The VAX is the oldest machine architecture still supported by NetBSD.

The support for it sometimes causes heated discussions, but it also has benefits:

  • It uses a pre-IEEE 754 version of floating point numbers, while all other (later) architectures use some variant of IEEE 754 floating point in hardware or emulate it.
  • By today's standards all machines are slow and have little memory.

This are severe challenges for a general purpose operating system like NetBSD, but also provides reality checks for our claim to be a very portable operating system.

Unfortunately there is another challenge, totally outside of NetBSD, but affecting the VAX port big time: the compiler support for VAX is ... let's say sub-optimal. It is also risking to be dropped completely by gcc upstream.

Now here is where people can help: there is a bounty campaign to finance a gcc hacker to fix the hardest and most immediate issue with gcc for VAX. Without this being resolved, gcc will drop support for VAX in a near future version.

Posted early Friday morning, June 5th, 2020 Tags: