From: Dave Dunfield <>
Date: Sun Feb 27 07:15:18 2005

> It could be interesting to know the age"spread" of this list contributors,
> and how long we've had the computer virus under our skin.

1960; Been keenly interested in electronic and technical things for as far
back as I can recall ... As a child I spent all my time "building things",
but didn't really get exposed to computers until the mid-70s when I fell in
love with an IBM 370 (See below)...

First computer of my own was a homebuilt 8080, followed closely by an Altair
8800 (which I still have). Long and highly varied list of machines follow,
including several more homebuilts. Never an "appliance operator", I always
used the machines as a creative outlet. Always been interested in low-level
and systems type aspects, designed my own interfaces, wrote my own operating
systems and development tools - still use mostly my own software, although I
have a couple systems configured with winblows for "when I really have to".

Pretty much the same story professionally, worked for various high-tech
companies, got caught up in it for a while - did a few "salvage jobs" where
I was came in to "rescue" a project after "the team" had spent all the money
and had little to show for it, eventually became a director at one of the
major telecom players ... at which point I realized I was rapidly leaving
the relm of "hands on", so I stepped off the ladder. Turned my hobby into a
business, and I've been hawking my embedded systems software development tools
and contract services for the past 15+ years... (and being much happier for it).


---- (below) ----
For those who didn't experience IBM mainframes - IBM was not always just another
player in the "me to" Wintel market - in the 70's, they were one of the major
forces in the computing industry, and to our university computer center which
was built around the IBM mainframe, at times they seemed like denizens of
Mount Olympus. Here are a couple of my "favorite IBM moments" from that era:

At the University of New Brunswick, we had mostly serial TTY terminals, however
at one point they brought in five IBM 3270s which were set up at one end of the
user access area. The idea of being able to "instantly" write an entire screen
page was really cool, and in short order I wrote a "tank game" where multiple
people could enter a virtual maze and shoot at one another, which pretty much
realtime updates of the visible maze and other players. It was very popular, but
due to a bug somewhere in the system, it had the undesired effect of crashing the
entire mainframe. (They had a "traffic light" in the access room, which would show
Green when the system was up and running, Red when it was down, and Yellow if it
was scheduled to be taken down shortly. Invariably, a short while after a couple
of people started up my game, all the TTYs in the area would stop responding and
shortly after that the light would switch to red).
My "favorite moment" came one Sunday morning, when the computing center announced
that the system would be unavailable for the day (a very rare occurance) - I came
in to see what they were up to, and found the access room empty except for 5 guys
from IBM, complete with suits, ties and briefcases - sitting at the 3270 cluster.
Four of them were playing my game (and making some favorable comments), while the
fifth guy was madly running diagnostics, scrolling through dumps and generally
trying to figure out what going wrong - they did find it, and after that my game
no longer crashed the system (although it still cost a small fortune in processor
time to play it!).
Fairly early in my career, I worked on developemnt software for a 6809 based test
system at Mitel - this had a CPU/RAM card, and various interface cards. One of the
hardware engineers had designed a floppy disk controller for it, however software
support consisted of a monitor program with commands to read and write tracks/memory.
On my own time, I wrote a decent multitasking operating system and disk file system
for it, and when I demonstrated it, the company formed a new devision to develop
this "advanced test system" - I was in charge of the operating system, languages
and development software ... We ended up selling quite a few of these to IBM, and
having been launched on my path by my experiences with IBM MVS, I took great pleasure
in the thought that they had bought and used *my* operating system (yeah, I know -
to them it was just a piece of test equipment... but at the time it was a "favorite
dave04a (at)    Dave Dunfield
dunfield (dot)  Firmware development services & tools:
com             Collector of vintage computing equipment:
Received on Sun Feb 27 2005 - 07:15:18 GMT

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