Dick Hustvedt

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Richard "Dick" Irvin Hustvedt (February 18, 1946 – April 15, 2008) was a renowned software engineer, designer and developer of several operating systems including the RSX-11, and VMS (OpenVMS) systems of Digital Equipment Corporation. He also was a principal kernel developer of the Xerox Data Systems (XDS) RAD-75, RBM-1 and CP-V operating systems.

Personal history[edit]

Hustvedt was born in Aberdeen, South Dakota and grew up in Radcliff, Kentucky, home of Fort Knox. He attended the University of California, Berkeley studying computer science and was later employed by the Army Security Agency. Following the ASA, Dick worked for the Xerox Corporation on the development of operating systems for their Data Systems division (Xerox DSD Development Programming in El Segundo, California).

He was recruited by Ken Olsen to join Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) in 1974. He moved from Los Angeles, California to Concord, Massachusetts where he worked at the company headquarters at "The Mill" in Maynard, Massachusetts.

Married to Audrey R. Reith in 1976. Father of sons Eric Hustvedt (1978) and Marc Hustvedt (1979).

On January 13, 1984, he suffered a severe head injury in an automobile accident in Acton, Massachusetts. He resided in New Hampshire at the time of his death on April 15, 2008.

The OpenVMS development team, now part of Hewlett-Packard, named a conference room in his honor in Nashua, New Hampshire facility.


Main article: OpenVMS

OpenVMS, originally called VMS (Virtual Memory System), was first conceived in 1976 as a new operating system for the then-new, 32-bit, virtual memory line of computers, eventually named VAX (Virtual Address eXtension). The first VAX model, the 11/780, was code-named "Star", hence the code name for the VMS operating system, "Starlet", a name that remains to this day the name for the system library files (STARLET.OLB, etc.). VMS version X0.5 was the first released to customers, in support of the hardware beta test of the VAX-11/780, in 1977. VAX/VMS Version V1.0 shipped in 1978, along with the first revenue-ship 11/780s.

OpenVMS was designed entirely within Digital Equipment Corporation. The principal designers were Dave Cutler and Dick Hustvedt, with a wide variety of other contributors. OpenVMS was conceived as a 32-bit, virtual memory successor to the RSX-11M operating system for the PDP-11. Many of the original designers and programmers of OpenVMS had worked previously on RSX-11M, and many concepts from RSX-11M were carried over to OpenVMS.

OpenVMS VAX is a 32-bit, multitasking, multiprocessing virtual memory operating system. Current implementations run on VAX systems from HP and other vendors.

OpenVMS Alpha is a 64-bit multitasking, multiprocessing virtual memory operating system. Current implementations run on Alpha systems from HP, and other vendors.

OpenVMS IA64 is a 64-bit multitasking, multiprocessing virtual memory operating system. Current implementations run on Itanium 2 systems from HP, and other vendors.

In March 1975, a small aggressive development task force was formed to propose a 32-bit PDP-11 architecture. The team included representation from marketing, systems architecture, software, and hardware. The company formed a group that became known as “The Blue Ribbon Committee” that included three hardware engineers: Bill Strecker, Richie Lary, and Steve Rothman, and three software engineers: Dick Hustvedt, Dave Cutler, and Peter Lippman.


“In the early 1980s, we were designing computers so complex, our engineering processes couldn’t keep up with them. We discovered we had to use the latest VAX to simulate the new one we were building. Building VAXes on VAXes—our first computers became tools for building the next generation of VAXes.” —Bill Strecker Chief Technical Officer, VP, CST

“Roger Gourd passed around the book The Mythical Man-Month by Fred Brooks and almost all the team members read it. Most of us already had one operating system under our belt, so Brooks’ discussion of the ‘second system effect’ struck home. The ‘second system effect’ results from each engineer wanting to fix all the mistakes and shortcomings of their first system. Left unchecked, the second system effect can cause runaway complexity that can be disastrous for software quality and schedule. A new term entered the programmers’ lexicon—‘Creeping elegance’ — a process in which a design is successively refined to be increasingly complete, eventually yielding a result that collapses because of its size and complexity. The entire software team was very conscious of maintaining the balance between producing a functional, high quality product and staying on schedule.” —Andy Goldstein VMS Engineer on original development team

“People worked a lot of overtime during the creation of VMS. At one point, we hired an engineer from California, Ralph Weber. For the first week he had a rental car and was living in a hotel. He got there so early that he parked in exactly the same spot every morning, and he stayed late. After a week, a security guard thought the car had been abandoned and called the car rental place to come and collect it. That night Ralph went to leave, and his car was gone. So he ran into the security room shouting, ‘My rental car’s been stolen!’ They started to call the police and then, luckily, another security guard came in and said, ‘No, no, we had that one towed today because it’s been there a week and we thought it had been abandoned.’” —Kathy Morse, VMS Engineer

“Today, OpenVMS is the most flexible and adaptable operating system on the planet. What started out as the concept of ‘Starlet’ in 1975 is moving into Galaxy for the 21st century. And like the universe, there is no end in sight.” —Jesse Lipcon, Senior VP, UNIX and OpenVMS Systems Business Unit

“(Open)VMS remains King of the Clusters. DIGITAL’s technology is still the high bar against which other clustering schemes are measured.” —Datamation, August 15, 1995


  • "Nothing Stops It: VAX OpenVMS at 20" [1]
  • "DEC used by Digital itself:" PDP11 Processor Handbook (1973): page 8, "DEC, PDP, UNIBUS are registered trademarks of Digital Equipment Corporation;" page 1-4, "Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) designs and manufacturers many of the peripheral devices offered with PDP-11's. As a designer and manufacturer of peripherals, DEC can offer extremely reliable equipment... The LA30 DECwriter, a totally DEC-designed and built teleprinter, can serve as an alternative to the Teletype."
  • Edgar H. Schein, Peter S. DeLisi, Paul J. Kampas, and Michael M. Sonduck, DEC Is Dead, Long Live DEC: The Lasting Legacy of Digital Equipment Corporation (San Francisco: Barrett-Koehler, 2003), ISBN 1-57675-225-9.
  • "VAX-11" 1st Edition - Dick Hustvedt, 1975 [A19] - Stanford

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