[Wine] Re: The perils of GMAX

A Nonny Moose wineforum-user at winehq.org
Mon Jul 19 21:30:01 CDT 2010

I have a very chequered career.  I thought I wanted to be a chemical engineer, but was saved when there was a steel strike one summer and my job disappeared so I couldn't make my fees and expenses.  So in the summer of 1959 I went to work for a chartered bank as a "supernumerary", a.k.a. gofer.

I learned a lot in about six months, and wound up being transferred to the big T.O. as a teller.  I got to be head teller, then assistant accountant.  I sent in a flow chart of a system I devised to operate the branch posting machine to post something that had just come out, and for which there were no instructions.  Working with the ledger keepers and the proof teller, we got the thing working, so I documented it, and sent it in to the methods guys.  Boom!  I got transferred down town to the methods department.  They seconded me to the EAM (you remember those, clunkety-clunk) section supervisor to work on acquisition of the bank's first major computer to do Demand Deposit Accounting (current accounts) for all the Toronto area branches.  We had all the cheques, so all we had to do was capture the data, and have the branches report any other transactions.  While we were waiting for proposals to come in from our short list of vendors (IBM, GE, NCR, Burroughs), I was assigned to assist the local printers to get their E13B cheque encoding right (yes, that's when it happened).  So I did that, and since we had a sorter, did a program to test the cheques.  By then, I was a self-taught programmer in assembler.

That's when the International Brotherhood of Magicians got in the act with the board of directors, so we got to cool our heels for another year, getting ready to convert all the EAM applications to the new machine.  We had a room full of clankers, three operators, and a supervisor who were being obstinate.  We persevered.

So the bank got an NCR 315 that had 10,000 (no fooling) words of 12-bit decimal addressed memory, some Card Random Access Units, a line printer, a paper tape reader, an English Electric Card shuffler (I mean reader), and two 16-pocket cheque sorters.  The machine did arithmetic in decimal.  In those days, mucho dinero.

About this time, since I was the only programmer, I collapsed.  When I got back to work, I had this nice staff of 14 novices who knew only a little less than I did.  We got the applications running anyway.  Remember, in those days if a university had a computer at all, it was a curiosity in the EE lab.

After a few years the bank had a political falling out with NCR and decided to go Honeywell.  I liked neither the Honeywell machine (a fancier 1401) nor the attitude of its people, so I found a job with GE's Information Systems and Defence Products Department.  We sold main frames, jet engines, radar, rockets, and other things that are probably still classified.  I was attached to the Toronto data centre as a support programmer and sales support analyst.  That's when I got my first taste of Multics.  We actually sold a few of them to various classified outfits, and one to Bell Canada.  We also sold smaller stuff, like the 600 line (72-bit words), the 400 line (24-bit words) and the 200 line (18-bit words).  Byte?  Wazzat?

Well, I did some career searching and wound up back with the GE group, now part of Honeywell.  At the time we figured they would soon be merged with Fairchild Semiconductor and the new company would be called Fairwell Honeychild.  Anyway, Honeywell stuggled along for a while by making their best salesman into the general director with the usual results.  "Apparently the rot had set in worldwide because one day we found that we had been bought by CII-Honeywell-Bull (a.k.a. Charles de Gaulle and Co.).  After a few years of doldrums, Bull decided that main frames were not for them.  After a failed experiment with Zenith, the folded the large scale side of the business and let all 8,000 of us go in one day world-wide.

After I got over the shock that, in fact, the big computer business was as dead as a dodo (1990), I became a professor of computer science in a local college, working part time until I retired at age 65.  I'll be 73 in September.

So here I am playing catch up with the baby boomers just for fun and something to do.

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