A Human ‘Make’ Program (almost)

I started with V6 Unix at UC Santa Barbara in 1977. I remember that when V7 came out, I learned about the ‘make’ program and started using it with great success to help efficiently build a large Fortran package for signal processing.

For its size, there was a lot of computing going on in Santa Barbara at that time. It was one of the first 4 Arpanet nodes, and there were a bunch of companies making networking products and doing speech research as a result.

I was a student at UC Santa Barbara but I started toying with the idea of finding a real job, mostly to make more money. I found several possibilities and went to interview at one.

This place had an a need for somebody to, in essence, be a human ‘make’ program. The computer they used, some kind of Data General, was so slow that they couldn’t do a build more that once or twice a day. So, in an attempt to speed up the build, they wanted to hire somebody who would, by hand, keep track of the last modification date of all the components in the package they sold, and do a build that only performed the necessary steps to generate the package – in other words a human ‘make’ program. Apparently they figured that this would save enough time to justify the $24K salary they were willing to pay. $24K in 1978 wasn’t a bad salary at all.

I didn’t take the job, but I’ve often thought that what I should have done would have been to take the job under the condition that I could mostly work remotely. Then, I could have used the ‘make’ program on our V7 Unix system to generate the optimal script to build the package, and then taken the script back to the company to run on the Data General computer. I figure this would have taken maybe an hour a day. The rest of the time I could have spent on the beach thinking about ways to spend that $24K.

Posted on October 24, 2020, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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