Mixsonian


CIRCA

After working as a student computer operator for some time at the UFCC I got a job as a student programmer. I don't remember much about what I did at first but I did start to learn IBM 370 assembly language. After a few months working as a student programmer at the UFCC the university decided to split the Computer Center to two groups, one which was the computing center operations. The other group was most of the programming staff that became the Center for Instructional and Research Computer Activities or just CIRCA or as we later called it CIRCUS. The staff, including myself, that became CIRCA moved out of the computing center down the street to Weil Hall. As a student programmer what I mainly did was answer the "hotline" which was setup for university facility and staff to call into for help. I got fairly proficient at IBM Job Control Language (JCL), Fortran and PL/1. After a year or so I couldn't afford to go to school full time so I got a full time Programmer I position at CIRCA and then went to school part time. This was a really good arrangement for as a UF employee I could take two courses each quarter for free.

I think the most interesting thing I did at CIRCA was getting involved with computer graphics. Initially the computing center only had an old Calcomp plotter but later they got a new wide bed "electrostatic" plotter and Tectonics Storage Tube display terminals. I wrote device drivers for these devices and interfaces for a graphic package to generate output to these devices. The Tectonics display terminal was great fun, it worked at a blazing fast 1200 baud. It had about a 10 inch screen that could be drawn on. It was a "storage tube" device which meant that what you displayed on it, whether text or lines, it would stay on the screen until you pushed the erase button. No scrolling, no pixels, no off/on, no colors (all green). If you wrote something to the screen and then wrote something else without erasing the screen it would superimposed over what was already there making it unreadable.

Another thing I was responsible for was the Remote Batch Stations which consisted of a card reader, printer, card punch and a control unit. There were three of these at various locations on the campus which allowed people to read in their punched card programs and get back their output without having to go to the computing center as in the early days. One of the things I was responsible for was the maintenance for the remote batch stations which were Harris Corp. equipment. As a result of this I got to become good friends with the Harris service engineer and later got my job in Melbourne as a result (see story).

I also did some assembly language on an early Data General Nova mini computer.  This was bought as a test project to replace the Haris Remote Batch Station.  This started out as a UFCC project but with the spin off of CIRCA it ended up with CIRCA.  One of the senior programers had wrtten about 80% of the code for it but it needed finishing.  The problem was that the programmer did not come to CIRCA with the computer and project.  But being a dedicated progammer, he would slip away and come over CIRCA to work on it.  I happen to show an intrest in the project and he taught me progamming in assembly language on the Nova. This led to a major change in my life, helpping to get my next job at Custom Programming Service and leaving Gainesville.