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Richard Stevens: I was a counselor at the UM Computing Center and a Unix book dedicated to MTS

2. I was a counselor at the UM Computing Center

posted Sep 15, 2010, 9:00 PM by Jeff Ogden   [ updated Dec 25, 2011, 10:20 PM ]

Since I started my work for the UM Computing Center as a counselor in 1974, I found the following from W. Richard Stevens' biography brought back some memories:

My first encounter with computers was in 1968 as a Freshman engineering student at the University of Michigan, taking a required Fortran IV class. Although I was an Aerospace Engineering major, this class made me realize that I enjoyed my programming class more than my other classes. I kept taking all the programming classes that I could as electives, and one of the really neat things about the U. of M. was that I could take all the computer classes that I wanted (undergrad or graduate), as long as I had the background. In my second programming class we got to write PDP-8 machine code (not assembler), running our programs on a PDP-8 simulator that ran on an IBM 360. My next programming class (CCS 473), was taught by Bernard Galler and covered IBM assembler and Snobol 4. Next was CCS 573, taught by Larry Flanigan, and we got to write an operating system for an IBM mainframe in assembler, and run it on its own virtual machine on the 360/67.

I had two jobs while an undergraduate: I was a programmer for the Astronomy Department, programming a PDP-8 at their McMath-Hulbert Observatory near Pontiac, Michigan, and I was a counselor at the Computer Center. The latter was one of the more prestigious jobs on campus, paying as I recall around $4/hour in 1973. One had to take a test to get the job, and not too many undergrads passed the test. We were then the answer people at the Computing Center for anyone using MTS (the Michigan Terminal System). One of the fun projects that I did for the Astronomy Department was writing a program that ran on both the IBM mainframe (for the actual computing) and a PDP-9 (an 18-bit system) that did all the interactive display and input. The PDP-9 operating system was written by Jim Blinn, who went on to become famous in the graphics field. 

I do remember thinking at the time that the counseling job at the Computing Center paid very well compared with the other temporary student programming jobs I had at UM. I also remember the test that we had to take. There was a written part and an interview. I was interviewed by Jim Henriksen and Jim Hamilton. A number of UM Computing Center staff members started out as "counselors": Jim Sterken and Pat Sherry to name just two.

A copy of my written counselors exam from 1973 or 1974 (Test III) with my answers and scores and comments from Jim Henriksen and Jim Hamilton is available. I got 222 out of a possible 300 or 74%. That must have been good enough to get hired. I could do a little better today, but I don't think I could get a perfect score.

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1. Why did you dedicate APUE to MTS?

posted Sep 7, 2010, 10:13 AM by Jeff Ogden   [ updated Jun 2, 2014, 1:16 PM ]

From http://www.kohala.com/start/rstevensfaq.html :

Q: Why did you dedicate APUE to MTS (the Michigan Terminal System)?

I was an undergraduate at Michigan from 1968-1973 and the first computer I used was an IBM 360/67 running MTS for the Fortran programming course required of all Freshman engineers. The textbook was a homegrown text by Brice Carnahan and James Wilkes with Elliot Organick's Fortran IV book as a supplementary text. MTS was a fantastic system with lots of neat ideas and was developed around the same time as Unix. Like Unix, MTS had ideas that were ahead of its time, especially when compared to the other alternative OSes that were available for an IBM mainframe. Unfortunately for MTS, it ran on expensive IBM mainframes and Unix ran on cheap PDP-11s. As they say, the rest is history. 

APUE is Advanced Programming in the UNIX Environment, W. Richard Stevens, Addison-Wesley, 1992

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