[Beowulf] Parallel Development Tools

Jim Lux James.P.Lux at jpl.nasa.gov
Tue Oct 16 21:04:48 PDT 2007

At 05:34 PM 10/16/2007, Gerry Creager wrote:
>"Three things in life a man must do,
>Before his days are done.
>Write two lines of APL...
>And make the sucker run."
>OK, so it's not PL-I but APL was another interesting beast.  A 
>friend had written an entire StarTrek game, including a 3d universe, 
>in APL and we wasted cycles waiting for long jobs on the Amdahl 
>470v6 to complete that way...

Lest we forget...
the first portable personal computer, the IBM 5100 (predecessor of 
the more familiar IBM 5150 Personal Computer) ran APL and BASIC as 
its two native languages.  And had core memory, to boot, so if you 
just powered off instead of running the shutdown, it would remember 
where you were.

I think IBM's first real "personal computer", as in one intended to 
be used by a single person at a time, sitting at the typewriter 
console, was probably the 1130 (although I understand that it really 
was a version of their industrial 1800 machine)

>Ellis Wilson wrote:
>>Wow, PL-I, I'm learning about that in my language design 
>>class.  While it brought a bunch of new items to the computing 
>>field, can't say I'm upset I didn't code in it :).
>>Sorry guys, I came into existence just about the time the internet 
>>was opened up from just NSF to commercial interest, so punch cards 
>>are a little out of my league.  I must say though, this certainly 
>>beats the heck out of a history of computing languages class any day!

You know... I pitched my last box of cards into the trash probably in 
the early,mid-80s.  So there I am, working for a special effects 
company in 1997, and we get hired by the producer to do effects for 
an Intel commercial.  They want punched cards in the shot sort of 
floating in the background on wires  (a "practical" effect, as 
opposed to CGI)... So one of the artists gets out some card stock and 
an X-acto knife and starts to cut out a tab card AND HOLES... I walk 
by after de-lidding some Pentiums for another shot, and say, surely 
there's some place in Los Angeles where we can just buy a box of 
cards and use a keypunch.
A day of phone calls later...
So yes, one CAN buy 80 column tab cards still (or 10 years ago you 
could). Minimum order is a case, 5 boxes (10,000 cards).

But, even better, I found a place in the San Fernando Valley that did 
key-to-disk and service bureau processing on legacy stuff. They said, 
oh yeah, we have a keypunch to do JCL cards and such for various card 
oriented processing jobs. (Interestingly, Ventura County still used 
tab cards for ballots in elections until last year) I went over 
there, and they gave me a bunch of cards and let me use their 029 
keypunch back in the corner.  Talk about a weird experience.  I 
hadn't even seen one since, probably, 1980.  I sat down, reached 
under to turn on the power, loaded the cards in the hopper, flipped 
the switch that did the auto feed, and started punching. There's all 
those sounds of the card coming down, moving across, etc., and then 
the chunk,chunk,chunk as you punch.  Talk about instinctive motor memory...

I think the guy at the service center was confident I knew what I was 
doing when I knew how to turn on the power without looking..

Thank the gods I didn't have to build a drum card.

But now, I've fully confirmed I'm an old codger, and I'm not even 50 yet.

James Lux, P.E.
Spacecraft Radio Frequency Subsystems Group
Flight Communications Systems Section
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Mail Stop 161-213
4800 Oak Grove Drive
Pasadena CA 91109
tel: (818)354-2075
fax: (818)393-6875 

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