Monthly Archives: May 2013

Old web recollections…

My colleague, Paul Jones, has gotten some great press recently regarding a bit of digital archaeology he did in finding a very early copy of Tim Berners-Lee’s demo web page developed for a hypertext conference in 1991. Paul worked on the academic side of UNC-CH’s computing house, while I was working on the administrative side. I was quite interested in some of the things that Paul was working on in the late 80’s, and envied the latitude he had to do cool stuff. Paul’s work inspired several of the things I subsequently did.

I was an IBM MVS systems programmer for many years, starting in the mid-80’s, as the lead CICS and VTAM programmer then and later as systems programming manager. (I’d also worked on both COBOL and distributed microcomputer, including a port of Kermit to CTOS). We typically focused on mundane things like money and grades in the administrative applications, though. However, I’d gotten interested in the concept of hypertext when I saw (sometime around 1989 or 1990) the DEC Videotext application. I’d just finished writing a VTAM application for terminal menus (actually finishing a design started by other colleagues who’d started the app but never finished) and realized that with a DECNet/SNA Gateway, we could link the VAX with the IBM mainframe and make the hypertext VAX app available on the IBM 3270 terminals. I convinced my boss to buy the DECNet/SNA Gateway, and I wrote a VTAM app to read the datastream from the gateway and interact with the 3270. It actually worked, but it never caught on with the users, and about the time it was stable, along came Berners-Lee with the Web, and the rest was history.

Thanks to Paul, I’d gotten interested in Gopher in 1992, and used it, in conjunction with WAIS, to help publish some administrative/Institutional Reasearch statistics (the “Fact Book”). We’d gotten an IBM AIX server (I called it Bullhead, named after a trout stream in Stone Mountain State Park) for Gopher/WAIS that was a textbed for these efforts as MVS was not a compatible platform at that time for this type of work.

By 1993, Paul was really getting excited about the Web, and after hearing him talk about it many times, and seeing the Mosaic browser and how cool it was to have text and pictures together ;-), I decided that I needed to try it out. So, on November 24th, 1993 (I remember because it was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and thus a very slow day, and a good time to try such things) I downloaded a Web server source package, set up and ran the “make” and then set up my first web page. While I don’t remember exactly what I put on the very first one, I soon set up a page with a picture of the office building at 449 W. Franklin Street, along with descriptive text about the Administrative Data Processing department. I was working part time on a Masters’s in Comp Sci, and had just gotten to the place where I needed a thesis topic. I was fascinated by the the concept of the Common Gateway Interface (CGI) and decided to do my thesis on application development using the Web and CGI. I wrote the paper in 1994, and finished my degree in the spring of 1995. I tried to save an electronic version of the paper, but the postscript file seems to be corrupt (at least the tools I’ve tried wouldn’t read it). Maybe I can resurrect it some day.

We did a lot with CGI in the years that followed. We enabled TCP/IP on MVS and used CGI scripts on Bullhead to allow us to pull data from MVS databases. That lead to the creation of our first web-enabled class registration tool, Student Central, in the mid-to-late 1990’s as well as a variety of other data access tools. The commercialization of the Internet in 1995 opened the door to the marketplace for internet software, but that’s another story.

I wasn’t quite as close as Paul to the beginnings of the Web, but it was a heady and interesting time. This fall, I’ll have 20 years of web experience…I guess I’m getting old!

It’s about time – Boy Scouts vote to include openly gay youth

The news is just beginning to trickle in, but it’s official, the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America has voted to allow openly gay youth to become members, reversing a long-standing and polarizing policy. From my perspective, this is about time, but is not as complete as I’d like to see, since openly gay leaders are still not accepted in the BSA. However, this goes a long way to erasing the stigma that’s been growing around scouting for the last several years.

I’ve been a scout and scouter for many years, including stints as a Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, and my current position as District Chairman of Orange District, Occoneechee Council. I’ve seen the impact of this divisive policy, and am looking forward to putting at least some of this controversy behind us…

The Order of the Gingko

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

No, not that long ago, but it was the late 1970’s while I was an undergrad at UNC-Chapel Hill (I was there from 1975 to 1979) that some of my friends and I were sitting around thinking about the things that college students think about 🙂 We were all members of the Rho Chapter of the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity, and were generally motivated to do service and good works, all while having a good time, but most of us were not the type of student to get tapped for one of the classic honor societies of Carolina. You know…the “Order of ________” or the “The _________ Society” … I’m sure that you can relate. So, we decided that the only way we’d ever get into an honorary society was to found one ourselves. But what to call it? Well, we had fond memories of the gingko tree in front of New West Hall, and how the leaves would all turn yellow gold and then fall off, almost all in one night, creating a golden carpet…upon which to have a keg of golden soda! We’d have a party each fall under the tree…so, we decided to create the Order of the Gingko. We took up a collection to buy a page in the Yackety Yack (Carolina’s Yearbook). The first year, the editor wouldn’t publish it, so we hung him in effigy in the tree (and got that picture published for “student life” 😉 ). The next year, however, we were in the Yack! I think it may have lasted a few years after the initial group graduated, but it was fun while it lasted.

So, what does that have do do with anything, and why, after all these years, am I putting this in my blog? Well, I was looking for some old financial papers and while going thru my “filing system” I stumbled across a yellowed copy of the by-laws of the Order of the Gingko, which I offer here for your reading pleasure. Remember that this was the not-so-politically-correct ramblings of a group of college students 😉

Yes, I was one of the Four Tops, the Extra Extreme Grandest Mulch Excelsior…

37th anniversary of the Breakout console game

I should probably write about my 32nd wedding anniversary (tomorrow) instead of this, but hey, let’s live dangerously! I was catching on RSS feeds tonight, and saw this Engadget article. This immediately brought back many memories of beer-soaked nights at Kirkpatrick’s on Rosemary Street in Chapel Hill. As the 37th anniversary, that put it in 1976, my sophomore year at UNC-CH…a quick trip to Wikipedia confirmed the dates. I spent many evenings getting to the point where I could clear the screen with one “ball” – many evenings at Kirk’s, many quarters in the Breakout console, and many 50-cent beers. I was not a pinball wizard…the finesse eluded me 😉 . However, Breakout became my game. Why, I don’t know. Maybe it was a subtle sign that I was destined for a career in IT. Ah, what a trip down memory lane…