[CentOS] Re: Ole Fossils [ was Re: ls and rm: "argument list too long"]

David G. Mackay mackay_d at bellsouth.net
Sat Oct 25 21:18:01 UTC 2008

On Sat, 2008-10-25 at 12:10 -0700, Bill Campbell wrote:

> My first Burroughs experience was on the B-5500, and it had some
> ``interesting'' quirks.  Using Burroughs extended ALGOL, one could do what
> they called array row writes to very efficiently write large chunks of
> memory with a single hardware command.  The hitch was that if one tried to
> write more than 1024 48bit words, it would crash the entire system, with a
> side effect of losing the accounting information for all running programs,
> which could be useful when paying $750/hour for time sharing :-).

I'm surprised that the bug lasted very long, or did it just go
unreported? ;)

> Are you retired Air Farce?  A fair number of Burroughs field engineers had
> learned the Burroughs equipment in the AF (and could afford to work at BGH
> low pay because of their retirement pay).

No, I was just young and foolish.  Then someone explained that Burroughs
wanted to get their techs hired away by the customers.  They'd most
likely continue to support Burroughs equipment, but on someone else's

> One might say that I worked for Burroughs too as I debugged their Remote
> Job Entry (RJE) software for Medium systems, including patching MCP,
> because the company I worked for needed it to work.  I talked Burroughs out
> of the source code for RJE and the current version of MCP so that I could
> fix things.  After I sent them the fixes, I never had any problem getting
> anything I asked for.

It's impressive that you managed to talk them out of the source, and
that you fixed it.

> FWIW, the entire source code listing for MCP fit in a single file drawer.
> Reading the comments in the code, it was obvious that a very small group of
> people worked on it which resulted in quite nice integration and
> consistency.

Legend had it that the medium systems MCP was mostly written by one guy
who lived in a beach house in California with two women.

> Can you imagine`Microsoft making the source code for Windows available to a
> small customer for free, and with no NDA so the customer could fix a
> problem that was critical to them?  Even if they supplied the source, do
> you think anybody could figure it out?

Well, I did have a go at their Device Driver kit at one point.
Convoluted is the first printable word that comes to mind.

> One of the most important features of open source software is the
> availability of the source code so people can quickly fix bugs critical to
> them or add features they need.  As an example, in January 2000, groff had
> a y2k problem with dates which I found printing a letter that needed to go
> out.  It took me about 15 minutes to find the problem in the code, fix it,
> and send that patch back to the maintainers.  Imagine how long it would
> take to get a similar problem fixed in M$-Word.

Yes.  Trying to support a black box (It took YEARS before they released
the source code to the B1xx systems to their support employees outside
of the plant) made me a firm believer in open source.


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