Who am I
Since secondary school, my interests are physics, electronics, and computing. A brief (and easy to find out) CV:
- studied physics at the University of Cologne,
- went on to Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg,
- earned a degree in experimental nuclear physics from Heidelberg University with an experiment conducted at CERN on the Synchrocyclotron,
- worked as a postdoctoral fellow at
- came back to GSI when the SIS-18 accelerator upgrade started operation,
- and finally engaged in the FAIR project.
Due to my interest vector
concentrated on the technical aspects of experiments, mainly on the
sectors of front-end electronics, data acquisition, and data analysis.
Over time I've worked with many
- computer architectures: IBM System/370, DEC PDP-8, DEC PDP-9, DEC PDP-11, CDC 7600, DEC PDP-10, Motorola 680x0, DEC VAX, DEC ALPHA, TI TMS320C62xx, Intel IA-64
- operating systems: DEC OS/8, DEC RT-11, DEC RSX-11, IBM MVS, DEC VMS, BSD Unix, SUN/OS, OS/9, Linux, (Windows when forced)
- languages: FORTRAN, Simula, PDP-11 assembler, PL/I, C, C++, HTML, Perl, SQL, VHDL, Tcl, Python
My initial contact with computers was an IBM/360 assembler course during secondary school, and later during undergraduate times via punched cards which were sent via remote job entry (RJE) stations to a mainframe computer.
The first real hands-on experience was with DEC PDP-11 systems running under RT-11 and RSX-11. These systems were used for many years as a central element in data acquisition systems, and my role was often to squeeze the last grain of performance out of them. So I naturally learned a lot about the hardware and software stack. The data of my Diploma Thesis was collected with a PDP-11/20. For data analysis, we had a PDP-11/45, which also served as an RJE station for a CDC 7600 used for theory calculations. The data for my PhD Thesis was collected initially with a PDP-11/34 which had several CAMAC crates directly attached to the UNIBUS. The final setup was a multiprocessor system with J-11 based processors (a CES ACC 2180 from CES/Geneva) in each CAMAC crate which were read out via an MBD 'Micro-controlled Branch Driver' (from BiRa/Albuquerque) which in turn was attached to the UNIBUS of a VAX-750. Bare metal MACRO-11 assembler for raw speed on the J-11's front-ends, micro-coding on the MBD for throughput of the data transport, and all the conveniences of VMS on the back-end VAX-750. It was really fun to develop this system.
I've started building electronics gadgets during secondary school times, based on very basic SN7400 series TTL and CD4000 series CMOS circuits. Later my focus was mainly on using electronics and computers in the most efficient way, but on one occasion I had to manage the design and implementation of a quite complex electronics system, learned in-depth to use FPGAs and DSPs, and ended up writing all the FPGA firmware in VHDL.
In 2006 I was looking for a nice but ambitious pastime project. By chance, I stumbled over a box with a bunch of old DEC PDP-11 manuals. Combined with my old affection for PDP-11's that quickly became what now is the w11 project. Quickly 2.11BSD became the prime candidate for the operating system to run on my w11, which in turn triggered my 2.11BSD and the Old Unix XRef activities.
In mid 2017 I learned that IBM MVS releases up to 3.8j (24-bit, released in 1981) were freely available and could be run with an IBM System/370 emulator like Hercules. Operating System plus many compilers are conveniently available as a Turnkey System. That quickly brought back memories of the 70s and early 80s, and led to another sector of retro-computing activities, the mvs38j-langtest project. Digging deeper into Hercules performance issues and the quest for the fastest assembler code led to the s370-perf project. In both projects, a large number of batch jobs must be handled, which triggered the development of some tools, which form now the herc-tools project.