PiDP-8/I Software

OS Compatibility
Log In

The Situation

Although the core software underlying the PiDP-8/I software distribution is broadly portable, the dominance of Raspberry Pi OS on Pi hardware means we focus on making it work there first when it comes to final testing. However, we actually develop the software on regular desktop platforms, so it does remain fairly portable, if not quite as much as the union of the individual components in the distribution.

The remainder of this article lists the platforms where the software is known to work and the limitations that prevent it from working on others.

If you need the software to work on some platform where it currently doesn't, we accept patches! You can also send problem reports to our development forum, file a bug report, or discuss it on the users' mailing list.

Debian & Derivatives: Raspberry Pi OS, Ubuntu...

Raspberry Pi OS is the official OS for the Raspberry Pi, so that is our primary deployment target. However, because it doesn't deviate much from the underlying Debian OS it's based on, the software should work on Debian, Ubuntu, and other sufficiently close derivatives.

All instructions given for the PiDP-8/I software assume that you're running a Debian derivative where not otherwise stated.

The current stable release of this software successfully runs on the stable release of Raspberry Pi OS as of the time of its release, v10 — a.k.a. Buster — released in early July 2019.

The prior stable release of the software (v2019.04.25) targeted the prior OS release, Raspbian v9, a.k.a. Stretch. We believe the current stable software still runs atop Stretch, but it's been a while since we tested it, since the active developers' PiDP-8/I test boxes have all been upgraded to Buster.

The stable release prior to that (v2017.04.04) targeted Raspbian v8, a.k.a. Jessie. Somewhere along the line between this release and the one for Stretch, we broke compatibility with Jessie, so if you need to keep running on Jessie, which is now out of support, we recommend that you run version 2017.04.04 of the PiDP-8/I software, the last version specifically tested atop Jessie.

The project's primary maintainer occasionally builds and runs the software successfully on x86 Debian derivatives. On such systems, the software detects the absence of the PiDP-8/I front panel hardware and works without it.


There is one major exception to the rule that the software works on Debian derivatives. After Debian (and thus Raspbian) moved to systemd many years ago, we transitioned to it as well. Thus, the current software does not run out of the box on Devuan, a Debian derivative that purposefully removes systemd. You can recover the old SysVInit script from the software repo with:

$ fossil revert -r 27f585bd1b etc/

You will then have to make the following manual substitutions in the file:

@VARIABLE@ Standard replacement
@ABSPREFIX@ /opt/pidp8i
@BOOTDIR@ /opt/pidp8i/share/boot
@INSTUSR@ Either pi or pidp8i

After copying the resulting file to /etc/init.d/pidp8i, commands like sudo service pidp8i start should work.

Non-Debian Linuxes

There are non-Debian type Linux based OSes for the Raspberry Pi such as openSuSE for the Pi 3. Since the primary developers on this project haven't tried any of these Pi Linux distros, and no one has reported on their attempts to make it work, we can only speculate on the workarounds required, if any.

Off the Pi, pretty much every Linux distribution should be able to build and run our software, once you've installed all of its prerequisites. We've built and run it successfully a few times on 64-bit Intel boxes under CentOS, for example.


This project's current primary maintainers use macOS at home, so the PiDP-8/I software is frequently built and tested on macOS while we are working on features that do not require the PiDP-8/I front panel hardware.

Why? Because it builds many times faster than on a Pi!

Stock macOS doesn't have everything you need to make it work. We recommend installing Homebrew, then using that to install the third-party dependencies that the PiDP-8/I software needs.


Because of our regular testing on macOS, the software works well on x86 FreeBSD.

On FreeBSD 12, you need the following prereqs:

$ sudo pkg install coreutils gmake perl5 python py37-pip

Note that we preferentially target Python 3 now, which means if you're still using FreeBSD 11 or older, which included Python 2 instead, things may or may not work. We think we're still compatible with Python 2, but we haven't tested it recently.

The configuration process will fail if you do not give the --prefix option because /opt isn't present on FreeBSD by default. Rather than create that subtree, a more "native" FreeBSD configuration would be:

$ ./configure --prefix=/usr/local/pidp8i

There is a FreeBSD build for the Pi, but we believe it will not work with the front-panel hardware. You are more than welcome to fix this and send us a patch.


The PiDP-8/I software's build system requires a POSIX type environment. There are several ways to add that to Windows:

Linux VM

Currently, for maximum compatibility, your best option is to install some sort of Linux virtual machine on your Windows box.

Windows 10 Pro and up include Hyper-V, which runs Linux VMs quite well.

For those running Home class versions of Windows, the best free option is Oracle's VirtualBox.


This works, and appears to work well besides in the multiple times we've tried it. The most recent test was on 2019.05.11 with 64-bit Cygwin 3.0.7 on Windows 10.

You will have to install the libncurses-devel and python2-pip packages as well as standard Unix build tools: GCC, GNU Make, etc. Having done all that, the software will build and run.

Windows Subsystem for Linux

Terminal emulation and pty handling have been a longstanding problem with WSL 1, and there were still bugs in it the last time I tried it, on 2019.05.11 with 64-bit Windows 10 Pro 1803 running Ubuntu 18.04.02 LTS. It's much better than the tests we conducted back in 2017, however.

These problems mainly show up when running the simulator under GNU screen, as our bin/pidp8i wrapper does. In my latest attempt, the following would result in a "dead" screen session:

$ pidp8i start      ← start simulator under GNU screen
$ pidp8i            ← attach to screen session
Ctrl-A, d           ← detach; leave it running
$ pidp8i            ← reattach; reports it "dead"

You can avoid these problems by running the simulator directly:

 $ make run
 $ bin/pdp8 boot/0.script

...and so forth.

WSL 2 and the new Windows Terminal should solve these remaining pty and terminal emulation problems, but we haven't actually tested that yet.

We still mention the WSL 1 problems because there are cases where you can't use WSL 2, such as when running Windows in a VM that doesn't allow double-virtualization of the CPU. (e.g. Windows under Parallels on an Apple silicon ARM Mac.) WSL 2 is basically a specialized Hyper-V instance, where WSL 1 is an in-kernel Windows subsystem, so WSL 1 works on such systems where WSL 2 cannot.