[TUHS] Happy birthday, Dennis Ritchie!

Steve Johnson scj at yaccman.com
Sat Sep 9 14:34:28 AEST 2017

I'm not sure that the file and directory structure was all that
innovative (after all, the biologists had been doing that kind of
thing forever...).  But the file as a lightweight
flick-of-the-wrist-create-able entity was mind blowing.  At the time,
the IBM 360 required that you run a special job step to create a file
(we're talking punched cards here).  And then you had to pull that
job step out of the deck because trying to create a file that already
existed was an error.   In the GE/Honeywell time sharing system, you
had to invoke a subsystem that asked you 8 or 10 questions (name, what
device was it on, how big is upon creation, how big could it grow to,
what was its record size, etc.).   It stored up your answers and then
handed them to the OS.  It was easy to get a question wrong, in which
case it sent you back to the beginning to do the dance again.  Most
telling, when the file was finally created the subsystem exited with
the happy message "Successful!"

For people used to that world, "echo hello >hi" was literally jaw
dropping.  Many people had to have it explained twice, because they
literally could not conceive of a file being created so easily.  I
had worked in the computing center for a couple of years, and probably
gave more than my share of demos to mainframe users...


PS:  It was about this time that a survey of the mainframe computer
centers found that over 50% of the (costly, limited) disc space
consisted of trailing blanks of 80-column card images stored on

----- Original Message -----
From: "Wesley Parish" <wes.parish at paradise.net.nz>
To:<tuhs at minnie.tuhs.org>
Sent:Sat, 09 Sep 2017 13:16:30 +1200 (NZST)
Subject:Re: [TUHS] Happy birthday, Dennis Ritchie!

 'fraid so. The Unix directory structure and the correlating free-form
file competed with the file-as-
 record-structure and directory-as-record-structure in the seventies
and eighties. The competition had 
 finished by the nineties, and hardly anybody remembers it now.

 Seriously, how many grandmothers can you think of who would know how
to allocate disk space for a 
 photo of their grandkids? Who would be able to guess how many bytes a
letter might take up?

 Free-form files and directory nodes (with the corresponding
requirement that the OS know how to 
 allocate and reallocate disk space) helped democratize computing.

 Just my 0.02c :)

 Wesley Parish

 Quoting Michael Kjörling <michael at kjorling.se>:

 > On 8 Sep 2017 17:04 -0400, from jnc at mercury.lcs.mit.edu (Noel
 > > We'd be running a Windows even worse than current Windows (which
 > managed
 > > to pick up a few decent ideas from places like Unix).
 > Like directories, and free-form files (collections of bytes as
 > to collections of records)?
 > -- 
 > Michael Kjörling ⢠https://michael.kjorling.se â¢
 > michael at kjorling.se
 > âPeople who think they know everything really annoy
 > those of us who know we donât.â (Bjarne Stroustrup)

 "I have supposed that he who buys a Method means to learn it." -
Ferdinand Sor,
 Method for Guitar

 "A verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on." -- Samuel

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