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

Bill Campbell centos at celestial.com
Sat Oct 25 22:02:41 UTC 2008

On Sat, Oct 25, 2008, David G. Mackay wrote:
>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? ;)

I'm not sure about that.  It was only available on the extended ALGOL that
was the system language (it had no assembly per se).  They came out with
what they called Compatible ALGOL that was more limited, and was all that
was available for the average user, but it broke several of my programs so
they allowed me to use the extended version.

The COMNET time sharing service in D.C. used the B-5500.  It was formed by
several ex G.E. time sharing people, and we were one of their first beta
(and largest) customers, so I tended to get what I asked for.  On the other
hand if something went wrong, and they saw me on the system, I usually got
the blame :-).

>> 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

That sounds like Burroughs.  Ray MacDonald, Burroughs Chairman, was quoted
in an interview in Fortune magazine saying their goal was to keep their
customers ``surly but not rebellious''.

>> 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.

I think that was because I always had an excellent relationship with the
support people, and made some good contacts at the annual CUBE meetings.
It always helps to have low friends in high places.

>> 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.

That would not surprise me.  Medium Systems MCP was very well written with
lots of comments (although some might be considered R-Rated).  It
definately did not look like it was the product of a committee.

>> 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.

I have always thought that a major problem with Microsoft software is that
it is largely written by young, inexperienced people who had little or no
understanding of networking, security, or multi-user systems.  My brother
is one of the few people I know who worked for Microsoft who had major
experience on Real systems(TM) (DEC, Prime, etc.)  before going to MS.

INTERNET:   bill at celestial.com  Bill Campbell; Celestial Software LLC
URL: http://www.celestial.com/  PO Box 820; 6641 E. Mercer Way
Voice:          (206) 236-1676  Mercer Island, WA 98040-0820
Fax:            (206) 232-9186

If the personal freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution inhibit the
government's ability to govern the people, we should look to limit those
guarantees.  -- President Bill Clinton, August 12, 1993

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