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Comment BASIC (Score 1) 630

BASIC, back in the day. I started teaching myself at 13, on a TI 99/4A. The school I was attending at the time had barely heard about computers, much less come up with a way to try to teach someone that young about them. I was actually starting to dabble in assembly language on that machine, and managed to get a sprite to move in response to me moving a joystick around. The school may have been woefully uninformed, but the public library was a pretty good resource.

A fortunate move to upstate New York put me on a track to pick up some classes on BASIC and Pascal at the high school and Watfiv and assembly language at a local university that had a high school summer program. My senior project in high school was a graphing program that generated several kinds of graphs using Apple Pascal and the turtle graphics package that came with it. The system could barely handle it, but it was pretty spiffy. I wrote my own keyboard input routines that would allow me to set up fields of a specific size that would only allow certain characters to be typed into them.

College was more Basic, which I was entirely fucking sick of by then, and some scripting languages. I got my intro to REXX there, which was much nicer than Basic. I switched schools into a more CS-oriented program and picked up C, Ada and COBOL. By then I was starting to hear about this newfangled C++, which really sucked back in the early '90's, let me tell you. They didn't even have a STL yet. They started talking about adding templates to the language a few years later.

By then I knew my way around C pretty well, but mostly had to work on the shitty proprietary languages of the 90's. I got into some work that involved actual C programming in the mid 90's, and had a pretty solid decade of C programming. Since 2005 it's been a pretty steady mix of Java and C++, along with a bit of maintenance on some really badly-designed projects in Perl, Ruby and TCL. I'm currently doing a mix of C++ for hardware-level access to some specialty hardware I'm working on, and Java to provide some web services associated with that hardware. I might get into some Javascript to put it all together, but I'm going to try to leave that to the guys who are more comfortable with Javascript than I am.

I don't see much new coming along the road. .net, go and rust are all sufficiently close to Java or C++ that they really don't interest me. Maybe if someone offers some large briefcases full of cash to work with them. I'd be more interested in doing some hand-optimized assembly language and perhaps some GPU programming, but that would probably take another decade to get good at.

Comment Re:He is an idiot... (Score 1) 307

Well, rich people don't have to use the internet. A lot of these guys don't realize that not being rich means that you don't have the same things or opportunities that they do. That's why they tend to think that people on welfare have it so good -- they don't realize that having $2 a day to feed your family means that your family might not be eating for a couple weeks out of the month. They just assume that the pantry will magically be well stocked, the way theirs is. Yes, you don't NEED to use the internet! You just have your help do it! Adjusts monocle disapprovingly

Comment TI 99/4A (Score 1) 857

Mine was a TI 99/4A the folks got at Christmas, 1983. The price had just been reduced to neighborhood of $50 as the computers had been discontinued. Reputedly due to the power supply having a tendency to catch on fire. I played video games on it for a while but quickly got into BASIC programming for it. The next year, my parents shelled out for the cartridge for it that would allow you to do assembly language programming on it. As I recall, my success with that was limited to moving a sprite around the screen with a joystick, but that wasn't too bad for a fourteen-year-old with limited reference materials. Started taking programming languages in high school a couple years later, and their Apple 2 machines put the ol' TI to shame. But I still get nostalgic for it.

Comment Re:IBM Tech Support was horrible (Score 3, Interesting) 93

Apparently the support line was the top rated one in the industry early on, but the penny pinchers started pinching pennies. When I got there, they would pretty much support you for life if you'd ever bought OS/2 or an IBM PC. They started out with screeners taking the call initially and then transferring it to level 1 support, but they did away with the screeners and added that responsibility to the call center guys. They also got a lot more picky about you having a set amount of support per license key and they started enforcing that. And they also added a 900 number, which apparently got a fair bit of traffic. They did have a network support team as well, and that covered all the shifts. Those questions were queued up and answered as they came in, and the guys who answered them were considered to be "level 2 support" if I remember correctly.

Around the time Windows 95 came out, there was a push for all the people in the call center to get the "OS/2 Certified Engineer" rating, but IBM shut down OS/2 before anything much came of that. I got mine at the '95 Comdex, while doing volunteer support for Team OS/2. Still have the little plastic card...

But yeah, most of the level 1 guys didn't have any experience with OS/2 and a few didn't have any experience with computers, when they started. About 90% of the problems that came in were for similar issues though -- printer stuff and video problems seemed to be the most of them. I still have the command line command to reset the video drivers to VGA burned into my brain. I could actually fix your shit for a wider range of problems, if you were lucky enough to get me, but fixing your shit is time consuming and I was frequently in trouble for not answering as many calls as I was supposed to be. A lot of the techs just wanted to throw a reboot-requiring command at you and make you go away so they could keep their numbers up.

Comment Re:We care...about cozy? (Score 1) 149

I've been wondering if you could just push a bunch of mass from the asteroid belt to it and start one up. Granted, we won't be pushing mass around like that any time soon, and the hippies would still complain that we're "disrupting the planet's natural ecosystem", but that sounds like a fun project to me.

Comment Back in the Day (Score 1) 421

Back in the day, while working at the call center for an international company, we had one specific customer who logged some ridiculous number of hours on the support line for a machine he bought at Sears. At some point this company had enough and put out a support-center-wide memo instructing the technicians that the next time the guy called, we were to instruct him to take the machine back to Sears and get a refund. At some point you just have to cut your losses and move on, though the big-ass company displayed a lot more patience than this little company did.

Comment Not Virtualization (Score 1) 360

I've seen a number of companies try to go down the virtualization route. Not only does it never work, it's one of the first signs the company is on the decline. You'll spend two years implementing some Citrix environment that everyone hates and which never perform correctly or have the software that you need to get your job done. Then the company will have a round of layoffs and quietly sweep the whole Virtual Environment thing under the carpet. They won't get rid of it, because that would involve admitting the CTO was horribly wrong, but no one will ever actually use it for anything.

Comment Re:Workplace Shell & virtualisation engine (Score 1) 232

It used a lot of COM/DCOM to get its job done, though, and there are implications for creating long-term persistent system objects with those things, that aren't released when you close applications. So you could end up tying up a system resource until you rebooted, if your application crashed in the process of using an object. System-level objects look good on paper, but there they really don't handle failures very well, most of the time.

Comment Re: Uh, why? (Score 1) 232

I got it working on a 386sx with 4 MB of RAM and a standard VGA card. Linux would run on the system as well, but I never could get X11 running well on it and ended up just using terminal mode, with one of the virtual terminals dialing up gate.net and running slirp. OS/2 had a number of artifacts from Windows, so even though it was preemptively multitasking, one program could type up the system event queue. They came up with a workaround for that, but it never really worked all that well. So if you really wanted OS/2 to shine, you had to install it on a multiprocessor system. That version of OS/2 created an event queue for each processor, so you could tie event queue up and the system would still be responsive. We did a pretty impressive demo at the '95 COMDEX in Atlanta on a massive Compaq quad processor 486 with a ridiculous 16MB of RAM, running 4 videos in 4 different video players without slowing the system down.

Funnily, even though OS/2 sported newfangled "threads", very few IBM applications used them -- most IBM OS/2 programs were pure windows ports. Ironically, if you ran the windows versions of those programs, you could run them in separate memory spaces so that the programs couldn't interfere with each other when doing processing in the event-handling thread. So Windows programs ran better on OS/2 than they did in windows and better than OS/2 programs ran in OS/2. You could format a disk and run a print job at the same time, as long as you did it from the command line. The GUI versions would tie the system queue up, so you could only do one at a time.

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