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GeoffB17
June 11th, 2016, 07:15 AM
One of my first programming experiences was doing some work on my employer's /36 system, using the interpreted BASIC. This version of the language seemed a fairly interesting version, I was very influenced by the INPUT FIELD system, I went on to implement similar processes using both BASIC and Clipper on PCs.

When I left that job, I kept a copy of the S/36 BASIC manual, and printouts of a lot of my system (connected with the processing of Town Planning and Building Control applications). I keep looking at it all with fond memories.

The main system was supposed to be focused on RPG II, I did try to make sense of that language, incl buying a book about it, but needed more access to the system than I ever had. Looked like an interesting system - I think I once saw mention of a RPG emulator for a PC??

Of course, the BIG problem now is that the desktop PC I'm now sat in front of has just about more of everything than the /36 had. More RAM, more HD storage, more CPU speed, etc?? Not so multi-tasking, but that doesn't really bother little old me. I'm still essentially a DOS person!!

Anyone else had a 'taste' of such a system?

Geoff, Guisborough, England

jharre
June 12th, 2016, 07:04 PM
I wish! Back in my IBM mid-range system days, the system administrator had no interest in those "experimental" languages. It was RPG or nuttin'. (Real Programmers use coding forms, dammit!)

How pleasant it would have been to run BASIC on a System/3x machine.

<*> Jim

GeoffB17
June 13th, 2016, 03:46 AM
Hello Jim,

I suppose I was lucky?

I was working as an Admin Officer for the Planning Dept, and our Council had just bought the /36 system, so the IT dept was brand new. Our dept had made a plea for some IT facilities, but we then found that the /36 system had nothing for us, and the new IT manager was aware of this. I took the trouble to sweet-talk him, and we discussed the sort of 'noddy' little progs he'd done using BASIC. I was doing data-base type programming on my hope computer (then just a CP/M machine), but my position in the Planning Dept was such that if we were to get any system written, I would be involved anyway.

I'm sure he was thinking about his 'empire', and was all in favour of getting extra users. I persuaded him that I knew what I was talking about. He agreed to support me doing something. I then got my Dept on board, on the basis that I would write the first module in my own time, get it working, the IT dept would provide the first terminal, and if it went OK, then we'd go from there, if not, then OK.

I got the first module (initial data entry for all incoming new applications) up and running. The girl who was responsible for that bit of the process thought it was wonderful. Everyone else soon thought it was wonderful as well. Everyone quickly realised that the quickest/easiest way to find about new applications was to check the computer terminal. Soon other people were demanding - 'when can I/we get access to this?' and 'when will it do xxx as well?'. IT manager was happy, he was on the road to installing more terminals, we became a significant user of his system. I got the OK to do more modules, as each one was added (each building from the previous one(s)) then the demand for more increased.

Geoff

Agent Orange
June 13th, 2016, 06:59 AM
I got the OK to do more modules, as each one was added (each building from the previous one(s)) then the demand for more increased.

Geoff

Geoff: and then . . .

GeoffB17
June 13th, 2016, 07:24 AM
And then ....

Well, honest, I did type more, but when I came to Post the system seems to have logged me out, and when I re-logged in etc and tried to recover the text the above is all that had saved.

If you're interested in the rest...

Geoff

Agent Orange
June 13th, 2016, 07:27 AM
And then ....

Well, honest, I did type more, but when I came to Post the system seems to have logged me out, and when I re-logged in etc and tried to recover the text the above is all that had saved.

If you're interested in the rest...



Geoff

Good story so far.

GeoffB17
June 13th, 2016, 07:37 AM
By popular demand??

Well, the system eventually comprised 6 or so substantial modules, various growing databases, numerous smaller 'utility' programs, and I think 4 terminals, with plans for more.

But then, I left the job!

A friend from school-days was now running his own software company, mainly small business systems, and he called out of the blue and offered me a job. His offer was reasonably attractive, so I took it.

My system managed without me for a while, but the Council in the meantime took the decision to upgrade the computer to /38, and this system had commercial systems for Planning Dept functions, so they were OK. My work had undoubtedly proved that the department wanted and could make good use of such a system, and I assume gave them a chunk of leverage in getting their new system.

I did hear comments though that it was some time before the 'commercial system' was as useful as my system had been, or were they just being friendly??

I meanwhile spent the next 15 years being a 'professional' programmer, mainly dBase/Clipper/C, and then continued as self-employed.

Oh, I've still got all my prog printouts.

Thanks for the interest.

Geoff

GeoffB17
June 13th, 2016, 08:16 AM
Not to do with the Basic, but connected with my efforts, the IT manager bought a commercial package for creating small database applications. Supposedly 'relational'? From a source in the US, creating RPG II code?

Can't remember what it was called, but I'd like to find out and check up on it.

I was quite fascinated by it, the system did NOT use a record based file, but the individual fields were stored in a set of I think 3 datafiles, depending on the size of the field (small in one, medium in a second, larger in the third). A 'record' was then just the links to the indiv fields records, wherever they might be. I sort of understood the idea, and I could see situations where this structure could be useful, but I was far from sure about it overall.

If I could trace the system, I'd like to check further into it. I think it was a fairly small package, I think specifically for the /36?

Anyone got any clues??

Geoff

nigwil
June 19th, 2016, 12:00 AM
... I kept a copy of the S/36 BASIC manual, and printouts of a lot of my system (connected with the processing of Town Planning and Building Control applications).


Would you be able to scan this manual please? and what form are the printouts?

thanks.

GeoffB17
June 19th, 2016, 06:07 AM
Sorry, I'm not really in a position to scan the manual. It's quite substantial, well over 100 pages, and printed on a very dark coloured paper which will make the process rather fiddly? I have an Epson printer with scan facilities, so something is not impossible, just not really practical? At the present time.

As for the printouts, they are all on 132 col listing paper, so if I was scanning them I'd need to fold each sheet, and be sure that nothing was lost at the fold.

If there's anything specific you're interested in.......

Thanks.

Geoff

GeoffB17
June 19th, 2016, 06:33 AM
Aaargh...

Went looking for the manual, I was going to give a page breakdown, i.e. between general sections like language reference, and the detailed command reference, and maybe try a page or two to see what the paper colour did, but now I look, I cannot find the manual. It MUST be buried somewhere in the garage. It was close to the binder with the printouts in, but I've got that, and I cannot see the Basic manual near where the printouts were. It's big enough, not so easy to miss. Maybe got put in one of the boxes, only 40 or 50 to check.

Geoff

robcarnegie
July 31st, 2016, 12:44 PM
I had experience with System/36 while working for government back in the 1980-1986 timeframe. Our System had Cobol, RPG and Basic on it to allow us to port software from other older systems. I recall working with the Basic interpreter and found it unsatisfactory. It didn't offer a decent means of porting anything but the simplest of basic programs. We determined that we would have to virtually rewrite the entire system for the S36 dialect of basic. We decided to rewrite it in Cobol instead. The S36 basic did have lots of cool features but the performance was not up to the standard we could achieve with the Cobol or RPG compilers included with the system.

GeoffB17
August 18th, 2016, 03:07 PM
Well, further to the above...

Just today, I was digging in the garage, looking for something else. Couldn't find it, but I did find the BASIC manual referred to.

Firstly, the paper colour isn't as dark as I thought it was, so the scanning would be more possible.

BUT, the manual comprises 45 pages of Reference, 234 pages covering the Commands, plus 50 pages covering Functions. That's 329 pages in total. Rather more work slaving over the scanner than I'd like, but possible.

I've not kept any note as to the release designation. I left the job 1988, and there's been a recent manual update, and I kept the copy of the old manual, so I've got the one dated (I assume) 1987?

I could do a scan only as individual .jpg images. I think it's more helpful to run such images together to create a .PDF? Is this something that can be done with Acrobat? If I did the bare pages, could someone else do that?

Still interested.

Geoff

nigwil
August 18th, 2016, 03:19 PM
Well, further to the above...
Couldn't find it, but I did find the BASIC manual referred to.
I could do a scan only as individual .jpg images. I think it's more helpful to run such images together to create a .PDF? Is this something that can be done with Acrobat? If I did the bare pages, could someone else do that?

Still interested.

Geoff
Definitely Geoff! thanks for persisting to find the manual.

Scan it anyway that works for you and I (or others) can easily reassemble it into a PDF.

Upload them to dropbox/onedrive/google-drive or any other means and we can do the steps to get the PDF setup.

thanks.

SteveH
August 19th, 2016, 01:41 AM
I'm sure Al over at bitsavers would PDF and OCR it plus host it on bitsavers. I recently uploaded a manual to bitsavers and the preferred format was TIFF at a minimum of 400 dpi, but other formats are accepted - just ask him first.

g4ugm
August 19th, 2016, 03:16 AM
Is it ring bound? If so my sheet feed scanner will scan it. I know I am in Manchester but could perhaps borrow it next time I am in the area... My brother lives in Darlo...

GeoffB17
August 19th, 2016, 04:34 AM
Hello,

Certainly, some sort of automation would be a massive benefit.

Yes, Darlo is quite handy!

The manual is in a standard 3 ring binder, with original punched holes. The sheets are not a standard UK size, but I think they're a standard US size, i.e. 8.5" x 11". So they're just a bit wider than A4, and not as long.

I could meet up in Darlo when you're next there.

Geoff

Kakemoms
August 25th, 2016, 10:45 AM
In 1986 I started as a student in a company that made database systems for the S/36 mainframe. The programmers there didn't think I was up to any good, so just gave me a terminal to play around with. I then started making a Basic Adventure game (since I had experience with Basic and assembler from the Vic-20), and once they found out they gave me all the manuals for RPG-II to read through! They must have been several kilos each and didn't make much sense to me, but after a while I got some programs working and I continued to work there for the next four years. They also bought two AS/400 systems around 1989 which had faster processors and more memory (it had a 68000 processor and 4MBytes) but made all compiled programs 2-3 times larger in RPG-III, so not much faster in practice.

I remember we once measured the swapping speed of two large Winchester Hard disks in the S/36. If I remember correctly they had a total capacity of 400MB with multiple plates in a transparent case. They were huge! With 512KByte memory and 300 users we had a swapping speed (storing+reading RAM to/from memory) of around 1million swaps/hour!

Its hard to compare these machines to today's desktops because they were made to move and store data at fast speed (for thousands of users) and not for computation. All programs were written as a "Report" (hence the "Report Programming Language" - RPG) and contained File definitions at the top, Input data lines second, Calculation lines third and Output data lines last (more or less). The program started with fetching some input, doing some calculation/computating and outputting last. The output and input was either the screen terminal or a file. Once it had displayed the data to the terminal window, the program didn't do anything until the user pressed ENTER on the terminal keyboard. Once that happened, the program ran once more and so on..

The RPG is a very unique programming language in that way. You keep running the same program over and over again and it must be deterministic in the middle to handle different screens/data/setups. Without any user input, the program doesn't run. Its almost how your brain handles information.

Overall I liked the experience of doing this. I later took a university degree and haven't used RPG since quitting that job. Amazingly most of the programs we made in that period are still in use, but converted and running on some newer Unix system.