in 83 or 84 came something special - ‘getting to know’ the pdp-10 / dec10 at swt in san marcos texas. southwest texas state university. this was a dec10 that had been ‘handed down’ by swt’s ‘big brother’ in austin. coming straight from the utaustin ‘source’, it naturally had decwar installed - that calls for a dedicated discussion. ‘adventure’ was there as well, and other classics.

curiously enough, it was housed in a 70s building very similar to rlm hall at utaustin. it wouldn’t be a surprise if they were built by the same firm. the building was on the side of a hill and a small foot bridge connected the street to a glass entryway, then a hallway to the right led past the terminal room to the glassed-off computer room.

in the terminal room, the everyday environment on vt-52 or vt-100 was tops-10 sos text editor. this was the ‘best practice’ command line utility for undergrads learning ‘programming’. sos seems to have been the easy / intro alternative to teco. teco definitely had the reputation of being tough, with command lines compared to ‘noise’. sos was the choice for newbies at swt - laminated ‘sos commands’ cards were for sale at the university bookstore.

compilers were fortran, lisp, pascal, cobol. it seems ‘c’ was more of a distant rumble in that particular environment - unix certainly was - not clear how much awareness of unix there even was. probably comparable with vms awareness.

decwriter printer terminals were still common, and if all the crt terminals were occupied it was normal to use one. this was essentially an overgrown typewriter, with fanfold computer paper fed up and through from a cardboard box sitting on the floor beneath. line feed and carriage return had real meaning - it was a typewriter.

there were systems using punchcards, and it wasn’t uncommon to run a batch job via a punchcard reader. after a job was submitted, output was a thick stack of fanfold paper placed in an output box by operators in the computer room.

having a user account on the dec10, and being able to logon to one of the terminals, was the important thing. ‘online chat’ was possible with other users. usually they were sitting hidden somewhere in the terminal room. and there was a form of email with other users. it was a classic time sharing multi-user system, exactly as described in the stephen levy book.