We don't have to decide instantly; there's a lot of other work in Category:DEC VAX systems that we can be getting on with while thinking about those; e.g. the VAX-11 and VAXft machines.

Also, I wound up with:

as the four 'functional' VAX groups. (I think four seems to cover the spectrum of sizes/functionality fairly well.) I know you didn't really like 'Superminis', but it was a moderately well-used term in the industry at one point (although not up there with 'mainframe' and 'mini'), and I just could not come up with another term that was precise enough (larger than 'mini' and smaller than 'mainframe'); 'large' and 'big' just were not precise enough. Jnc (talk) 14:34, 7 May 2024 (CEST)

Maybe Category:VAX Minis (the original choice for that category) isn't the best name; maybe Category:VAX Minicomputers would be better? It would be easy to change it at the moment; only 2 pages to change. (It's mildly annoying that renaming a category requires editing all the pages in it.)
Also, Category:DEC VAX systems doesn't follow the CHWiki system of capitalizing all the words in category names; that too will be relatively easy to fix, once most pages are moved out if it. (Speaking of which, time to do a few more.) Jnc (talk) 16:47, 9 May 2024 (CEST)
It turns out DEC does not seem to have a one-word plural for 'VAX'! I looked through a bunch of DEC marketing brochures, etc, and the common plural seems to be "VAX systems" (occasionally "VAX computers"). So maybe we should have Category:Personal VAX Systems, or Category:Personal VAX Computers, then? But I ditched Category:Mainframe VAX Computers because it was too long? Let me go away and ponder this for a while. Jnc (talk) 16:51, 13 May 2024 (CEST)
So we don't have categories for some 'DEC formal groups', which we need to have if the machines are to be easy to find via Category:DEC VAX systems (which we are moving them out of). Without such categories, people will have to look through Category:VAX Minicomputers, etc, to find some machines. We do have Category:VAXstations‎, etc, so some of the machines have 'formal group' categories they can go in, but not all of them do. The downside of trying to have all the machines in 'formal group' categories is that we'll have to come up with the 'missing' group names. I guess I may take a crack at creating them as we move individual machines out of Category:DEC VAX systems.
And I wonder if we should have a 'DEC formal groups' category to put those categories in (as well as one for 'functional groups), instead of sticking them all in Category:DEC VAX systems, individually. That would certainly make life easier when we go to fix the name of that cat. I'll put off that decision for the moment; it won't be hard to do it in the future if we decide to do that. Jnc (talk) 08:52, 18 May 2024 (CEST)
Almost all the 'DEC formal groups' I have created so far are named 'VAX xx Systems' (see note above about DEC's plural for 'VAX'). So maybe I'll make sure that all those categories have names of that form, as an informal tag for them? We'll have to rename Category:MicroVAXen, Category:VAXservers, and Category:VAXstations, to universally follow that scheme, but that shouldn't be so hard. Jnc (talk) 03:12, 20 May 2024 (CEST)
Category:MicroVAXen done, also Category:QBUS VAXen (which I had missed, above. Jnc (talk) 16:02, 23 May 2024 (CEST) And also Category:Personal VAXen; that wound up at Category:Personal VAX Systems, which is a bit clunky, but I could not think of anything better. So, almost all the 'VAXen' categories are fixed, except Category:VAXen. I am leaving Category:VAXservers and Category:VAXstations, since those are sort of legitimate. Jnc (talk) 05:42, 24 May 2024 (CEST)

Use of 'functional group' categories

So, should 'functional group' categories like Category:Personal VAX Systems and Category:VAX Mainframes contain individual models, or just 'DEC formal groups' (like Category:VAX 4000 Systems)? The advantage of putting individual models in functional group categories is that if there is a DEC formal group which has members that are in several different functional groups, we can handle that; the disadvantage is that it is more work (to do each model). On the other hand, is there a DEC formal group that has models that would fall in two functional groups? I suppose there might be some small machines (e.g. the 3100's) which go in both Category:VAX Minicomputers and Category:Personal VAX Systems. (The Category:VAXstation 4000 Systems are different hardware from the Category:VAX 4000 Systems, so they won't have that problem.)

After thinking about it, I suppose we could do both, as needed; e.g we could put the whole Category:VAXstation 4000 Systems in Category:Personal VAX Systems, while the 3100's could be split up, as individual articles, between Category:VAX Minicomputers and [[:Category:Personal VAX Systems], by model.

We had to do that already, with the VAX-11/7xx pages; the 780 is clearly a supermini, while the 730 is clearly a mini. (I will have to get advice in the 750! :-) Jnc (talk) 14:36, 25 May 2024 (CEST)

On another point, if we ever want to tweak the category structure, it would probably be easier if most models are only in DEC formal group categories (so we can just move those around, instead of having to move individual models around). On the gripping hand, we're unlikely to move models from one functional group to another. Jnc (talk) 21:12, 24 May 2024 (CEST)

Something else to ponder; should pages which cover 'DEC formal groups' (like VAX 4000 series) be in Category:DEC VAX systems, or just in the matching 'DEC formal group category' (Category:VAX 4000 Systems, in this case), which are then included in Category:DEC VAX systems? There's no obvious advantage to the former approach, that I can think of, and it does tend to fill that up. Jnc (talk) 14:36, 25 May 2024 (CEST)