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As I remember things
I'm amazed that you all remember so much - most of you are older than I and
my memory is pretty much shot. Fortunately, all this reminiscing is
helping me locate the right neurons...
I came in at the tail end of Delta, if memory serves me correctly, around
the time of the upgrade to the 11/70 (fall '79?). I don't know for sure,
because I never did get to go to the machine room.
Like most of you, I managed to gain my priv account (1,44) pretty rapidly,
complete with annoying some of the folks who preceded me. I was given a
real "assignment" - lead 3 other HS students to create a flat database that
could be used to generate labels. Expecting a 16-year old to manage a
project, even one as simple as this, was ludicrous. I was unable to
motivate the other programmers and, to be honest, I was much more
interested in playing with the OS. I repeatedly asked Ed Boas for help,
and in the end he "demoted" me.
In the meantime, I had many "adventures" at Willard and Smith Halls. I
also met Ron Reisor, who gave me a Unix account. I quickly ran through the
"learn" program, as well as K&R, but I didn't get the concept of dynamic
allocation. This made it especially hard to complete the "assignment" Ron
gave me, which was essentially to create Usenet. He also set me up on the
Plato to see Notes as an example of what he wanted to do. I was unable to
make any progress on this either, but Ron was not punitive.
Ed Jones was probably my most effective mentor - he provided all of the
technical documentation I could stomach; encouraged me to learn
Basic-Plus-2 (a compiled language, imagine that), and got me a programming
job with a firm in New Castle. He also lent me his B7700 and HP2000
accounts so that I could play with the plotters in Smith Hall. With the
"no children" rule firmly in place, you had to be careful about when to go
there - in general, if you hid in a corner and made sure you weren't using
equipment that a UD syudent needed, you could usually work without anyone
I particularly remember the time that a Delphi client got confused and
asked if a particular problem could be solved with a "Tecot file". In
fact, I'm kind of surprised that no one's mentioned TECO so far - writing
clever one-line programs in TECO was a favorite activity of mine. We
certainly had some nifty TECO programs by 1981.
Bob wanted to know how Delta died. My extremely-biased opinion is that the
Education department and Ed Boas conspired to end it. The fact was that
RSTS/E was insufficient to serve the needs of every Delaware high school's
courseware, which was now seen as more important than the original goals of
Delta. In 1981, everyone switched over to an 11/780 running VMS, which I
hated. However, it was pretty obvious that RSTS/E was not sufficiently
scalable and that it would eventually be replaced by VMS or Unix. In any
case, I believe that Delta was completely shut down in 1982 or 1983. The
VMS system didn't survive very long after, as most of the high schools
discovered that Apple IIs were cheaper and easier to administer. I think
that Delta would have eventually been replaced by PCs, but Education's
deployment of VMS certainly accellerated it.
By this time, I was absorbing as much CS as I could, and none of it through
Delta. I taught myself Pascal on the VMS box (which is why I hated it so),
was programming RPG-II for a company in Elsmere, learning Z-80 and
elementary digital design on my TRS-80, and punching Fortran cards for
I didn't do any elevator hacking, but I'm not surprised that Eric T. was
one of the perpetrators - he certainly was more of a risk-taker than I.
The two of us made the physics storeroom at Brandywine into our own
personal playground. We made up our own "experiments" involving among
A large magnet
A very large power supply
A function generator
A vacuum chamber
And I remember Eric being very elusive about how he managed to dent the
roof of his orange Beetle.
As I read this, it seems that my experience at Delta wasn't all that good
to me. I want to make it clear that it was not so. Delta was the
springboard to many great opportunities. It's only unfortunate that it
ended so abruptly and painfully.
Oh, and finally, my inventory of Delta stuff consists of:
A RSTS/E Task Builder Manual
A "brief list of the differences between Basic Plus and Basic Plus 2"
A RSTS V06C System Function Call list
A Delplot Handbook
"A Few Words, Bytes, Nibbles, and Bits About COBOL", by Aron Insinga
At one time, Eric emailed me a some Delta memoranda - do you still have