See more on Alan's entry on the MTS Archive's People page.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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 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 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.
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..." ☺
Kathy Wyse congratulations alan! enjoy every moment.