[TUHS] LOC [was Re: Re: Re.: Princeton's "Unix: An Oral History": who was in the team in "The Attic"?

steve jenkin sjenkin at canb.auug.org.au
Wed Nov 9 19:01:25 AEST 2022

> On 9 Nov 2022, at 19:41, Dan Cross <crossd at gmail.com> wrote:
> To tie this back to TUHS a little bit...when did being a "sysadmin" become a thing unto itself? And is it just me, or has that largely been superceded by SRE (which I think of as what one used to, perhaps, call a "system programmer") and DevOps, which feels like a more traditional Unix-y kind of thing?
>         - Dan C.

In The Beginning, We were All Programmers… 

Machines were smaller, programs simpler and we were closer to the hardware.
Literally, like the “Unix Room”, in the Attic at Bell Labs.

Admin & Operations weren’t too onerous and “Maintenance” was done by the people doing the kernel & systems software, at a guess.
And maybe hardware was fixed by the Vendor, or super-programmers did the plug and play themselves.

As sites got bigger, work became multi-person project ’teams’ and admin problems got tricker, while ‘certain people’ did the work.

When Unix became properly commercial - multiple vendors, big manuals, support contracts, and a plethora of Unix variants - some Bright People created “Unix Training” courses, in many topiocs.

Somewhere around this time, courses and job titles for “System Admin” appeared.

Sadly, all this happened without any distinctions in capability & ‘levels’, or actual problem solving testing (cf CISCO’s CCIE: 2 days of testing, 1st day quizzes on a PC, 2nd day is by invitation. Lab session: “fix the broken network in the allotted time”)

SAGE - System Admin Guild, part of USENIX - put together a bunch of small books on (Unix) System Admin Topics and tried to guide the development of the field.
After 10 years, I was out of the loop and hadn’t seen anything positive in the workplace.

SRE roles & as a discipline has developed, alongside DevOps, into managing & fault finding in large clusters of physical and virtual machines.

Never done it myself, but it’d seem the potential for screw-ups is now infinite and unlimited in time :)

Steve Jenkin, IT Systems and Design 
0412 786 915 (+61 412 786 915)
PO Box 38, Kippax ACT 2615, AUSTRALIA

mailto:sjenkin at canb.auug.org.au http://members.tip.net.au/~sjenkin

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