Quayle Consulting at 15

Soon, Quayle Consulting will be 15 years old. Funny how VMS has been around exactly twice as long…

My first job was working at Fairfield Engineering. They mostly built conveyors for coal-fired power plants. The DEC PDP-11 was used as a controller for many of those systems. We had a VAX 11/780, running VMS V3.2, but it was too expensive to consider using as an “embedded” controller. Also, the VAX was huge compared to the single-board PDP-11’s.

I moved to a company making welding robots based on PDP-11’s. After a month, it went under due to poor management. It disappeared so completely that the US government couldn’t find a trace of it some years later when processing a security clearance for me.

I spent six years away from DEC stuff, working at Battelle Memorial Institute. Three Mile Island was good to me — there was a flood of government bucks to model nuclear reactor accidents (in Fortran, on CDC mainframes). When that dried up, I moved into an experimental group (and got to learn Unix on a Masscomp computer). But, just when it seemed like I’d be there forever, I got laid off. That’s when I realized that I was responsible for own life.

I eventually landed a job at CRISP Automation, doing Motorola 68000 programming. The embedded system talked over Ethernet with a VAX system. I remember VMS 4.7, and the transition to VMS 5.0. Those were fun days, working with a group of people who loved VMS and were razor-sharp developers.

CRISP Automation got bought by Square D Company. All of a sudden, we were the automation group of a company that everyone’s heard of. Of course, it couldn’t last. Square D got bought in a hostile takeover by Schneider. They made it very clear — they had their own automation group back in France, and they didn’t need one in the USA.

Before the takeover, Square D had put in a severance package of one month’s pay for every year of service (called a “poison pill” or “tin parachute”). So, when the VP’s came to explain the “future”, I jumped up and volunteered to be the first one to go.

With 5 months of pay in the bank, I started Quayle Consulting on September 16, 1992. I remember that date because I was able to be at my son’s first birthday photo shoot at Olan Mills on September 18th. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have been able to go because I’d be at work.

Quayle Consulting became a corporation in 2001 — the bigger the business, the more they insist on only working with other corporations. Silly, I know, but the paperwork was cheap and easy.

Things have been up and down. For me, “consultant” doesn’t mean “between jobs”. I wouldn’t trade this “job” for any other!

VAX in a room with no walls

There’s a legend about a company accidentally walling-off a VAX server, and it continued to hum along.

It’s no longer a legend — I have found an eyewitness!

Keating Floyd (Keating_floyd-at-onebox-dot-com) is a consultant. He was visiting B&W Tobacco in Macon, Georgia in 1998 or so. The client was ripping out drywall, and discovered a VAX that no one knew about. It was still running and serving clients.

Sorry — no pictures available.  And he didn’t know what application was running.  But, hey, it was running VMS, for sure!

The Operating Systems Handbook

I came across The Operating Systems Handbook via a message in comp.os.vms. Here’s the link:

http://www.snee.com/bob/opsys.html

The author claims you can add “Working Knowledge of UNIX, VMS, OS/400, VM/CMS, and MVS.” to your resume after studying the book.  There’s a chapter on VMS that’s a little dated, since it was written just as the Alpha was introduced, but still pretty handy.

If you love VMS, but need to talk to another OS, this could be useful, too…

MASS-11 Software

MASS-11 was a word-processing package for VAX systems running VMS. I have a CHARON-VAX customer that has lots of files in MASS-11, and so I researched how to convert them to something more modern (Microsoft Word?).

Microsystems, the people who developed MASS-11, still exist. They only do conversions now, but here’s their information in case someone’s interested in going that way…

Microsystems
377 East Butterfield Road
Suite 910
Lombard, IL 60148
630-598-1100

Their web site (www.microsystems.com) is sometimes slow to load, but the phone number works.

[Adapted from a comp.os.vms posting of March 2006]

Disaster Proof? HP tries it for real!

In May, HP built two data centers and blew one up to demonstrate disaster tolerance. VMS recovered first, in less than 14 seconds. The associated document said that it could have been adjusted to be less than 5 seconds.

Neat movie: www.hp.com/go/DisasterProof

Document: http://h71028.www7.hp.com/ERC/downloads/4AA1-3405ENW.pdf (PDF)

Press release:

At a high-tech ballistics center managed by National Technical Systems
in Camden, Arkansas, HP simulated a gas leak using real explosives that
resulted in a very real explosion and datacenter destruction.

What was blown up? Products from the entire spectrum of HP products,
including HP servers, HP StorageWorks products, HP Software and HP
Procurve networking products running in five operating
environments-HP-UX, HP OpenVMS, HP NonStop, Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Microsoft(r) Windows Server 2003.

Who said that computer geeks don’t have a sense of humor?