[TUHS] X and NeWS history (long)
krewat at kilonet.net
Thu Sep 14 01:16:22 AEST 2017
On 9/12/2017 11:55 PM, Jon Steinhart wrote:
> I look at the systemd problem slightly differently. In short, I was
> coming into work one night at BTL when Ken was heading out the door for
> his sabbatical at UCB with a stack of mag tapes under his arm. I see
> that as a pivotal moment in computer history. Students could learn from
> an actual real computer system; they had source code access. And, they
> had the ability to modify and contribute to that code. A lot of students
> from that era went out to do great things. Years later, the lower cost
> of PCs resulted in students using them for their work. Not only was MS-DOS
> not as advanced a system as UNIX, but source code access was gone. Students
> had to learn from contrived projects, and didn't have the ability to play
> with the guts of the operating system that they were using.
Completely agree. To keep beating the dead horse, in high school we had
access to a PDP-10, a KA10 running TOPS-10 5.06 - later they switched to
4 KS10s running TOPS-10 6.03
I gained some notoriety as a hacker, and was tasked by the consulting
firm that ran the things to build a "better" MIC (a batch scripting tool
that allowed you to run things offline and go back later to look at the
results). I had exploited the original DEC version to give me access to
Anyway, during that period, I was allowed to visit the installation, and
if it was a weekend when students weren't on, to mount the "black" RP06
pack that had all the TOPS-10 sources on it, and look at or print out
anything I wanted (look or print, same thing, really, the access was via
LA120). I learned a lot. Went on to work for the place for a few years.
Somewhere during that time, I was exposed to the IBM-PC and PCDOS.
Except for my own projects in assembler, the IBM DOS and Technical
Reference Manuals were all I had access to. HOWEVER - IBM in their
infinite wisdom actually provided the sources to the BIOS in the manual.
Still have that manual. That was awesome. I didn't have the DOS sources,
but it wasn't hard to disassemble them with DEBUG and take a peak
anyway. Back then, it was all written in assembler anyway, so it was
only missing the symbols. Nothing was "out of reach".
Now, with C or C++, or worse, higher-level languages being the default
choices, that optimize everything to death, it's hard to disassemble
anything and really "see" what it's trying to accomplish, and how. Not
impossible, I've done some reverse engineering of various OS's, but
For today's kids, well, it's a much different story. My son has a CS
degree, but has almost no experience really peaking under the hood of
any OS - some small ventures into kernels, but nothing huge like UNIX.
Which brings me to another thing. Linux sources are freely available,
and yet I don't see anyone really looking at them as an educational
thing. I might be wrong, my experience in higher education is NONE.
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