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Four short links: 31 May 2011

Disease-B-Gone, Quake Game, Text Adventures, and Unicoddling

  1. Rinderpest Eradicated — only the second disease that mankind has managed to eradicate. This one was a measles-like virus that killed cattle and caused famines. A reminder of how astonishingly difficult it is to eradicate disease, but what a massive victory it is when it happens. (via Courtney Johnston)
  2. Magnetic South — the 6.3 earthquake that trashed Christchurch, New Zealand, has presented the city with a tabula rasa (or, rather, tabula rubble) for the rebuild: what should they build, how, and where? The good citizens are working on this question in many ways, one of which is this online game based on Institute for the Future’s Foresight Engine.
  3. TOPS-20 in a Box — write FORTRAN code on an emulated PHP-10 running TOPS-20 and, most delightfully, play the original Adventure as written by Crowther and finished by Woods. It’s like emulating the Big Bang for text adventures. When you’re done, admire the scholarship in this analysis of the original to see how much Woods added. (Text adventures are the game version of command-line interfaces, and we still have much to learn from them)
  4. Why Does Modern Perl Avoid UTF-8 By Default? (StackOverflow) — check out the very long and detailed answer by my coauthor, Tom Christiansen, on exactly how many thorns and traps lie in wait for the unwary “it should just WORK”er. Skip down to the “Assume Brokenness” section for the full horror. Tom’s been working with linguists and revising the Unicode chapters of the Camel, so asking “why can’t it just work” is like asking a war veteran “why don’t you just shoot all the bad guys?”.
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  • Rick

    PDP-10 no PHP-10

  • Reilly


    The link you point to is for a TOPS-10 emulator.

    There is a big difference between TOPS-10 and TOPS-20. While both ran on essentially identically machines, they were very different operating systems. TOPS-20 was a rewrite of BBN’s Tenex, which brought paging (virtual memory) and other innovations into the minicomputer space.

    Tenex/TOPS-20 completely rethought the command line interface, introducing command completion. Unlike command completion on unix, the command syntax was designed to support and depend upon completion from the start. Command names could be chosen for clarity rather than brevity since you wouldn’t have to type the whole name. The completion mechanism would include inert “noise words” on the command line that informed the user as to the nature of the next argument. It worked very nicely.

    TOPS-10 had true SMP, which TOPS-20 did not. It was also lighter weight than TOPS-20, but more cryptic (although not nearly as cryptic as ITS).

    I used TOPS-10 and TOPS-20 for several years and worked at DEC on the team that wrote the sysop console (tape mounting, output spooling, etc) for TOPS-20.