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Computer nostalgia

 
Andrew Polansky
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Last time I was thinking about computers and software from the past. I got into so big nostalgia that I had to turn on my laptop to Google some screenshots of the old software I used. It was really great feeling to see all of those screenshots after so many years. Here is what I found. Post screenshots of your nostalgic software too!

Click on the images to see full image.


Borland Delphi 6
IDE from Borland for Delphi, a (Object)Pascal-based language. It had absolutely awesome GUI for creating window applications. Sadly I can't find any screenshots showing creation of windows applications, but on the top toolbar you can see a list of various elements. You could simply drag-n-drop them on a form, rescale, set properties in a sidebar, and so on, in similar way like NetBeans or Visual Studio does it.





Turbo Pascal
Another piece of software from Borland. It was an IDE for Pascal, running under DOS.




Dev-C++
Windows IDE for C++. It was using gcc under mingw/cygwin as the compiler. Their website didn't change a bit since last time I downloaded a Dev-C++ copy on my Win98! http://www.bloodshed.net/devcpp.html




WinAsm
Windows IDE for x86 assembler. Look at this code completion! On the screenshot below somebody is writing a window application using WinAPI.




OllyDBG
Disassembler and debugger for Windows executables. One of my most beloved programs of the past. This program was a pearl when you had some knowledge and shareware you wanted to unlock. Sometimes to crack a software, it was as simple as to replace conditional jump with just normal JMP in the place where entered serial code is checked - instead of jumping into error message, the jump was made to unlocking procedure Or sometimes software was just literally generating valid serial, saving it in memory, and comparing with user input... in such case you could extract a valid working serial without need to modify the executable file! Oh those were good old times!




Visual Studio 2005
My first full-blown IDE for C++.




Windows Millenium
We all remember this catastrophe. I think I had it for a week or two and then came back again to 98SE until 2000 was released




Coyote Linux
Probably the first Linux system I used. It's a tiny distribution focused for router-computers. It fit on a single 1.44 floppy!




Linux SuSE 8
My first Linux with GUI.




Fedora Core 5
A first Linux distro for which I completely removed Windows from HDD.




Duke Nukem 3D
My favorite and probably longest played game from DOS times.



And for the end a special....
Commodore C64
My first computer at home. C64 had built-in BASIC interpreter, which was also my first programming language that I learned. I still have it in my parents home, I must pick it up when I go there next time!



The monitor above is a dedicated monitor for C64, but you could connect it easily to any TV.



Today it is probably crazy to think that you was saving and loading data from... cassettes!


Another crazy fact is that you could "download" software from... radio! One radio sender had special auditions at night where they were streaming programs as a sound, which you could record on a cassette.

Back in time there were also computer magazines dedicated to C64. And they were shipped with programs, that... well... you had to type yourself Below is an example:


If you think this is crazy to retype a code like this, then you certainly didn't see this. This is a hexadecimal code to type in


Cassette players required correction of the head position from time to time. You had to run a special utility software, play a cassette, put screwdriver into a special hole in the cassette player and rotate it to get the right position. The screenshot below shows such utility. Those lines below are moving from right to left as the cassette is being played. The goal was to rotate the screwdriver until those lines were completely straight. The screenshot shows incorrectly set head.




So much nostalgia when I think about those things. What is your computer nostalgia?
 
Paul Clapham
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I remember Turbo Pascal: it was in the mid-80's when I wrote the first version of my birding list application in that language. It was hard work, it took me several months before I suddenly understood how polymorphism worked in an OO language. Later I rewrote it in Java and converted my tacky "big bunch of text files" where the data was stored into a proper MySQL database and I'm still using it (and updating it) to this day.
 
Bear Bibeault
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I've been in the business since 1978 -- yes, that's 38 years -- I have no nostalgia about old software or systems that I've used in the past*. Maybe that makes me a curmudgeon



but I look back and just kinda shudder at how antiquated it all seems now. And realize that what's in front of me will seem so in short order.

Maybe that's not a bad thing.




* OK, I will forever hold VAX/VMS in a special place in my heart, but have no desire to revert to 1970's style computing.
 
Pat Farrell
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Bear Bibeault wrote:I've been in the business since 1978 -- yes, that's 38 years -- I have no nostalgia about old software or systems that I've used in the past*.

* OK, I will forever hold VAX/VMS in a special place in my heart, but have no desire to revert to 1970's style computing.


I'm a bit older than @Bear, I started earning my living programming in 1971, roughly 45 years. Which predates the evil Vax/VMS system by at least five years. My first programming was on punched cards. My third system was my first true love, the DEC PDP-10. Which was replaced by a DEC DECsystem-20 with Tops-20. A few years later, DEC released the Vax-11/780 and VMS, which was smaller, cheaper, and far less useful than a DEC-20 with Tops-20. Sadly, the idiots working on VMS refused to talk to the guys who were delivering Tops-20, so they ignored the lessons learned over more than a decade. This would not have been a big deal long term, after all the Vax was replaced by PCs, except that the guy who ran VMS became the guy who managed Windows NT, and be brought all the mistakes of VMS with him.

My Windows professional development started with Windows 386 2.11
 
Winston Gutkowski
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Adam Scheller wrote:Post screenshots of your nostalgic software too!

I can't unfortunately because "screenshots" didn't exist in those days (1986), but my nostalgic software was something called Speed 2, which ran on the Wang VS - IMO, the best machine (and OS) I've ever used. Bar none.

Pity the after-sales service was so crap...

Winston
 
Steffe Wilson
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Pat Farrell wrote:Sadly, the idiots working on VMS refused to talk to the guys who were delivering Tops-20, so they ignored the lessons learned over more than a decade. This would not have been a big deal long term, after all the Vax was replaced by PCs, except that the guy who ran VMS became the guy who managed Windows NT, and be brought all the mistakes of VMS with him.

Which mistakes were brought from VMS to NT? I've never come across a comment like this before and as someone interested in 80s computing I would be keen to hear more detail.
 
Pat Farrell
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Steffe Wilson wrote:Which mistakes were brought from VMS to NT? I've never come across a comment like this before and as someone interested in 80s computing I would be keen to hear more detail.


David Cutler had a severe case of NIH, not invented here. While he worked for DEC, he completely ignored the OS work on the DEC PDP-10 and Tops-20 large scale systems. His approach to the design of virtual memory was different and far worse. He also made a lot of assumptions about memory residency for the OS kernel. NT 'daytona" was much faster than NT 3.1 because Microsoft brought in folks with real OS expertise, who greatly reduced the size of the required in-memory kernel, leaving more for swappable kernel and even user applications.

TOPS-10 was the operating system that MIT, Stanford AI, CMU, etc. started with. Nearly all of them switched to Tenex in the early to mid-70s. (Tenex was Tops-20, ran on PDP-10 Hardware.) Tenex was the host operating system of choice for the vast majority of early Arpanet/Internet work. There was an active and huge community of DARPA supported research into OS and networking.
 
Steffe Wilson
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Pat Farrell wrote:
Steffe Wilson wrote:Which mistakes were brought from VMS to NT? I've never come across a comment like this before and as someone interested in 80s computing I would be keen to hear more detail.

David Cutler had a severe case of NIH, not invented here. While he worked for DEC, he completely ignored the OS work on the DEC PDP-10 and Tops-20 large scale systems. His approach to the design of virtual memory was different and far worse. He also made a lot of assumptions about memory residency for the OS kernel. NT 'daytona" was much faster than NT 3.1 because Microsoft brought in folks with real OS expertise, who greatly reduced the size of the required in-memory kernel, leaving more for swappable kernel and even user applications.

TOPS-10 was the operating system that MIT, Stanford AI, CMU, etc. started with. Nearly all of them switched to Tenex in the early to mid-70s. (Tenex was Tops-20, ran on PDP-10 Hardware.) Tenex was the host operating system of choice for the vast majority of early Arpanet/Internet work. There was an active and huge community of DARPA supported research into OS and networking.

Thanks Pat. That's a very different perspective from what I've previously encountered regarding Cutler's contributions. Any suggestions where I could read more about this alternate view?
 
Pat Farrell
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Steffe Wilson wrote: That's a very different perspective from what I've previously encountered regarding Cutler's contributions. Any suggestions where I could read more about this alternate view?


Winners write history. The PDP-11 was a huge success, it had several different OS, but RSX-11 was Cutler's and was very popular. Because of that, and that VMS was the successor OS, it made sense for Cutler to lead it. Remember, the first Vax was the Vax 11-780, and ran PDP-11 code perfectly in hardware. VMS version 1 was barely more than RSX-11 with some 32 bit hacks. Sometime in late 70s, Gordon Bell declared that DEC should have one architecture and one OS, with the Vax and VMS being the one. The PDP-10 and DECsystem 20 development stayed alive until about 1984, when Bell's wishes were granted and all other architectures killed. His dream did not last long, as the complexity of the Vax instruction set doomed its performance (something the PDP-10 folks knew the hard way in the 70s). Thus in the late 80s, DEC had to join the RISC revolution with the Alpha. While the Alpha was fast, it was a market failure. Not long after, DEC was bought by Compaq and disappeared. A few years later, Compaq was bought by HP and disappeared.

There is still a usenet group, alt.sys.pdp10 where old timers hang out. Read Dan Murphy's papers on Tenex to learn its history. http://tenex.opost.com/
In general, Tenex is the keyword to learn about great operating systems that Cutler ignored.

There are a couple of hardback history books on NT's development that cover this, but you have to know the back story. As it was Cutler's history, he told the story from point of view.

Interesting factoid, when NT 3.1 was released, there were three hardware platforms supported, Intel X86, Dec Alpha, and Mips. There was work on the Intel i860 VLIW chip. Later a PowerPC version was released, based obviously on the Mips work.
 
Winston Gutkowski
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Pat Farrell wrote:Winners write history.

Indeed. I don't know about any of you, but I was already nostalgic for Sun about three months after the takeover.

Winston
 
Andrew Polansky
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Wow. This thread got much more interesting that I expected. Thanks for all the great posts. I saw computers from those years in a museum, it's great to read comments from people that actually used those computers.

When I was writing about C64 I thought I will surprise people about the cassettes, but I see there are users that still remember the perforated cards My father used to work with those when he was working as an electrician with one of those taking-all-warehouse-space computers. Sadly I don't remember what it was.

 
Winston Gutkowski
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Adam Scheller wrote:but I see there are users that still remember the perforated cards

Not only that: I still remember how to make Christmas stars out of paper tape, and I've never found anything better.

IT Origami.

Winston
 
Peter Rooke
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First operating system was Unix System V. I do recall our first programming language was PASCAL / Shell Scripts, but we started with the ed editor. So when we got to learn C using VI it was much nicer
On the PC side we were using twin floppies [disk] PC machines and MS-DOS 3. You could load SMART or Windows 3.1 but it took an age with all those floppies...
Some of the business software I recall; Uniplex (press f7 to crash the whole server!), Windows 3.1, SMART, Lotus 123 and HAL, Word Star, GEM.

In a short time PC's became more powerful; and it was all Turbo BASIC / PASCAL / C++ (nice IDE colours). I do recall that one of the more powerful business tools was a product called DBASE IV and a complier called Clipper.

For your entertainment, here's a small list of humorous links about past technologies;

The Last Bug
The Vaxorcist
Know your Unix System Admin
A Workspace Odyssey - EJB CMP
Totally Gridbag
S stands for simple
 
Paul Clapham
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Peter Rooke wrote:I do recall that one of the more powerful business tools was a product called DBASE IV


Yes, you could do a lot with dBase IV. I remember working on an application which scheduled shipping terminal supervisors to shifts based on their (fairly complicated) union contract. That definitely wasn't a simple application, I remember the job went on for quite a long time.
 
Andrew Polansky
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Great collection of links Peter, thank you for taking the time to collect them

 
J. Kevin Robbins
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Anybody else use one of these? If I remember right, I bought mine for about $25 dollars. Used it to learn BASIC.



I really enjoyed using Turbo Pascal, but I never once saw a job posting that was looking for TP experience.
 
J. Kevin Robbins
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Winston Gutkowski wrote:
Adam Scheller wrote:but I see there are users that still remember the perforated cards

Not only that: I still remember how to make Christmas stars out of paper tape, and I've never found anything better.

IT Origami.

Winston

Don't forget Snoopy calendars!
 
Tim Holloway
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My first computer was borrowed time on an IBM 1130 minicomputer running FORTRAN IV. There's an emulator available online, incidentally.

Moving up, DOS/VS on an IBM S/370 Model 135. There's an emulator for that, as well (Project Hercules), and I have some CDs I burned of my DASD images. I had OS/MVS running on the Raspberry Pi at one point.

The Commodore Amiga was the one where I went into business for myself. One of the first microcomputer-based C++ compiler systems was my work sold as SAS C++ for the Amiga.I still have one of just about every Amiga model up to when Commodore went bust, including CDTV, and the "Amiga Forever" emulator for Linux.

First Linux was Slackware, 2 floppies with a "boot disk" and a "root disk".

I still have several boxes of punched-cards in my office closet. Someday I'm tempted to take some Legos and an Arduino and make a card reader for them. I have source code for a Fortran-like compiler and an MC6800 microprocessor emulator I was working on to run on the Prime minicomputer at school. Speaking of which, I think I have source code for the Prime version of Star Trek on some paper tape!
 
Stevens Miller
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Not quite a screenshot, but this is a picture of hardware identical to what I used in 1979/80 to collect the data for my honors thesis project:



What you don't see in that picture is the little breadboard and some TTL chips I wired up to count bursts of photons detected by an antique photomultiplier tube. I don't think the Physics professors were all that impressed with my thesis, but some of them were agog that I could wire up a Radio Shack computer into an actual experiment (I even co-authored a short paper with one of them for the American Journal of Physics about it).

You want nostalgia? My lab was on the ground floor of the science center and I could only get one radio station on my little receiver. When my experiment ran, I had to turn out all the lights and never open the door, because more than a few photons would ruin the antique photomultiplier tube. So I would sit there, in the dark, for hours at a time, while the TRS-80 gathered up counts of photon bursts, wrote them out to cassette tape (for later reading into an autocorrellation program), over and over, all while listening to the same top-40 playlist, over and over. To this day, when I see a picture of a TRS-80, I always hear the Starland Vocal Band singing "Afternoon Delight."

Not sure, really, if that's nostalgia, or simply nausea, but I always hear it.
 
Tim Holloway
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Here's my first PC (the box on the left) https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1e/Cromemco_Z-2D_with_HDD_1980.jpg

I never had a hard drive on mine, just 8-inch and 5-inch floppies.

This is a 6U-sized rack-mountable unit, which I built from a kit (as in soldered in every last socket and chip. When I bought it, it came in 2 boxes. 1 big box with the case and backplane, and another much smaller 30-lb box containing the S-100 power supply. Switching supplies weren't in general use back then. It had 2 soup can-sized capacitors to smooth out power ripple, 1 a 1-farad one, the other only 1/2 Farad. I could touch a 5W 30-ohm resistor across the terminals a week after it was powered off and it would arc-weld the resistor to the terminals.

A near-identical system sits in the Smithsonian, formerly owned by SF author Jerry Pournelle. He named his "Zeke".

In 1979 I worked on an IMSAI machine just like the one in the movie "War Games", except it had no speech synthesizer. I used it to develop firmware for an 8085-based industrial process control system.
 
Stevens Miller
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Tim Holloway wrote:2 soup can-sized capacitors to smooth out power ripple, 1 a 1-farad one, the other only 1/2 Farad.

Oh, man, you are bringing back the memories. I also built one of those early S-100 kits (can't recall what it was named, and it never worked). It came with a schematic for me to build my own power supply from scratch. I did, and the board simply refused to power up. The old man and I (I was 17 at the time) got out his oscilloscope and looked at the allegedly twelve-volt DC output: It had about three volts of ripple on it. I did the math and, Great Ghu!, their schematic called for filter caps that were one-tenth of what they should be. Off to the store and, like you, I came home with two objects that resembled containers of frozen concentrated orange juice. Mine were covered in blue transparent plastic. I never tried the arc-welding trick, but we knew enough to stay the hell away from those things. Thank goodness that kind of thing is dead and buried.
 
Tim Holloway
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Mine is in the garage.

I'm afraid to power it on after all this time, though. The caps have probably dried out and the transformer wiring insulation has probably deteriorated. It might catch fire.

I had better luck, overall. I found one weak signal (bad solder connection) and a memory board kit didn't work because the manufacturer had swapped out bus buffer chips and their alternates didn't do the job. Fixed that by putting in what the schematic said.

I used that machine until about 1985, when I bought one of the first Amiga 1000's to hit town.
 
fred rosenberger
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This is the first computer I remember using. My dad's lab built them for something. I used it to play tic-tac-toe. I lost, but i was probably 4.
 
Stevens Miller
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God, now I really do feel old. The very first real computer I programmed (as opposed to programmable calculators) was the HP 2000. I never saw it, as we used modems and a teletype machine to connect with it. I never bothered to look it up before, but this thread made me curious about what it looks like.

So, I Googled "HP 2000." This is what I got:



I'm fairly confident that's not what was on the other end of the line in 1973. In truth, that machine looked like this:



Now, I'm no mathematician, but I'm pretty sure they haven't run out of integers at Hewlett-Packard, so the fact that, a little over 40 years later, they are using this model number again means they've forgotten there was ever an HP 2000, they think we've forgotten there was ever an HP 2000, or both.

Either way, I'm sitting here getting a little misty-eyed by all this.
 
Tim Holloway
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More accurately, since about Carly Fiorina, "HP" forgot there ever was an HP.

to the ghosts of Hewlitt and Packard, my sincerest condolences.
 
Pat Farrell
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Stevens Miller wrote:The very first real computer I programmed (as opposed to programmable calculators) was the HP 2000. I never saw it, as we used modems and a teletype machine to connect with it.

I'm no expert on HP2000, but I think that the unit in your photo from the 70s has two CPUs. Or, I can't think of anything besides a CPU that would have all the lights and switches.

IIRC, the OS on the HP2000 was called MPE. This was an era of proprietary operating systems and the vendors tried to lock you into their hardware environment. HPs was called MPE (Multi-Programming Executive). The US Government was very tired of being locked into one vendor, they wanted to be able to switch hardware vendors, so they charged the NIS&T (National Institute of Standards and Technology) to invent the POSIX standard. AT&T considered Unix to be proprietary, so NIS&T could not just say "Unix" they had to say POSIX. The first standard was not much, it was really just a C-binding to an API that provided threads, pipe, signals, etc. They thought it was good enough to let them say POSIX and get Unix. It failed because clever engineers at HP added the C-binding API to MPE, and this allowed the HP 2000 running MPE to pass the POSIX compliance tests.

The NIS&T folks were very unhappy and saw they had a lot of work ahead of them.

IMHO, POSIX never met its goal. By the time they built up most of what is recognizably Unix in a standard, Linux with GNU utilities was out and popular.
 
Peter Rooke
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Since we are talking mainframes, has anyone noticed that we are really back to where we started from. Software as a service, the "cloud" (well a big datacenter). I know there are significant differences but the concept of central processing seems to be the fashion again.
Think I'll jump ahead and re-invent; client server "cloud" processing, and even N-tier "cloud" processing - maybe already been done with micro services (in the cloud)...

Anyway all this discussion about mainframe machines got me to look at some of the hackish definitions The New Hacker Dictionary


dinosaur /n./
1. Any hardware requiring raised flooring and special power. Used especially of old minis and mainframes, in contrast with newer microprocessor-based machines. In a famous quote from the 1988 Unix EXPO, Bill Joy compared the liquid-cooled mainframe in the massive IBM display with a grazing dinosaur "with a truck outside pumping its bodily fluids through it". IBM was not amused. Compare big iron; see also mainframe. 2. [IBM] A very conservative user; a zipperhead.

dinosaur pen /n./
A traditional mainframe computer room complete with raised flooring, special power, its own ultra-heavy-duty air conditioning, and a side order of Halon fire extinguishers. See boa.

dinosaurs mating /n./
Said to occur when yet another big iron merger or buyout occurs; reflects a perception by hackers that these signal another stage in the long, slow dying of the mainframe industry. In its glory days of the 1960s, it was `IBM and the Seven Dwarves': Burroughs, Control Data, General Electric, Honeywell, NCR, RCA, and Univac. RCA and GE sold out early, and it was `IBM and the Bunch' (Burroughs, Univac, NCR, Control Data, and Honeywell) for a while. Honeywell was bought out by Bull; Burroughs merged with Univac to form Unisys (in 1984 --- this was when the phrase `dinosaurs mating' was coined); and in 1991 AT&T absorbed NCR. More such earth-shaking unions of doomed giants seem inevitable.

walking drives /n./
An occasional failure mode of magnetic-disk drives back in the days when they were huge, clunky washing machines. Those old dinosaur parts carried terrific angular momentum; the combination of a misaligned spindle or worn bearings and stick-slip interactions with the floor could cause them to `walk' across a room, lurching alternate corners forward a couple of millimeters at a time. There is a legend about a drive that walked over to the only door to the computer room and jammed it shut; the staff had to cut a hole in the wall in order to get at it! Walking could also be induced by certain patterns of drive access (a fast seek across the whole width of the disk, followed by a slow seek in the other direction). Some bands of old-time hackers figured out how to induce disk-accessing patterns that would do this to particular drive models and held disk-drive races.

COBOL fingers /koh'bol fing'grz/ /n./
Reported from Sweden, a (hypothetical) disease one might get from coding in COBOL. The language requires code verbose beyond all reason (see candygrammar); thus it is alleged that programming too much in COBOL causes one's fingers to wear down to stubs by the endless typing. "I refuse to type in all that source code again; it would give me COBOL fingers!"
 
Tim Holloway
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Stuff cycles. Monolithic mainframes, time-sharing, PCs, CORBA (back to centralized processing), distributed processing, HTTP (centralized, again), AJAX (back to the client), web services (back to the server), clouds, over and over again.

It's almost like there's no "Silver Bullet", no one-size-fits-all solution.
 
Paul Clapham
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Peter Rooke wrote:`IBM and the Seven Dwarves': Burroughs, Control Data, General Electric, Honeywell, NCR, RCA, and Univac.


I have a promotional mug on my desk from Burroughs. It says "Keep Up To Date With Burroughs" and to show how up to date it is, it has not only the 1978 calendar on it but the 1979 calendar as well!

 
Pat Farrell
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Peter Rooke wrote:Since we are talking mainframes, has anyone noticed that we are really back to where we started from. Software as a service, the "cloud" (well a big datacenter). I know there are significant differences but the concept of central processing seems to be the fashion again.

Everyone my age started on mainframes. I was in the commercial timesharing business for about a decade from 74 to 85. The cloud service folks are learning exactly what we learned back then. Which is one of the reasons I suggested upthread to search for Tenex, the operating system on the DEC-mainframes when they invented the Arpanet (later Internet).

There was a lot of work on OS "microkernel" back then, as the huge timesharing machines were reaching end of life. Sadly, the operating systems we live with today, Windows (son of NT), OS-X (son of BSD with some Mach), and Linux, did not build on that very good work. The micro-kernels allowed a design with very strict security controls, which is important in today's everything is connected onto the Internet world.
 
Peter Rooke
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One notable feature of TENEX was its user-oriented command line interpreter. Unlike typical systems of the era, TENEX deliberately used long command names and even included non-significant noise words to further expand the commands for clarity. For instance, Unix uses ls to print a list of files in a directory, whereas TENEX used DIRECTORY (OF FILES). "DIRECTORY" was the command word, "(OF FILES)" was noise added to make the purpose of the command clearer. To relieve users of the need to type these long commands, TENEX used a command completion system that understood unambiguously abbreviated command words, and expanded partial command words into complete words or phrases.

Pat, now we could not have that! That would lead to users wanting to log into a server and, shudder, enter commands. It was much better to let them lose in Unix with restricted shell on a guest account. I do recall the finance director, who was our boss, wanted to use the big computer. Wanted to see how his pet MRP system worked (it was written in C). We did try to explain the shell command line, and he was keen, but then he entered VI. Don't think he ever got out of it, and never seemed to log in again!

Seriously though, it is interesting to hear that todays operating systems are somewhat inferior to those previous ones. Guess we all knew that of WinDoze and MS-DOSE ("just say no"), but I was under the impression that Unix was well built. Truth is that the best architecture may not prevail, as it seems to come down to cost over quality... True in other industries too, some proof of that is the Concorde passenger jet. Now a museum piece.
 
Tim Holloway
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If you like long command names, then the Linux systemd people are your friends. Just to get a listing from their binary logger requires the "journalctl" command and to start/stop/monitor a resource is the "systemctl" command. When you're frantically trying to diagnose and repair problems, it gets old real fast.

Unix, thus Linux has always had a tradition of (often cryptically) short command names. Like "cat" for "concatenate", "ls" for list directory, "od" for "octal dump", and on and on.

A lot of older systems had longer command names because they cheated. The command-line parser (rarely was it an independent shell) would look at one or more core command forms stores in fixed-size tables. The result was that commands like "sort" actually matched on the "sor" part, but since the rest of the word was ignored, you felt like you were talking English. Especially when optional "noise words" were allowed as well. A lot of the virtues of these command parsers actually were side-effects of all the corners cut to conserve program RAM.

You can see this anew (cyclic again!) in the long-form parameters for Linux commands. Usually an option like "--applyfastfouriertransform" can be truncated to only the bare minimum of characters needed to distinguish it from other similar option names.

For actual command names, if you like them shorter (or longer), there's the "alias" command.

When it comes to long command names, the Apple Commando shell wins hands-down in my opinion. Since operating the Macintosh in command-line mode wasn't the norm, most people didn't even know about this feature, I think, but a job I was working on back then did.
 
Winston Gutkowski
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fred rosenberger wrote:This is the first computer I remember using.

OK, since nobody's heard of the Wang VS (and I can't find any images for it); here's the first computer I ever used:
It was bought by my school in 1968 or 9, along with a couple of teletypes - one of the first schools in the UK to have their own - ostensibly for doing accounting; but since this was mostly done in the holidays, it left the machine available as a teaching aid during term time.

I never amounted to anything in terms of student hierarchy - never a prefect or monitor - but in my junior year (1972/3) I was one of only two students in the entire school to have a key to the computer room and computer (note the barrel key point at the bottom left). And in my senior year I was head of the "Computer Club", and actually had Maths and Physics teachers coming to me for help.
I also wrote my first major program on that machine - a train simulation in BASIC, back in the days when GOTOs and GOSUBs were by line number only, that took five minutes to load on the mechanical PTR, and about ten to "save" (ie, punch - ≈ 20-25 feet of paper tape).

From then on, it was pretty much inevitable that I'd become a programmer.

Winston
 
Stevens Miller
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Tim Holloway wrote:A lot of older systems had longer command names because they cheated. The command-line parser (rarely was it an independent shell) would look at one or more core command forms stores in fixed-size tables. The result was that commands like "sort" actually matched on the "sor" part, but since the rest of the word was ignored, you felt like you were talking English.

God, yes, I remember that! It lead to command-language programs (we DEC guys didn't know what a "shell script" was) with all kinds of silly variations. Instead of:

DIRECTORY
DATE


you'd end up finding .dcl files with gibberish like this:

DIRTYROTTENSCOUNDREL
DATA THAT GETS IGNORED


Especially when optional "noise words" were allowed as well.

Heh. One of our friends here might call those "noise words" a form of self-documentation .
 
chris webster
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Well, I can't compete with you hard-core nerds, but my first experience of programming was typing Basic code from a magazine into a Sinclair Spectrum owned by a college friend of mine:


But that got boring really fast as soon as the bars were open....

My first real programs were written in Pascal, typed onto punch-cards and submitted to a computer that I never even saw because it lived in its own building elsewhere on campus.

The first programs I got paid to write were using various Oracle tools and ran on a DEC Microvax 2000 which was pretty darned cool to us in 1988, let me tell you!


 
Tim Cooke
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Chris, I took this photo last month

 
chris webster
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I'm impressed you can still get the thing to run at all (my pal sold his in exchange for beer money!), but where's your cassette tape recorder for all that Big Data storage?
 
Peter Rooke
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I recall that we worked out a command that made the spectrum look as if it was loading a game (1) with those yellow and blue border bars. Soon that give us the idea of creating fake game loading screens...
Then off to the local W H Smiths in town, retype the code on the display specturm; stand back. People would be waiting and waiting for the latest game to not load Shop staff never did work it out...

(1) RANDOMIZE USR 1221 [ don't know how - but I still remembered this! ]...
 
Andrew Polansky
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Awesome thread. Awesome stories, thoughts, and photos!

Peter, I once played a joke with a fake program as well... on my mother Once I saw in TV some criminal movie with a scene where an officer enters phone number to a computer and gets full personal data of the phone number owner. I thought it would be funny to recreate something similar on my C64. So I wrote a program that takes a phone number, then shows messages like "Connecting with mainframe..." and other similar things, and then displays personal info like name, surname, address, nationality of a person that owns that number. I added to the program all entries from our phone numbers notebook, so every our friend was saved in the program. One weekend I loaded the program and told my mother that I hacked the police database. At the beginning she had no idea what I am talking about, then I showed her the program, entered our phone number, and all her info appeared. She thought it's a joke, so I told her to enter any number she like. So she took the notebook with phone numbers and entered a few numbers... She got it very serious, being scared that we will get into troubles and so on. But ultimately I told her it's just a fake. We had a lot of laughs, especially me, because we didn't even had a modem for the C64
 
Stevens Miller
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That's rich!

Someday, my son will get to wax nostalgic over the computer gags he's playing on his daddy today. Most recently, the little smart-ass has learned how to send me an animated GIF on my iPhone. Here's a single frame:



You'd be surprised how many times he's had me waiting with that one.
 
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