[TUHS] finding help in v7 in 1980
will.senn at gmail.com
Sat Nov 11 04:00:15 AEST 2017
Everyone on the list is well aware that running V7 in a modern simulator
like SIMH is not a period realistic environment and some of the
"problems" facing the novice enthusiast are considerably different from
those of the era (my terminal is orders of magnitude faster and my
"tape" is a file on a disk). However, many of the challenges facing
someone in 1980, remain for the enthusiast, such as how to run various
commands successfully and how devices interoperate with unix. Of course,
we have do resources and some overlapping experience to draw on -
duckduckgo (googleish), tuhs member experience, and exposure to modern
derivatives like linux, macos, bsd, etc. We also have documentation of
the system in the form of the Programmer's Guide - as pdfs and to some
degree as man pages on the system (haven't found volume 2 documentation
on the instance).
My question for you citizens of that long-ago era :), is this - what was
it like to sit down and learn unix V7 on a PDP? Not from a hardware or
ergonomics perspective, but from a human information processing
perspective. What resources did you consult in your early days and what
did the workflow look like in practical terms.
As an example - today, when I want to know how to accomplish a task in
modern unix, I:
1. Search my own experience and knowledge. If I know the answer, duh, I
2. Decide if I have enough information about the task to guess at the
requisite commands. If I do, then man command is my friend. If not,
I try man -k task or apropos task where task is a one word summary
of what I'm trying to accomplish.
3. If that fails, then I search for the task online and try what other
folks have done in similar circumstances.
4. If that fails, then I look for an OS specific help list
(linux-mint-help, freebsd forums, etc), do another search there, and
post a question.
5. If that fails, or takes a while, and I know someone with enough
knowledge to help, I ask them.
6. I find and scan relevant literature or books on the subject for
Repeat as needed.
Programming requires some additional steps:
1. look at source files including headers and code.
2. look at library dependencies
3. ask on dev lists
but otherwise, is similar.
In V7, it's trickier because apropos doesn't exist, or the functional
equivalent man -k, for that matter and books are hard to find (most deal
with System V or BSD. I do find the command 'find /usr/man -name "*" -a
-print | grep task' to be useful in finding man pages, but it's not as
general as apropos.
So, what was the process of learning unix like in the V7 days? What were
your goto resources? More than just man and the sources? Any particular
notes, articles, posts, or books that were really helpful (I found the
article, not the book, "The Unix Programming Environment" by Kernighan
and Mashey, to be enlightening
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