HelpSystems Blog

Remembering First IT Roles: How Times Have Changed.

Just thought I would share with you some of my memories of my first roles in IT and the limitations we worked with at the time.

Little wonder that in 1988 my manager was very excited about getting one of the first AS/400s….

Our existing system, the System/36, was very slow!  A few years earlier it was even slower and it did not even have sufficient power to compile programs.  The process we had to operate was long winded – programmers made source code changes, then, in the afternoon these changes would be saved onto a floppy disk, taken to the railway station and sent to another city in the UK.  Here a specialist company, equipped with a fleet of computers, would compile them overnight, and the compiled programs would come back to us on the first train the next morning.

Today it is irritating if a compile takes more than a few seconds!

Another organization that I worked for even had developers and users on the same box. The practice was for most people to run as ‘low priority’ and only important users to operate as ’high priority.’ But so many people managed to make a case for being on ‘high priority’ that almost everyone was!  The result was that we all ended up running just as slowly as before.

The Managing Director then decided to have some building alterations undertaken but he failed to inform the IT team – a costly error!

One morning, a pneumatic drill opened up on the other side of the wall where I was working, to my great surprise.  After much discussion with the builders, knocking down of internal walls and moving around of furniture to accommodate a new doorway that we knew nothing about, the work was complete.  But we soon discovered that it was not possible to accommodate the 12 desks in the new room!  So the builders were brought back in to block up the doorway and make a new one in a different position. If only he had talked to us in the first place.

On another day, the same MD phoned the IT department; he wanted to know who was abusing the system because everything was running  slowly. When we checked in “users” we found it was him! He was using ‘DisplayWrite’, an AS/400 based word processor. This was before the days of PCs, and word processing was commonly done on the AS/400 but ‘DisplayWrite’ was infamous as a system killer.

At another company all the developers had two IBM 5250 workstations, but no PC. This was thought to improve productivity as one could be used for source editing and one for testing.  As the system was slow, all compiles had to be done in batch, and we programmed the compile utility to send a message on completion of the compile to relevant IT personnel. The terminals would ‘beep’ on receipt of a new message; we developed the programme further so that a successful compile would send a message to the workstation which submitted it, and a failed compile would send a message to the user that submitted it.

Since we were all signed on to two workstations, this resulted in a mono “beep” after a successful compile or a louder stereo “beep” after a fail, at which point someone would usually shout out “Ha! Terminal Terrors!”

Just thought I would share my memories with you, hopefully they have brought a smile to your face, as you recall your first roles in IT.  The IBM i has made a huge impact, is a great piece of kit.  It is a reliable system , that is cross platform and can be partitioned.  It is here to stay and I, for one, am glad. It is a clever and durable piece of kit!