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

George Michaelson ggm at algebras.org
Tue Oct 15 10:07:34 AEST 2019

Tracy Kidder evokes different emotions around "the soul of a new
machine" -To me, the book is great because its a humanist reading of
technology choices. People matter. Careers are built on seemingly
trivial decisions like the size of the average door frame in a lift in
Tokyo. (a brief moment in the book, from memory)

I always wished it had been written about Digital Equipment and not
Data General, because the only DG box I worked on (a Nova) was a dog.
I know one person who came from Australia (UQ) to Maynard, to track
the building of the Dec-10 destined for the campus. He had
entertaining anecdotes about parking and weather. (australians are not
naturally prepared for 2m of snow and the effect of parking in the
wrong side of the snow shadow, which explains why the parking spots
were empty for the visitor to claim) -I think the birth of the pdp-8
and pdp-11 would be fascinating. I was told the queue to sign up for
pdp-8 at the IFIP  floor show  in the 60s in Edinburgh was a mile
long: people were dog tired of walking card decks over to central
computing facilities and the offer of a deskside or even desktop (if
your desk was strong enough) compute engine for stats and maths and
process control...

Sub-floor radius limits made it hard to retrofit a Cray into the UQ
machine room because the piping radii had been done for the IBM
mainframe. We had to lift the raised floor for the flourinert piping.
400Hz voltage demanded a spinning metal regenerator to do frequency
conversion from the Australian wallplate voltage/frequency. Our
groundplane was inadequate. The Tops-10 box, the cluster of Vaxen,
were completely oblivious to most of this: they did air cooling
through floor venting, thats really all that mattered in their
machine-room.  It was the one we chose to fit the comms racks because
it was the least pain to work in, and the nearest to the hosts which
could actually use Internet protocols trivially on UTP or thinwire.
(the IBM required us to buy a $10,000 PC to fit the line card which
translated TCP/IP into IBM networking and was possibly the last piece
of "thickwire" ethernet we owned)


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