From Programmer/Analyst to Unix Geek

After working as an IBM mainframe programmer for Fresno Unified School District for about 4 years, a friend told me about a cool operating system called “Unix”, and I needed to explore it.  I bought a book at the bookstore, read it in a single sitting, and got an account at the local branch of UC San Francisco’s medical school at the Veterans’ Hospital.  I tendered my resignation at Fresno Unified School District to work as a volunteer or intern at UCSF developing C programs under both MS-DOS and Unix to assist a neurologist and psychologist doing research into the effects of damage to the parietal region of the brain.

My work at UCSF was a success, and after I completed my own realtime graphics and statistics program, I helped a struggling CSci PhD student complete his handwriting analysis program and later went to work for my old college, Fresno State, in support of their new Computer Science Department.

Return to Fresno State – Sink or Swim

My first day back at Fresno State was the previous technical staff member’s last day.  He was moving to Los Angeles.  He handed me some reels of 9-track tapes, one with a live backup of a Unix installation, one with the Berkeley 4.2 Unix source code in C and assembly, and one with VMS and he showed me once how to compile the operating system kernel and said “Bye” as he left for Los Angeles.

Now as Fresno State’s sole Computer Science Techie, I supported the faculty, most of whom were once mathematics professors and had taken interest in starting a new Computer Science Department.

My Math and Computer Professors

Dr. Haslam, my third semester calculus professor, was now the head of the department and wanted me to call him Harold.  I will never forget Harold.  On the first day of class in 1977, we sat waiting for the professor to show up.  I saw a hippy one row to my right and up one or two seats also waiting, and that seemed fairly normal.  But we were waiting for a man to come in the door in a suit carrying a briefcase.  But then the hippy went to the front board and started teaching the class.  It was Harold — Dr. Harold Haslam.

The man was brilliant.  He could be a bit gruff and his language was not particularly polite.  He did not mince words.  But he had a lovable manner about him regardless.

Harold Story 2

I will never forget the day he went to the chalkboard, filled up the first board trying to solve a problem, went to the second board about 2/3 of the way down, and a student pointed out an error about 1/3 down from the top of the first board on which everything else depended.  Harold threw the eraser at the wall, swore, turned to the class, smiled sheepishly, tripped over the trash can by the table, went to the wall, picked up the eraser, looked back at the class, erased everything following that error, corrected it and continued.  He may have a rough exterior, but he was still one of my favorite professors.

Dr. Yeung and Dr. Yeung

Dr. Yeung and his wife, Dr. Yeung wanted me to call them Henderson and Grace.  I loved them both and was deeply saddened when they ended their marriage.  Henderson was my matrix analysis and complex analysis professor.  I never had a course from Grace, but we were good friends and she asked me to speak in some of her database courses years later.  I was sad to learn that Henderson passed away recently I believe from cancer.  I found out when I returned to look up some of my old professors who I missed.

Dr. Holt hailed from Canada and he was actually a Computer Scientist of one kind.  He was a good friend who seemed to care about the students and the department.  Dr. Seiki who I never got to know very well,  seemed like a sweet person, a Computer Science professor from Japan.

Brent Aurenheimer was a young, new Computer Science PhD from U.C. Santa Barbara  who was skilled and up-to-date with the new technology of that time, a real asset to the university.  Walter Reed was my old statistics professor from years before.

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