Little slices of time

I’ve always been an op, not a coder: I could pound on a DECwriter, I could change a ribbon on some arcane IBM printer like the 4214, and when called upon, I could speak some pidgin version of VAXese. But I remember these days frighteningly well:

The last time I went down this road I wrote my own search function that would return the element with the closest value to my requested target. I also wrote my own insert and delete routines. I did this because when I went to school everything about computer programming was about saving CPU cycles. Beginning programmers got seven seconds of execution time on the mainframe. I screwed up once in a junior level class and burned my entire semester’s allotment before the OS kicked me off. That rated some words from my professor.

I wonder why it took me so long to figure this out. I’m thinking it might because most of the programming work I did involved making things work, and there was no end to it. Well, I guess it did come to an end which is why I am unemployed. Computer companies eventually got their acts together and started building machines that worked when you turned them on, and software companies started producing software that people could use to do something useful. Took a while but they eventually got it sorted.

I got a reminder of this last week when I ran an optimization cycle on the database that underlies this site. Cut the size from 125 MB to 121. And I remembered my very first hard drive, which would hold almost one-sixth of that database — reluctantly.


  1. Dan T. »

    14 November 2017 · 9:28 pm

    Programmers these days have lost the art of making software efficient… everything today is bloatware, running intolerably slow on machines even a couple of years old. In my day, between walking ten miles through six feet of snow uphill both ways, I wrote programs for a 48K Apple II.

  2. Balanced »

    14 November 2017 · 9:32 pm

    0, 4, 11, 14, 15 up and all others down. Stop Reset Program Load

    . . . IPL

  3. McGehee »

    14 November 2017 · 9:41 pm

    When I was still opening Windows from a DOS prompt only when I needed to use MS-Publisher, I used to call myself the Byte Miser. The fact my hard drive ran just over 40 megabytes may have had something to do with it.

  4. ETat »

    15 November 2017 · 7:08 am

    y’all speaking in code

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