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

Steve Johnson scj at yaccman.com
Mon Oct 14 07:45:37 AEST 2019

My Aha, Unix! moment was the Unix man pages, especially that they had
a section for BUGS.  The very reality of it attracted me.  As Gloria
Steinem said, "Something doesn't have to be perfect to be
wonderful!"  I notice that on Linux the older man pages still have
BUG sections, but the newer ones don't.  Telling.   Even more
telling is that 'man python' gives you a lot of information, but at
the end where the Bugs section used to be is a section labled

I did have the opportunity in the early years to demonstrate Unix to
several dozen people, mostly users of the (IBM) mainframe computers
and the GE/Honeywell Time Sharing System.  The sequence that
initiated gasps, confusion, and ultimately joy was:
%  echo hello joe > hijoe
% cat hijoe
hello joe

At the time, permanent file storage was a relatively new concept for
mainframes, and the implementations were very influenced by space
constraints and punched card images.  The IBM was worst, because for
them a disc file was made to look like a tape drive -- "records" that
had multiple card images on them."  In order to create a file, you
had to submit a job (punched cards again) using a Job Control Language
whose authors are hopefully all burning in hell at this very moment. 
And the job failed if the file was already there, ...   The time
sharing system was not much better -- still had the notion of card
images in mind, but also an initial size, a maximum size, and a lot of
settings for who could do what with the file.  In the time sharing
system, a special subsystem took control and asked you roughly a dozen
questions, one at a time.   It was quite common to botch one or more
of the answers, in which case you got to answer all the questions
again.  No wonder when the file was finally created, the system
replied "Successful!".

Typing the above created shock and awe followed by questions like
"what's the blocking factor" and "what device is it allocated on". 
Followed, mostly, by a dazed joy as they finally got it...


----- Original Message -----
From: "Jon Forrest" <nobozo at gmail.com>
To:<tuhs at minnie.tuhs.org>
Sent:Sat, 12 Oct 2019 12:10:12 -0700
Subject:Re: [TUHS] What was your "Aha, Unix!" moment?

 I was a new grad student at UC Santa Barbara (where I did my
 undergrad) in ~1977. Somebody who I had found for my
 committee had just returned from a stay at Bell Labs,
 and he told me about this thing called Unix. It sounded
 very interesting, so I asked around. It turned out that
 the Computer Center, where all computing was done back
 then, had a PDP11/45 on which they ran RSTS during the
 day, and Unix at night.

 In fact, somebody had created a sign in one of the
 terminal rooms that said

 "Oh say can you C by the dawn's early light".

 which very accurately described my life back then,
 because I was spending many a night learning C,
 and was getting used to seeing the dawn's early
 light while doing so.

 Not exactly an "Aha" moment, but what I learned
 from spending these sleepless nights is what
 got me started on a career that lasted ~40 years.

 Jon Forrest

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