On Fri, Jun 29, 2012 at 10:14 PM, Peter Humphrey
> On Friday 29 June 2012 21:46:20 Grant Edwards wrote:
>> Things have been going steadily downhill since the days of V7 on a
>> PDP-11 with 256K words of RAM, a 20MB hard drive and uucp via dial-up
>> modems for "networking". *Real programmers didn't _need_ more that
>> 64k of text and 64k data to get the job done.
> Sorry, but that's just bloat. When I joined the software development
> effort on the national grid control system in 1980 (I was the third of
> three) we had two Ferranti Argus 500 computers, one on-line and one
> standby, each with 32KB RAM (twice as much as the same machines had at
> the newly commissioning AGR power stations); 24-bit word length with
> hardware key switches on the control panel (holy of holies). The three
> disks were 2MB monsters, three feet six tall, five feet long and eighteen
> inches wide, with air filtering systems we were supposed to know about
> but Never Touch. Each disk could be connected to either CPU under
> software control. The displays were graphic stroke writers, as used in
> submarines and other warships - none of that nasty raster technology. I
> think the display drivers were more complex than the CPUs - all that D-A
> conversion of multiple values at once. Can you imagine X and Y amplifiers
> to drive a spot in a circle - and meet up? Then a display full of them.
> Those devices occupied as much cubicle space as the CPUs. Oh, and there
> was a third machine (you wouldn't call it a box) for software
> development. Paper tape for program I/O - not punched cards I'm glad to
> My boss was often called on to escort parties of power utility visitors,
> mostly American, around the control centre. Their most common question
> was "yes, I see the display drivers, but now where is your mainframe?"
> Of course we didn't have one nor need one; we used subtle engineering in
> those days rather than throwing money at the problem. That changed
> later, but that's another story, and so is the use of PDP-11s in a minor
> Then the time came to replace that ageing technology. The man in charge
> of the project complained to me once that, although he admired what we
> were achieving, he couldn't freeze a user spec while we kept on making
> the machine jump through ever-higher hoops. A proud moment for me -
> there was still life in the old dogs yet, so why must they be replaced?
> Not now, but I'll tell you some day about my proudest achievement in
> assembler programming. Perhaps also what happened at three a.m. after
> most bank holiday Mondays. Cyril might not like me telling you though.
> As I said in the subject: OT.
I'm going to put a reminder in my calendar to poke you about this.