[TUHS] finding help in v7 in 1980

William Pechter pechter at gmail.com
Sat Nov 11 05:47:44 AEST 2017

Will Senn wrote:
> Hi,
> 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 know it.
>  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
>     something related.
> 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
> https://www.computer.org/csdl/mags/co/1981/04/01667315.pdf)?
> Regards,
> Will
I came to V7 under emulation, since I didn't really do much Unix until
System III.
I learned Unix as a user using Kochan and Wood's Unix Shell programming
to get used to the shell
syntax, which was very different from CP/M, MS-DOS, RT11, RSTS/E, RSX
and VMS which I dealt with as a DEC Field Engineer.  I picked up the
Nutshell books on Unix, TCP/IP, DNS.

After touching some BSD and Ultrix, I moved back to System V, Xenix
System V (8086/8088) and
Uniplus System III.  I compiled and replaced older tools to get things
like apropos where they
didn't exist.  Don't ask how I got Korn Shell code...

It really helps to have the right friends with access...  When I got ksh
working on SVR2 based
systems and Xenix (at home) I was amazed how much better it was than the
alternatives in '86-88.

One thing that the BSD's and Uniplus had were a number of the original
Unix papers which I
collected in the original troff/nroff (if I could find them).  They were
a great help in understanding
how the systems all went together.

Understanding the history is useful.  I was explaining why there's /bin,
/usr/bin /sbin to a bunch
of new Linux users -- telling them the original RK05's about 2.5
megabytes (1.5 megawords) used to hold the entire system.  Minimal was
important back in the day.
Current compressed Ubuntu linux kernel 4.13 = aproximately 7.5 megabytes.

Now the kernel's larger than the disk was.

Some of the stuff was interesting.  The stty stuff was just plain
wierd.  AT&T assumed hard copy terminals as a default still supporting
only upper case and # as a character erase and Control-C
as an interrupt character made more sense than Ascii DEL.

Once I got my profile standardized to make the systems all look the same
I was good.

There's a nice table on https://www.in-ulm.de/~mascheck/various/stty/

I picked up the AT&T Sys V docs and the BSD 4.2 and 4.3 docs and worked
backwards to the minimalist Version 7.

My only exposure with V6 was hardware with a bad backplane on an 11/70
corrupting a customer
database back in the mid '80's.  Amazing to find the sysadmins in a Unix
operations and sysadmin
class I was teaching on Pyramid MIServer boxes in the 1993 timeframe
when they were upgrading
to a Pyramid.


Digital had it then.  Don't you wish you could buy it now!
pechter-at-gmail.com  http://xkcd.com/705/

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