A couple more funny VMS stories...
Life Lesson Number 6: Early morning Vaxercise is good for your health
The most important responsibility I had as the college computer operator was backups. The 780 had a 9-track reel-to-reel backup system. It would take about 12 tapes and 3 hours to take a full backup of the system, which I did religiously every Saturday morning. There wasn't much to do after mounting a new tape except wait to mount the next one. I would use the time to get in a little "paid studying." After all the backups were done I would put the tapes into two cases, each weighing about 20 pounds, and would walk them about a half mile to the offsite storage facility, which was really an old dorm room converted to store lots of tapes. I then determined which 12 tapes needed to be walked back to the computer room to reenter the backup rotation. That's quite a bit of exercise. Thankfully for a lazy guy like me we only have to do that once a week. We did daily incremental backups, which still needed to be walked to the offsite storage facility, but rarely did those backups span more than a few tapes.
I called this my "vaxercise."
When we migrated to the microVAX we used nice little DAT tapes for backups.
Imagine carrying 12 heavy reel-to-reel tapes vs one little DAT cartridge.
I can directly correlate my weight gain to the VAX migration. I had guns of steel...not anymore.
Life Lesson Number 7: Air conditioning RULES!
The big 'ol VAX 11/780 needed two giant air handlers. These were monstrously huge systems. One of my jobs as a computer operator was to ensure the VAX was backed up. This required an hour of my time nightly and about 3 hours every Saturday. My work study program included summer employment so I got to live on campus for free. I loved living on campus, free to do whatever I wanted and I didn't have to go home to my parents like all of the other kiddies. The big problem was that my dormitory had no air conditioning. I MUST HAVE A/C. After sweating for a few nights during a record heat wave I realized I had a possible solution, I could simply take a pillow over to the data center and sleep amongst all the big mainframes. I was going to have to be there for backups anyway.
If you've been in a large data center you know that the noise can be deafening. But I thought unbearable noise pollution was better than unbearable heat.
The first night I got no sleep. I didn't realize JUST HOW LOUD the air handlers could be. So the next night I tried earplugs. The noise situation was tolerable, but now the floor was too hard. Within a week I had my bedding just about perfect and was able to get a good night's sleep. I could curl up between the wall and the VAX and prop my pillow on the side of the VAX. My alarm clock, surprisingly, was still loud enough to wake me and I would pack up my bedding and take it with me every morning.
This arrangement worked well for two summers. But almost immediately I started to get sloppy. Instead of taking my pillow and blanket back to my dorm everyday I started hiding them in closets or in corners. I was confident no one would find me.
We eventually migrated the 780 to a VAXstation. This is like replacing 3 washing machines with a desktop PC. There is far less heat, so far less A/C is needed. So we were able to shut down one of the handlers soon after we powered down the 780. I could now sleep in the computer room without earplugs!
So, we had this giant 780 sitting around that was no longer needed. It was so old the college couldn't sell it either. What a perfect place to store my bedding! Yes, that's right...I stored my bedding INSIDE the 780!!!
Then one day I got a call in my dorm to come over to the computer room immediately. I did and there was the VP with a few strangers looking at the 780, staring at the bedding stuffed inside. It turns out, no kidding, that a museum wanted the 780 and the college was donating it. Imagine everyone's surprise when they opened the door and saw the unit stuffed with my bedding! It didn't take long for the VP to realize this was my doing, and called me over.
I didn't lie. I 'fessed up. I explained exactly where I was sleeping every night of the previous couple of summers. The VP went from anger to laughter. I was relieved when the 780 booted up...I managed not to short anything out with the constant stuffing and unstuffing of bedding.
To this day I can pretty much sleep through any racket. My college roommate took a picture of me one time sleeping on the couch in front of our window. In the background you could see the road crew using a jackhammer to remove concrete. I was sleeping within 20 feet of a working jackhammer.
Life Lesson Number 8: VAXectomies are painful!
But I was punished for using the 780 as my personal armoire. My job for the next week was to disassemble the 780, taking copious notes, so that it would fit through the doors to the computer room. I then had to move it up a flight of stairs, piece by piece, and load it into a UHaul. I then delivered it to the museum where I had to reassemble it. That took me almost 2 weeks to do over a summer, in the heat. Not surprisingly the 780 would not boot upon reassembly. It took me probably 20 hours to fix every little circuit and capacitor that loosened during the trip in the UHaul.