[TUHS] finding help in v7 in 1980

Clem Cole clemc at ccc.com
Sat Nov 11 05:35:47 AEST 2017

On Fri, Nov 10, 2017 at 1:32 PM, Noel Chiappa <jnc at mercury.lcs.mit.edu>

>     > From: Will Senn
>     > what was it like to sit down and learn unix V7 on a PDP? ... What
>     > resources did you consult in your early days
> Well, I started by reading through the UPM (the 8-section thing, with
> commands
> in I, system calls in II, etc). I also read a lot of Unix documentation
> which
> came as larger documents (e.g the Unix Intro, C Tutorial and spec, etc).
​Exactly -- BTW the printed ​binders that Larry mentions were a few years
away.   Brian Redman of Whippany (the 'ber' of honey-dan-ber UUCP), got
them printed in the early 1980s.

> I should point out that back then, this was a feasible task.


> Most man pages
> were really _a_ page, and often a short one. By the end of my time on the
> PWB1
> system, there were about 300 commands in /bin (which includes sections II,
> VI
> and VIII), but a good chunk (I'd say probably 50 or more) were ones we'd
> written. So there were not that many to start with (section II was maybe
> 3/4"
> of paper), and you could read the UPM in a couple of hours. (I read
> through it
> more than once; you'd get more retained, mentally, on each pass.)
​Yup, I'm not sure how many times I read through UPM, but it was a few

What was amazing to me, was compared to say TOPS or even RSTS it seemed
like I could actually understand the whole thing.​

> There were no Unix people at all in the group at MIT which I joined, so I
> couldn't ask around; there were a bunch in another group on the floor
> below,
> although I didn't use them much - mostly it was RTFM.
​It was very much a learn as you go.  Ted Kowalski would show up a little
later and start to explain/argue about things that I had confused./wrong.
But my first attempts were pretty lonely.

> Mailing lists? Books? Fuhgeddaboutit!

> My next step in learning the kernel was to start reading the sources.


> (I
> ​ ​
> didn't have access to Lyons.)

​I got access to Lyons after Ted showed up.   I was so impressed ;-)​

> I did an 'cref' of the entire system, and
> transferred the results to a large piece of paper, so I could see who was
> calling who in the kernel.
​Great mind thinks a like.   Although I had to transfer some of the stuff
to the PDP-10​ I had 'tools' there and was still learning the UNIX ones.
I did not understand grep at first. I remember the moment of enlightenment
the first time, I understood what I could do with it.
Seriously, find and grep were the two new tools that changed the way I
started to think about computers.  I had nothing like them on the 10's.

>     > What were your goto resources? More than just man and the sources?
> That's all there was!
> I should point out that reading the sources to command 'x' taught you more
> than just how 'x' worked - you saw how people interacted with the kernel,
> what
> it could do, etc, etc.

​Yeah, same here.  I spent a lot of time staring at Kernel and Application
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