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Comments of various OSes
Authored by: msabeln on Dec 02, '04 06:21:46PM

Here is what I think is a complete list of computer systems that I've used. I would be interested in other users' comments on these opinions!

- IBM System 360 with punchcards at Washington University in St. Louis. I was in high school, taking programming classes in Fortran and COBOL. Programs needed to be prepended with opaque JCL cards, submitted to the datacenter, and then waiting for hours for the resulting printout. It was a terrible experience, but it taught me patience and doing the program correctly the first time. The keypunch machines were kind of fun to type on, with all of clunking noises and buckets of chad to throw on people.

- A DEC PDP-11 during the same time as the 360; this was a very nice machine; I could sit at a paper-feed terminal and play and modify games all day long with no wait. The commands were straight-forward and the help system easy. This was a very special introduction to what personal computing could be like, unlike the bad experience of the IBM 360.

- A custom-built computer running a common '70s Z-80 operating system that I can't recall now. I worked for a company that made these machines that would both run payroll AND process control equipment. It was similar to the PDP-11 system, but stripped down.

- IBM 370, also during high school, learning assembly language. The instructor said that the future of systems software was in a programming called "C". This computer experience was also a painful punchcard mess.

- My first computer was a TRS-80 with 4K memory and a cassette recorder for mass storage. That cassette was so sensitive, that it took many tries to get the volume just right for reading back. I felt bad in retrospect that I nagged my parents for this expensive purchase, and in turn they felt bad about the huge amount of frustration required to work that cassette. I learned that I wanted to have nothing to do with computers! Ha ha. It was programmed with a very small version of BASIC. I would have rather gotten an Apple ][, but they were quite expensive. My Dad passed on purchasing some of the earlier machines, since they lacked functionality.

- Off to college, and my first machine was a VAX11/780 running VAX/VMS. That was a great machine and operating system; easy to use, a good help system, lots of useful programs for classwork and many interesting games. I did most of my school work with it and used DECnet networking extensively. The big blue wall of manuals was also quite impressive.

- I saw a demonstration of the Apple Lisa, it looked cool, but was way overpriced. It soon left the market, replaced by the stripped-down Macintosh.

- The PC made its debut. The school bought a roomful of them for a lab, and each had a text and graphics monitor. They were easy to program in BASIC, and I thought that personal computing had arrived. My friends and I started getting really interested in computing and started to neglect our studies in physics; I never looked back.

- I started playing with a VAX11/780 running a version of AT&T UNIX. That was extremely cool; a real operating system and a real programming language! I ate as much UNIX as I could, and programmed extensively in C until I left school. We even had a plan to write a C compiler for PCs.

- My first real job after college was programming PC and Apple ][ machines, and soon afterwards the company got a MicroVAX; I installed terminals thoughout the department and had high-end email, word processing, spreadsheets, relation database, etc. as far back as 1985. We upgraded the VAX a few times and it remained a viable system until the introduction of networked Windows 3.0 systems in the early '90s.

- In 1987 I was evaluating machines to replace our secretaries' dedicated word processing machines. I evaluated PCs and Macs. Management decided against the Macs because "if the secretaries have them them then everybody would want one"! The PC solution running the "corporate standard" word processor was junk and everybody hated it for years to come.

- The VAXcluster in the early '90s still worked great and with the advent of graphical terminals and X-Window software was superior to the PCs that we were deploying. Some folks even gave up their PCs to get more deskspace for the large X-Window terminals.

- I bought my first PC in '91. It was obsolete and unusable by the time Windows 95 came out. It was OK for simple shareware games, but not a "real computer".

- My first UNIX box in 1992, an IBM AIX machine. A great little UNIX box, and I had much fun with it, and set up the company's first web site on it. It could have been faster, though, but integrated well with our X-Window terminals. Because of this UNIX box, I installed TCP/IP on all of the VAXes and our networking became extensive.

- I worked with Windows NT Servers, and thought it was an improvement, although I thought that UNIX machines were a better solution to what we were doing. After getting Windows 2000, I proclaimed it to be a 'real operating system', but still it didn't have features that my VMS machines had more than ten years earlier. VMS, however, was leaving the scene and needed to be replaced.

- After not using my home computer for a while, I bought a new one with Windows 95, and got Internet access for it. I upgraded that machine later due to slow speed. I toyed with Linux, but it didn't work well, and didn't have the games that I wanted. Windows crashed constantly, of course.

- I got my first PocketPC computer in about 2001. It was a disappointment, as was its 2002 replacement. I got a PalmOS machine, which although simpler, was far more stable and usable.

- I bought my PowerBook in 2004 and it is a great machine! After several frustrating years working with Windows 2000 professionally, I decided to switch for home use, and am very happy to have done so. OS X is very much a real operating system in the UNIX tradition.



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