[TUHS] What was your "Aha, Unix!" moment?

Jim Capp jcapp at anteil.com
Sat Oct 12 03:40:43 AEST 2019

Thanks Jim. Your story about BASIC and C reminded me of another "aha" moment. 

My first programming job involving UNIX in the early 1980's was to send data to an IBM mainframe via 2780/3780 binary synchronous communications (BSC). 

I started writing a HEX dump utility using BASIC. I wasn't happy with the execution speed and started reading man pages. 

I discovered C. Having done some work with assembly, I immediately recognized the similarity and function as a "portable assembler". 

By that time, UNIX had been ported to at least a dozen different architectures. 

I was sold on the design, utility, and "openness" of the documentation, and have been working with nearly every flavor of *NIX ever since. 



From: "Jim Geist" <velocityboy at gmail.com> 
To: "Warren Toomey" <wkt at tuhs.org> 
Cc: "The Eunuchs Hysterical Society" <tuhs at tuhs.org> 
Sent: Friday, October 11, 2019 1:13:37 PM 
Subject: Re: [TUHS] What was your "Aha, Unix!" moment? 

On Thu, Oct 10, 2019 at 4:56 PM Warren Toomey < wkt at tuhs.org > wrote: 

All, we had another dozen TUHS suscribers to the list overnight. Welcome. 
A reminder that we're here to discuss Unix Heritage, so I'll nudge you 
if the conversation goes a bit off-topic. 

So I'll kick off another thread. What was your "ahah" moment when you 
first saw that Unix was special, especially compared to the systems you'd 
previously used? 

Mine was: Oh, I can: 
+ write a simple script 
+ to edit a file on the fly 
+ with no temporary files (a la pipes) 
+ AND I can change the file suffix and the system won't stop me! 

I was using TOPS-20 beforehand. 

Cheers, Warren 

As an undergrad in the 80's. Before college most of my experience had been on various flavors of BASIC, with the one exception being a summer spent at a science camp where I did Pascal on an Apple ][ and other programming assignments on VMS. 

My college had a big schism between the computer services department that serviced the whole school -- they ran an IBM 4341 with VM/SP -- and the actual computer science department that ran UNIX on a VAX-11/780. Undergrad classes were mostly on the mainframe and grad students used the VAX. I learned C on the mainframe but was able to talk my way into a UNIX account and started seeing how much more elegant things were. 
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