[TUHS] Paper discussing Unix boot process?

Pat Barron patbarron at acm.org
Thu Apr 11 11:06:56 AEST 2019

The more I think about this, the more I'm sure I'm barking up the wrong 

>From bits and pieces I've been able to recall, the thing I am looking for 
was not about Unix - it was about TOPS-20.  It was a timeline of the 
system bootstrap activities from power-on to the point where users could 
log in.  I still don't remember where I found it originally, but at least 
now I'm pretty sure I've been looking in all the wrong places...  I 
believe it originated at CMU, but I don't know for sure that that's where 
I originally located it.

The actual problem I'm trying to solve is, at this point in my 
professional career, I'm starting to interact with a lot of people (even 
experienced software developers) who just have no clue of what has to 
happen to get a computer from the point of "power-on" to the point where 
they can actually use it to do things.  This makes me sad...  So, I'm 
looking for something that I can point these people to that could clue 
them in...  I think the whole bootstrap process is useful to understand 
for a lot of reasons, partly because it makes you think about all the 
little fiddly details that have to be attended to to make the computer do 
what you want - when I was first learning about this, I remember being 
particularly fascinated by what had to happen to prepare for that moment 
at which you turn on the MMU, to make sure that the system continues 
executing in a place you expect it to, in the right processor mode.  I 
know most people that I interact with are using Linux or Windows on 
Intel-architecture machines, but the boot process for Unix on the PDP-10 
or VAX (or even TOPS-20 on the PDP-10) I thought would be a much simpler 
thing to understand.  Though maybe that's the wrong thought process, maybe 
I should just find something related to Linux that is comparable (even 
though I think it's more complicated).

While searching, I also came across a decent presentation by a friend of 
mine who teaches at CMU, and discusses hardware that people probably 
actually work with right now, but I think it would be best consumed along 
with the actual lecture that it goes with.


Maybe I'll find what I was originally looking for at some point, but after 
spinning on this for most of the day, I don't think it's related to 


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