Saturday, May 06, 2006

Corny jokes

Though, for a change, not mine!

When I worked on software at Hewlett Packard in 1989 it was on HPUX, their port of UNIX to their hardware. I was a pretty big fan of UNIX in those days and I still reckon the original architects had some great ideas. The idea of piping the output of one program into another is still breathtaking in the range of possibilities. A pity in some ways that they were also lazy typists; ls really doesn't leap out at the newbie as the obvious command to see what files you have!

There was one feature I really liked the first time I saw it and that was the core dump. It's a given that as a developer I'm going to make mistakes; it's also a given that the program is probably going to crash at the most inconvenient time and most likely when not running under the debugger. Having UNIX automatically create a core dump made it a lot easier to find the reason and fix it. In comparison, at the time MS-DOS had no such facility and it was hardly possible to implement it under a real mode operating system where no instruction could ever cause a protection exception. Instead we saw the system hang and most of the time not even the 3 finger salute (Ctrl Alt Delete) would work.

Core dumps were pretty frequent at the time I was on the team; we were moving from the initial 'hot frenzy' of coding into the stabilisation phase and it was usual to arrive at the office in the morning to find half a dozen or more core dumps per team member awaiting analysis from the overnight regression test runs.

Simon took the term literally. At lunch he'd eat an apple and, without fail, having finished the apple he'd drop the core in the bin and announce 'another core dump!'.

Boom boom!!!

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