It was 30 years ago today….

… that I logged into a UNIX system for the first time. It was also three days after the ARPANET transitioned to TCP/IP, and my first day at a new job.

The place was Logicon, in San Diego. The system was Programmers Work Bench (PWB) UNIX on a DEC PDP-11/70. The system was in single user mode, since the root filesystem was corrupt and the senior programmers who might have been able to help had quit during the month before. I think that the last one was out of the country for the next 3 weeks. And, my new (completely non-technical) boss had actually been hired after I was; but he was starting at Logicon the same day. It was an interesting beginning to my new job.

I spent that first week at my new job learning enough UNIX to figure out the icheck, dcheck and ncheck commands to repair the filesystem. I eventually got the root filesystem fixed, was able to create an account for myself and bring the system back up into multi-user mode. File systems were much simpler then. So simple in fact that I later learned to use the ed editor to repair (or just change) filenames by editing the directory files.

As soon as the PWB system came back up, I learned that we were now “off net” as the ARPANET had transitioned from NCP to TCP/IP on the 1st of January, and there was no one to port and debug the needed TCP/IP stack for our system. We needed that connection to communicate with our government customer, deliver software and work on our contract for the US Navy.

Fortunately, Logicon re-hired one of the senior programmers; he spent January and part of February working on the TCP/IP code to get us back on the ARPANET. We shared an IMP with the Naval Ocean Systems Center (NOSC, now part of SPAWAR) and UCSD. I met two long-time friends, Ron (@NOSC) and Brian (@UCSD) through our ARPANET connection, and we still keep in touch.

I always remember “ARPANET flag day“, because that’s when I got my start with UNIX and the ARPANET. That led to work on the Internet, HPC, and computer security.

Strangely enough, part of my current job is to work on a transition to IPv6. I have now had direct experience with IPv4, IPv5 and IPv6.

I owe a large debt  to all the people I’ve worked with and the USENIX (and later LOPSA) community of friends. You’ve all been wonderfully helpful, often insightful, and always friendly. Thank you all.

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