[TUHS] DEC compilers (was Happy birthday, John Backus!)

Paul Winalski paul.winalski at gmail.com
Thu Dec 6 04:16:45 AEST 2018

On 12/5/18, Clem Cole <clemc at ccc.com> wrote:
> I'll never forget Bill Munson's warnings at the 1980 USENIX conference.
>  Munson ran 'TIG' - Telephone Industries Group, in Merrimack, NH - who job
> at DEC was helping their largest customer: AT&T.    Us university types
> were screaming at Bill and team "When is DEC going to 'support' UNIX?" Bill
> got up an cautioned, 'Be careful what you wish/ask us to do.   If we do
> support Unix, we will have to put Fortran, Cobol, and PL/1 on it -- which I
> don't think you really want.'
TIG's mission was to insure that DEC gear did what AT&T wanted.  For
Unix this mainly was assisting in ports to new DEC hardware and
writing device drivers.  Their mission was distinctly NOT to develop
anything DEC-specific.  They were obsessively paranoid about
that--they called such things "vendor traps".  Our attitude in the
VAX/VMS languages and software tools group was very different.  We
were all about making VAX/VMS different, and better, in the
marketplace in order to attract customers to our platform.

When DEC officially decided to do their own, fully supported version
of Unix (to be branded Ultrix), things happened exactly as Bill Munson
predicted.  The VAX/VMS languages & tools group started planning for
an orderly port of all of our products to Ultrix.  We got immediate
and fierce push-back from the Ultrix engineering group (formerly TIG).
So we dropped the whole idea.  Only to have to do a panic port of VAX
Fortran a few years later.  Sigh.  The wonder of culture clashes.

It took a long time for the "vendor trap" idea to die in DEC's Unix
group.  Sun and others weren't as prissy when it came to putting their
own extensions into their Unix offerings, and the DEC Unix group
eventually found themselves being considered a trailing-edge offering.

-Paul W.

P.S. - I forgot VAX RPG as one of DEC's language products.  I think it
was VCG-based, but I'm not certain of that.

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