[TUHS] finding help in v7 in 1980

Jon Forrest nobozo at gmail.com
Sat Nov 11 05:15:01 AEST 2017

On 11/10/2017 10:00 AM, Will Senn wrote:
> 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.

I started in 1977 at UC Santa Barbara with Unix V6 that was running on a
PDP11/45 just during the night. The rest of the time it ran RSTS/E. In
fact, there was a sign that said "Oh say can you C by the dawn's early
light" on the wall because the time you were able to learn C was in the
early morning hours.

There wasn't much instructional material available to learn Unix
back then. I remember reading the man pages, and the few tutorials
about the 'ed' editor and the shell. But, I mostly learned stuff by
pestering the few people around who had somehow learned whatever it
was I was trying to figure out. Or, we worked together to figure things
out. I already mentioned the "Eunuch's User Group" meeting we had back
then that brought together many of the few people in S. Cal who were
using Unix back then. In spite of the fact that UCSB was one of the
first nodes on the Arpanet, I don't recall hearing about any way to
use it.

By the time Unix v7 came out, I was able to recognize its various
improvements, such as the 'make' command, the standard io library,
and others. The K&R C book also helped a lot. But still, Unix was
quite primitive and to this day I have the unconscious habit of running
'sync' at every stopping point because, due to the fragility of the
file system back then, doing so was a good way to minimize possible
file system damage when (not if) the system crashed.

Jon Forrest

More information about the TUHS mailing list