Tag Archives: life

In a comment on my Thoughts on DEC post, Tom Miller offered a rat’s ass if I scanned in my VAX 8600 (Venus) Ibox microcode listing.

Well, here’s Venus Ibox microcode v3.73, generated on 7-May-1984. Tom, you owe me one rat’s patootie.

This ran on Venus through the end of 1984. I had transferred to Alan Kotok‘s Simplified Architecture for Fast Execution (SAFE) project, where I was looking into VAX-11 emulation. Large VAX Engineering’s senior management called an “all hands on deck” emergency, and everyone needed do whatever they could to help Venus ship on time.  So, I informally returned to work on Venus and ran one of the lab debug shifts. It was equally exhilarating and stressful… An, “I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything in the world,” and, “I hope I never go through something like that again,” experience.

This version ran VMS and oodles of VAX programs.  I don’t know if there was a later version; if so, I never heard about it.

BTW, here’s a nice paper about why DEC went down the tubes.

I’m off this week, and while loafing around the house I took an hour or so to search the web about Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), a former employer. That was a mistake, because it got me thinking about my past. This was fun for a while, and then it got sobering.

I worked for DEC from February 1978 until August 1996. During the glory years (before 1986) it was an adventure. We were on a world-changing mission. The code I wrote would live on and the work I did was so cool. Working for DEC was like working for Microsoft in the ’90s or ’00s, except that nobody hated your company. It was like working for Google except that nobody thought you were evil. It was like working for Amazon but pretty much everyone loved working there and it seemed like the world rooted for you to succeed. Most of all, everything we did clicked. There were some bad decisions, but the company always recovered and went on to greater glory.

I wrote CPU microcode for the VAX-11/750 and VAX 8600, worked on some cancelled projects that nobody will ever know about (ECL microprocessors, large ECL mainframes, a new RISC architecture), and my last project was working on Windows NT at DECwest.  In its day the VAX 8600 micropipeline was the coolest thing since sliced bread. How many people today know or care about it? Zip.

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We recently adopted two cats. One of them, Faith, is a monkey head who loves to play all the time. Play play play play play play play.

Two mornings ago, I came home and was unable to find her. Looked high and low. Looked in every room, under every furniture, under the blankets in the closets in the garage, basement, attic, outside three times, shook the cat food container, called her name.

I panicked, and texted the missus, “Come home ASAP, Faith must have gotten outside, SHE’S GONE I CAN’T FIND HER.”  She texted back asking if I checked here or there, were the doors left open, etc. COME HOME NOW SHE’S GONE.

I was frantic with worry.

The missus tells me to get back to work, she’s on her way home, we’ll find her.

I’m beset with worry. If anything happened to Faith, I would never forgive myself. She must be in pain somewhere. She got outside and a dump truck ran over her. Oh no oh no nonononononono….

So five minutes later, I’m sitting at my desk trying very hard to concentrate on work, but failing.

In walks Faith, looking to play. Like, “I heard you calling me for 30 minutes but ignored you. Let’s play.”

That little $%^&^&*)(&*(_)&^&*$^%$^*(^&*)(^%^#$^&*!

Faith the monkey head

Faith the monkey head

Now and then, I regret the tip I’ve left at a restaurant. Virtually every time this happens it’s because I thought I had been a little cheap.

The server did a great job, the pre-tax total was $24.00, and I left $4.75. Or the server did an OK job, the pre-tax total was $36.00, and I left $5.00 or $5.25.

I saved myself 25 cents or whatever. Big deal! The savings won’t affect my lifestyle. What am I trying to prove?

That extra bit would mean more to the server than it would to me. I enjoy giving money to street performers, so why don’t I tip better in restaurants?

Maybe because, like some people, I think tipping is a silly custom. Maybe that’s what it is: I think it’s silly but go along with it anyway, because that’s how we conduct restaurant business in the US.

By not liking it, but doing it anyway and being cheap, I’m not making anyone happy. I’m not delighting the server, and I’m giving myself a mental itch. I need to get off the fence and pick one side or the other. Either don’t tip at all, or, do it right.

I’ll start tipping better from this moment forward. When in doubt, I’ll round up. There. Side chosen!


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