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July 26, 2011

VAX Assembly

Filed under: — Sven @ 03:56 IST

I walked into the Kirkbride Widener CS lab one day as a second semester freshman, nej, maybe first semester sophomore. Brendan was staring at a VT101 with 4 or 5 VAX/VMS manuals, 4 inch binders each, laying open around him.  With a mean, sarcastic voice he looked up and said something like “history majors have nothing on me”.  Before then I had set myself to try to survive college, as my grades where less then great.

It took a few day, maybe a few weeks, but something clicked. College isn’t meant to be survived.  I remember teaching myself Applesoft Basic on the Apple ][+ as a preteen.  On the Apple ][+ Beagle Bros kept me giggling and kept the docs fun to read.  With help of Brendan, el at, I made it fun.  It all started with a stack of VAX assembly language manuals piled around Mr. Kehoe.  It ended with me getting a most improved student award, then watching him leave Widener without his deserved degree.


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  1. Ah, VAX-11/780, state-of-the art in 1979; I remember it fondly. Cracking security by exploiting micro-code reentrancy bugs and getting rewarded £50 each time I passed on “how I did it” to DEC – I didn’t pass on “all” of my secrets though 😉

    Comment by MartinO — July 26, 2011 @ 12:10 IST

  2. Some people have a degree in LIFE, man. Life. 😀

    That missing degree sometimes bugged him. Actually, no, it was Widener’s attitude. He went and asked for help, showed them the book, and they said no, sorry, no help. So off he went into the great world of Cygnus. I don’t think he ever understood (neither can I) why they didn’t help him. Tho now they promote him as an alum, which is even funnier.

    I used a VAX once. I’m still trying to cleanse myself of the ordeal.

    Comment by Elana — August 10, 2011 @ 21:42 IST

  3. The CS department tried to help him. My understanding is that Dr. Frank and Dr. Neveln tried to get him a scholarship, only to be turned down. Then they had to turn down Brendan. Widener had (has?) issues, but not all of Widener.

    Comment by Sven Heinicke — August 10, 2011 @ 23:08 IST

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