Friday, March 09, 2007

recovered memory

No I am not talking about those expensive (but useful) services where they extract data of your hard drive after a head crash - Yes I am talking about the psychological phenomena where you recall something but cannot tell if it is a true event or not (all recall is, of course, re-invention anyhow - we are softwired not hardwired)

So, I was always puzzled about how and why i found my first computing course so easy and natural a subject to study - i had this dream that a math teacher had taken a class of us in 1963 to a hospital where we spent an afternoon every week for a term learning this weird code and punching holes in tapes and getting an electronic beastie to do stuff for us that made maths easier. I talked to an old (yes really, thanks matthew bury)) friend who was at same school and he confirms that we did in fact do this - it really wasn't a dream after all. it was a DEC PDP 8, and we learned machine code (yes, machine code, not assembler) on it - the ibm 360 running pheonix in cambridge duing phsycis was much less interesting. the DEC 10 i programmed (cobol, fortran and algol 60, yes and Bliss) at north london poly was bliss in comparison. The ICL2980 at QMW which i programmed in algol 68 (truly the Flaubert's Parrot of programming languages - it should get le Palme Pilote d'Or at the Palais des Festivals at Cannes merely for its layout) was "interesting", when one had to use a glass tty to type code in on ,but then print out punch cards to input to the remote access/job entry system...argh!!!

so clearing out my mum's cllectio nof old sf trivia this weekend, we came across the manifesto for the Cybernetics Serendipity show at the ICA in 1968 - this remined me - I went to that - Donald Michie was showing off AI and a lot of very cool computer music and graphics stuff was on show - again, I had forgotten I went to it (or that I'd actually understood what was going on) as it was more in my memory as a "happening" (a bit like some Pink FFloyd gigs and the Notting Hill carnival I used to get dragged to around then) - looking at the event programme, there were a LOT of cool people involved from MIT, Cambridge etc etc!!

Then there was the real time OS (no-one I ask ever seems to know this, from MITRE) called MOS on LSI/11s and version 6 unix on LSI/PDP 11 (programmed in macro 11), and for a bit, 2.8 and 4.1cBSD Unix on PDP 11/44,
then there's these odd 16032 whitechapel computers (
better than sun 2s with their naff bus and 68k processor, but just british, so doomed from day zero - the story of the BSD unix port to those nice machines is interesting and would be good to get gospel on from people who were there)...

We also had some Sun 1s (never sold by Sun - same board as cisco router - sun=stanford university network, and stanford were always a bit slack on who got to walk away with tech from their labs:) ah well, IPR rules now would never let that happen, now xen, now xen...virtualisation is just a state of mind.

Not as mad as the sun workstion with a paper tape reader which connected to a paper tape punch connected to an A2D device on an analogue radar system on a US navy aircraft carreier in the naval ocean systems center in a farady cage as big as San Diego harbour (where it was), so that the sun workstation could display the SAME roatating green display you got on the original analoigue radar, I am not kidding:)

At some point along the way, i spose i did this port of SR to a few weird architecture machines (i dreamt i was re-doin the runtime in assembler on an
ICL1900, but that cannae be so there).

Luckily now i have given up programming as, like maryjane and charlie, sex, religion and rock and roll, it screws with ones ability to programme.

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misery me, there is a floccipaucinihilipilification (*) of chronsynclastic infundibuli in these parts and I must therefore refer you to frank zappa instead, and go home