2.2: Alan Ballard (UBC)

posted Apr 30, 2016, 5:07 AM by Jeff Ogden   [ updated May 6, 2016, 7:28 AM ]
See more on Alan's entry on the MTS Archive's People page.

Alan Retires, posted on Facebook, 29 April 2016

Copied from: https://www.facebook.com/AJBallard/posts/10208463555122376

Today I said goodbye to my co-workers at Salesforce.com. After working as a software developer for something like 43 years, I’ve retired!

Most of my career was with three employers: UBC, PeopleSoft and Salesforce.com. At each of them I’ve had the privilege of working with brilliant and friendly people many of whom have become long-term friends.

I took my first computer course in 1966. I started reading the textbook (“Programming and Coding Digital Computers” by Philip M Sherman – I still have it!) and was hooked before the first class.

My first computer was the IBM 7044 ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_7040 ) at UBC. It had 32K words (36 bits a word) of memory, was programmed with punched cards (80 characters to a card) and filled a largish room.

My first real job, also at UBC, was programming an IBM 360/67 ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_System/360_Model_67 ) running the MTS operating system. It had 2 megabytes of memory, a string of hard drives (IBM 2311’s I believe, at about 8 megabytes each), and was programmed and used from a variety of input terminals including video displays. It filled a warehouse-sized room with boxes the size of refrigerators and washing machines.
Now I think my iPhone has more memory and more processing power than that warehouse. But a much worse keyboard.

As a student we would create our programs on those punched cards, hand them in to be run by the operations staff, and got back the results as printed output, usually the next day. Now I can create software on my laptop, test it locally using various programming tools to help, rarely printing anything. (After which I send it to the shared system to be merged and tested with the work of several hundred other developers, and, umm, get back the results hours or days later….)

The user experience has changed so much too. Forty years ago most computer users had to learn obscure commands and codes and enter them via those punched cards or input terminals. Now with graphical displays, mice, touch screens, “intuitive” menu systems, it’s much more approachable. Though still the source of much frustration! (It surprises me, however, how many of my colleagues still prefer using obscure 1970’s incantations, even as they develop software intended to implement a great user interface….)

Some things haven’t changed that much. When I was a graduate student in the early 1970s, the hot topics were programmer productivity (or lack thereof) and software reliability. There have been huge gains in both since those days, but the complexity of the software has more than kept up, so we continue to produce buggy products that take longer than planned to develop.

It’s been a wild ride; I do wonder what another 40 years will bring.

Alex Johnson Bouthillier Congratulations Alan. Enjoy your retirement!

Jean Ballard
Jean Ballard I remember you taking me into the bowels of the computer room at UBC all those years ago - not sure if that was when you were a student (I remember visiting you in your dorm room - still have a photo of that!), or perhaps shortly after you began working there. Huge, noisy machines! Happy retirement, Alan.

Solomon Montijo
Solomon Montijo Many congrats, Alan!!! heart emoticon

Jon E Finke
Jon E Finke Alan, I truly enjoyed working with you over the years, and you taught me a lot. Enjoy your retirement and know that you were one of the good ones.

Ralph Austin Sayle
Ralph Austin Sayle Well was it 1967 when you were taking Computer Science 300 (taught by Charlotte Froese?) and everyone's project were all done with cards? We all had slim little decks of cards but you had a big deck so big it lived in box, a computer card box! We were all impressed. 😉

Have a Happy Retirement. I heard the Grouse Grind has opened!

Steve Burling
Steve Burling Congratulations, Alan! It was a pleasure working with you, and, like many others, cursing you over the inflexibility of the Plus compiler, before eventually coming to the painful conclusion that you were right, damn you.

Garance Alistair Drosehn
Garance Alistair Drosehn Bah. I always thought that Plus and CLParser were cool!
Jon E Finke
Jon E Finke Once I learned to accept the paragraphing of the *PLUS compiler and embrace it, I was happier with my coding. Now I miss it with other languages.

Jill Wetzler
Jill Wetzler I can't tell you how grateful I am to have worked with you. I had always hoped we'd work together again someday. Let me know if you get bored and want to get back into this awful, awful business smile emoticon

Shahid Khan
Shahid Khan Alan Ballard It was great working with you! Enjoy your free time!

Ida Eriksen
Ida Eriksen Happy Retirement Alan! Maybe you'll head up this way at some point!

Peter Davis
Peter Davis Congratulations on your retirement Uncle Alan! I hope we can open a very good bottle of wine from our cellar in celebration soon.

Tannis Goddard
Tannis Goddard Congrats Alan Ballard. Thanks for sharing your insights about the development of the industry...I find it so fascinating. Hope to see you soon.

Douglas Wade
Douglas Wade Loads of memories for the UBC MTS Systems Group!!!

Tanis Brookes
Tanis Brookes I honestly never thought the day would arrive. I'm still not convinced that you will have no access to the coding over the next few weeks. I am happy that you have chosen to learn Latin, build that spice rack that you no longer need, write all those letters to those unfortunate & unsuspecting editors out there. Enjoy it! You deserve it. Ooooh, you deserve it! Congratulations!

Ron Kerr
Ron Kerr Happy retirement. I, too, did 43 years, starting with DEUCE built from thermionic valves and being used to design the Concorde aircraft and guided missiles.

Eric Kolotyluk
Eric Kolotyluk I took my first computing course in 1970, 4 years after Alan. Does this mean I can retire 4 years from now, or do I have to wait until I am his age now before I can retire? Frankly, I find it hard to believe he would ever retire, but given the trends in his postings of late, he's lucky enough to find many more adventures to replace his coding fix. Truly, for all of us lucky enough to work with him and know him, our lives are richer. Good luck with your new career Alan, I'm sure your zest for life will find new adventures, create more memories, and continue to touch all of us.

Trish Macvey
Trish Macvey What new adventures await... Congratulations, Alan!

Ric Woods
Ric Woods Congrats amigo. I envy your retirement. Enjoy. I'll probably work until I drop. I love the work. As a friend once said, "I'm on the Freedom 85 or die program" 😃

Ric Woods
Ric Woods Ps. Thanks for helping me with my computer assignments in the 1960s.

David Davis
David Davis Alan! Congrats on retirement I hope you enjoy many times and learn to sleep in and explore the world even if it ends at the ferry terminal.
My only fear is getting an update from you in a week that starts "a friend from perplexity called me and we started talking about this great complex idea..."
Best wishes


Terry Ross
Terry Ross Enjoy your retirement but you probably will never get away from computers

Anthony Buckland
Anthony Buckland Congratulations! No, I can't imagine you not computing. Intelligently. Enjoying it.

Kathy Wyse
Kathy Wyse congratulations alan! enjoy every moment.