Sunday, December 14, 2008

I am a DEC guy

What does that mean? Well Digital Equipment Corporation (aka DEC) was the first computers that I worked on when I was at the University of Pittsburgh. I started on punch cards - working in FORTRAN using the SITGO - The Steven's Institute of Technology - Load and Go FORTRAN compiler. This was my introduction to formal computing and that which changed me from a chemistry major into a computer science major. From there I learned about Pascal, LISP, ALGOL, Simula and MACRO all on the DEC PDP-10 machines. They were 36-bit machines - 12 Octal digits. For this reason, to this day I still am not very good at Hex, but can do Octal math very well, and know a good chunk of the ASCII chart in Octal but not decimal. I struggled to work with Intel machines due to their handling of words, and the order they looked at bytes to create long-words. When at the software translation companies - we created various mechanisms to deal with the "endianness" of words and long-words. It also means that I never learned a solid appreciation for the big-iron machines of IBM. When starting work I worked on a VAX-11/785 - another DEC machine. I worked in LISP - but learned a lot about BLISS and C. It was there that I was introduced to Unix and the world of the Internet - my company had accounts @ Carnegie Mellon that we could dial-in to to read email. I still have yet to learn much about "The Mainframe" even though I did a brief stint at a subsidiary of IBM - Transarc. My big leap into Unix was on Sun Microsystems that were Motorola 68k based so the "endianness" was preserved and I did a lot of cool and interesting things with databases, networks, file systems and the like. The Sun-3 that I worked on had a spectacular keyboard that you could type extra-fast on and could take a pounding. I spent 5 years @ Westinghouse working on Suns, connecting the corporate network to the Internet, re-addressing the internal network from a C-Class to a sub-netted B-Class and in general learning a lot about networking and systems management.

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