[TUHS] Favorite unix design principles?

John P. Linderman jpl.jpl at gmail.com
Tue Jan 26 22:26:41 AEST 2021

On Tue, Jan 26, 2021 at 5:24 AM Tyler Adams <coppero1237 at gmail.com> wrote:

> Looking at the 1978 list, the last one really stands out:
> "Use tools in preference to unskilled help to lighten a programming task"
> -- The concept of unskilled help for a programming task...doesn't really
> exist in 2020. The only special case is doing unskilled labor yourself.
> What unskilled tasks did people used to do back in the day?
> Tyler
Drifting far off topic, but when I was programming part time for the MIT
administration in the late 60's, we wrote a small language for generating
reports from tape input. It did things like reading a record ahead, so it
could detect the last and first records having some (presumably sorted)
value, making it easy to do headers and summaries. Many report requests
from assorted administrative offices could be handled by our operators, who
had no formal programming experience. Occasionally they'd get bitten by a
request like "Give me a count of freshman and sophomores in course 18" and
they'd do the equivalent of "class == freshmen && class == sophomore",
paralleling the spoken request, and then wonder why nothing got selected.
All in all, though, it took a huge load off the skilled programmers, and
reduced the time to respond to simple requests. When I joined the Labs in
1973, we had no operators, no administrative report requests, and most
co-workers were proficient programmers. But the administrative work
environment at MIT was more representative of "the real world" than the
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