Reminiscing WAS Re: operating systems

From: Wirehead Prime <>
Date: Thu Jan 1 14:44:38 1998

> > In 1993 I started an ISP around $500, a 386 box cobbled together from
> > friends' spare junk and that ISP is statewide, owns all its
> > hardware, has no debts and pays me twice the median income in my state, I
> > own my home and have the leisure time in the evenings to correct folks'
> > misconceptions about the usefulness of Linux. Why? Because of Linux,
> > it's flexibility, it's cost (FREE) and it's reliability.
> PS. Very commendable, Anthony!

Thanks Sam.

For your amusement I'll tell you the ORIGINAL plan! It's not on the
website at

In 1991 and 1992 I started to formulate the idea, which I had not
previously read anywhere (although I wasn't the first to think of it),
that Internet access could be provided to the masses and that money could
be made from this. Problem was...networking hardware and multi-user
systems were VERY expensive...who could afford 5 figures for a DecStation
or something similar?

But older Vaxen (780s, 750s and so on) were starting to show up 'Free to
a good home'. So our plan was to drive across country, to New Hampshire
if I recall, to pick up a 780, another 780 still in boxes, and an
PDP-11/70. These would be driven back in a U-Haul and placed in a back
room someplace with adequate power.

We felt we could make it work because we'd cobbled together an 11/34A
from a bizarre array of had RL02s, it had RK07s (which are a
BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE*tch to carry up three flights of stairs), it had a
TU-11(?), with a MacIIx or fx for a terminal. =-) It ran some flavor of
RSTS and we had all sorts of fun putting a modem on it and telling our
college buddies about this "Defense Department mainframe we'd hacked into
at such and such a phone number" and then playing with their minds when
they dialed into it.

Around that time I saw a friend's machine running some early flavor of
FreeBSD or NetBSD or SomethingBSD I decided that it could be done on
Intel boxes. All my friends...including the guy who built the 11/34A
with me...laughed at the idea. Well here I am today and the guy who
helped with the 11/34 is running a competing ISP up to its EARS in debt
because he did everything with off-the-shelf workstations.

Frankly, I think he was just humoring me on the 'pick up the 11/780s'
idea and wanted to see if I'd actually suffer through the experience.

Speaking of the 11/34, the guy whose apartment we built it in later
decided he didn't want it anymore so another friend and I went over and
salvaged what we could as he hauled it down to the dumpster (had a
falling out over that) and the controller for the tape drive got left in
my friend's car (HE'S STILL a friend) but he didn't realize it until
later. Later he sees it and takes it into his dorm room but doesn't have
a safe place to put it so he lifts up one of the false ceiling tiles and
sets it up there, which I didn't know until AFTER he'd vacated the room,
graduated and moved home.

So....if anyone needs a controller for a TU-11(?) I know where one is if
you want to do a little breaking and entering...OR...try explaining to
what will be a very confused-looking college student why you need to go
into their room and look in the ceiling. =-)

[BTW, for those doing the math I spent a few EXTRA years in college when
I realized that teaching physics to high school students is not terribly
lucrative nor will the state education folks back you up if you get sued
for breaking up a fight between students...IE having to knock a student
down to keep someone from getting killed. That happened to another
teacher while I was doing my student teaching. The very next semester I
switched to Computer Science. I'm 29 now.]

[I graduated, finally, in May '94. The friend I mentioned didn't
graduate until the following year. But in Fall '94 he walks into a Comp
Sci class first day and the prof starts telling this story about how the
previous spring he'd finally graduated the last student who was at (Drake
University in Des Moines, Iowa) who was there before the University had
Macintoshes. The prof was my advisor and he was talking about me. =)
In fact, I recall when there was only an 11/780 and VT102s and some fungo
work-alike with a horrible keyboard. I still have one of those VT102s.]

Wirehead - Anthony Clifton
Received on Thu Jan 01 1998 - 14:44:38 GMT

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