I’m a Compusaur

This evening (well, last night really, as I’m writing this Thursday morning and back dating it), I went to a meeting of the Los Angeles Chapter of the ACM. This was a special meeting honoring the 50th anniversary of the Chapter; I was invited as a former Chapter chair (1992-1993).

I never realized I was such a compusaur.

Folks were reminiscing about the “good ‘ol days”: Using the Sigma 7 and the SEX operating system; the IBM 1409 and 7090; old Univac, Burroughs, and Honeywell machines. The days of the SDC programming classes. 96 column cards.

At least I’m not that old.

I do, however, remember running jobs on the IBM 360, punching 80-column cards on IBM 026 and 029 keypunches, using Fortran IV and PL/I. I remember the early days of URSA and TSO at UCLA; the use of the PDP-8s, PDP-10s, PDP-11s. Operating systems such as RT-11, RSTS/E, RSX, TENIX, and ITS. Getting free acounts by telnetting over to MIT-Multics. Teaching programming classes. Doing text formatting by using runoff on RSTS. Toggling in the bootstrap address for a VAX.

Are we better off today? Our computers are more powerful, yes. But are we writing better programs? What have we lost by getting instant turnaround? When it took days and hours to get your job back, you made sure it had no bugs. Do the young programmers of today do this, or is it patch and resubmit?


Lastly, at the meeting I also learned of the death of Ed “Mad Man” Manderfield on Tuesday, in his early 80s. Ed did lots to help the Los Angeles programming community, and he will be missed.