[TUHS] [OT] VAXen, my children, just don't belong some places

Greg 'groggy' Lehey grog at lemis.com
Thu Oct 20 11:18:41 AEST 2016

On Wednesday, 19 October 2016 at  7:49:48 -0400, Dan Cross wrote:
> On Oct 18, 2016 11:36 PM, "Andy Kosela" <akosela at andykosela.com> wrote:
>> On Tue, Oct 18, 2016 at 6:05 PM, Dave Horsfall <dave at horsfall.org> wrote:
>> <snip>
>> What operating system was installed on that VAX?  VMS or UNIX?
> I've always loved this story, but surely it's apocryphal? If Black
> Monday had been due to an operator rebooting a VAX that would have
> certainly made the news....

Clearly some of the details are fictional or strongly exaggerated, but
could the story not be based on fact?  Ten years before this event I
was in a big company in Germany with IBM (3080) and UNIVAC (494)
computer systems, and we installed a little Tandem/16 machine in the
middle of it.  The IBM operators had to tend to the Tandem too, and
it's clear they didn't consider it a Real Computer.

But the details?  Sure, different shops have different cultures, but
backups, for example, went without saying.  In the days where tapes
were bigger than disks, we made a complete backup of the system every
night, which occasionally came in handy (see
http://www.lemis.com/grog/warstories/fuppurgestar.php for one example).

And reboots?  The IBM systems did an IPL (Initial Program Load, their
word for boot) every Monday morning.  All morning, if I recall
correctly.  The UNIVAC people and we smiled sympathetically and
carried on running.  But then, in our case the IBM people didn't come
closer to the system than to change tapes, and they didn't know how to
reboot it.  If they had done, there would have been hell to pay.  But
as I say, different cultures.

And the transfer itself?  This was 1987!  People didn't transfer that
much money.  By this time I was OS support manager for Tandem Europe,
and our customers included all large banks in Europe.  With the
exception of one large British bank (who used trained monkeys), all
banks had reasonably responsible operators.  The CHAPS system
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CHAPS) had just gone live on our
platform, and the average transfer was "only" £5,000 million.  And of
course it used modern databases.  A failure of a machine in the
network could not have resulted in any loss of data integrity.

Finally, of course, the real reasons for Black Monday (1987) are
known.  They have nothing to do with (computer) operator error.

Sent from my desktop computer.
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