Tag Archives: history

Blast From the Past

I found this program called Cathode that does an incredible job of recreating the experience of writing code on a CRT display, ca. 1980–83. Many was the hour I logged on the Lear-Sigler ADM-3A — in those days time was logged, so you could pay for it. That was incredibly unfair since the I/O (for l’users) was throttled down to 4800 baud.

CRT Recreation

Check it out. Then give it up, before the ergonomics make you blind.

As a sort of colophon, the code I’m editing here is genuine K&R C, from the Old Testament. There are two anachronisms:

  1. I’m using vi to edit it, but in the day I was busy getting all carpal with emacs. I had no choice here: there might be an Emacs on my system, but if there is, I can’t remember how to get out.
  2. I wrote this code in 1992, by which time we used terminal emulators like Kermit on PCs, instead of real terminals. However, it was a recreation of something I wrote in about 1983 to translate English into “Klingonese.” (Not the stuff used by Star Trek fans. That came later. I’m talking STA KANG, PUSHJ JRST.)

To be fair, I don’t think I ever wrote C on the ADM-3A, or even a VT-100. I don’t think the DECSystem-20 even had a C compiler. All my C was on the VAX, which had HP-2621A terminals.

The Best Cheeseburger Ever

There’s a story about the world-famous green chili cheeseburgers served by the Owl Bar, and I’m here to tell you, they’re not kidding. The best cheeseburgers evah.

(Frankly, if you’re in New Mexico, Blake’s Lotaburger is pretty good, and here in California you can’t get a better cheeseburger without green chilis than the ones they make at In’n’Out. But the Owl Bar is in a class by itself. And as the story reveals, a lot of professor-types have taken that class too. The reviews on Yelp are wonderful in their cluelessness. Not just police have unit patches, kid.)

Reflections on Salary

My first job out of college paid an annual salary of S. (The actual amount S represents is unimportant.)

For a brief period of time, that was more money than I could imagine. (We didn’t discuss money in my family, but I have reason to believe that my dad supported us–four kids, mom, and himself–on less than that amount.) Two years later, when I moved to Bell Labs, I also “right-sized” my salary to 140% of S. Then S didn’t seem so impressive.

What’s interesting is that my 1984 salary is 70% of what I make now, 26 years later, according to the measuringworth.com web site. (Actually, they provide a bunch of estimates, ranging from 71% to 140%. I picked the lowest one.)

Now, that was in Albuquerque, which is cheaper to live in than Yucca Valley. According to the cost-of-living comparison at Sperling’s BestPlaces, a dollar there buys as much as $1.06 does here.

So my first job out of college paid effectively 75% of my current salary. And I only had one car and three less mouths to feed. But what’s really amazing is that within two years of graduation, I had run up more than 10% of my salary in credit card debt. To be sure, I do have a mortgage today, but (so far!) we’re paying our bills and living within our means.