[TUHS] finding help in v7 in 1980

Bakul Shah bakul at bitblocks.com
Sat Nov 11 05:51:34 AEST 2017

On Fri, 10 Nov 2017 12:00:15 -0600 Will Senn <will.senn at gmail.com> wrote:
Will Senn writes:
> 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.
> 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)?

I learned by trying out pretty much *every* command in /bin
and /usr/bin. I would read the man page, play with the
command, read the man page some more, and so on. I wrote toy
programs to learn about common libc functions.  I tried out
pretty much every vi command to become better at editing.
Fotunately v7 was a small enough system that one could
actually learn something about every command, every device
driver, every syscall, every libc function etc.

I read the documentation bundled with v7 & BSD, and I read
unix source code as well as observed and learned from seasoned
unix hackers. But I would switch to writing (and rewriting)
code ASAP as I learn better by building something.  And
debugging.  There are lots of learning opportunities there!
The key is not give up until you find the root cause.
Debugging can give a more intuitive sense of how things work
as you start paying more attention to even little things.

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