Memories of BurroughsThese (edited) memories have been contributed by visitors to this web site.
Subject: Series L/TC - From: Henry Griggs of Virginia, USA
Wow. All those photos! They really brought back the memories of the Burroughs gear. I liked the L series of machines, but the B80 was my favourite. I did a lot of work on those things, but only the really cut down ones, not the really fast ones.
I've got a bit of Burroughs memorabilia stuffed away - the little yellow Assembler code notebook, notepads with Burroughs logos, some advertising material... I'll scan what I've got and send the images to you so you can enjoy them too. I might scan that entire little assembler coding book. I spent so much time with it, it was years before I could forgot those codes!
Subject: B700 - From: Bill Roberts of New York State, USA
I worked for Burroughs in Downingtown, PA, from 1972 to 1977. We made the B700 and B800's there. I wrote the micro-code that allowed the B700 to do addition and subtraction (in decimal so there were no binary rounding errors). I also headed up a team to add up to four key-to-disk microprocessor-controlled (B7* microprocessor) keyboards to allow key-to-disk data collection and verification while the B700 continued it's normal processing.
The key-to-disk system was the AE500 system. This system was being developed with all the following going on at once: modification of the disk control hardware to allow control by both computers (B700 and B7*) at the same time; development of the Assembler to do the micro code for the B7*; development of an interpreter to read the audit entry instructions; development of a compiler to compile the AUDit EntRY (ADURY, the official name of the compiler) instructions to something that could be interpreted; and modifications to the micro code of the B700 to allow for multiple disk accesses. The only debug tool was an HP logic analyzer with 8 probes!
I remember hooking up the TD700's (terminal display units) to the B700.
The B700 was originally released with RPG-III. Although I wasn't involved with the development of that system, I did decide to learn the language, and wrote a program to keep track of my personal finances for (US) income taxes. This helped to uncover some early bugs in the compiler, and, as a result, my personal finances ended up as a part of the test suite for the B700! I at least got to change some of the numbers before it got out of the plant and on to our sales forces in Detroit.
We intended the B700 to compete with the IBM System 3 (also an RPG-III machine), with the B1700 as the "big brother" for when the customer needed a faster machine. As a result, we were one of the first purchasers of the IBM System 3, a fact IBM made use of in its sales promotions. Well, we needed something to run our tests on! In both compile time and program run speed, we were able to beat the System 3. But the real problem was that we totally wiped out the B1700 as well! Turns out the B1700 disk-swapping system swapped out the disk controller at every opportunity, and that had a negative effect on performance. Burroughs management was not amused, several engineers at the B1700 plant did not get their Christmas bonuses that year, and there was a lot of hard feeling between plants for a while.
We took pride in creating demo's that really did stress the machines as much as real life applications. But remember, we were the developers, and quite often did not realize how the machines would really be used.
Finally, I did the design on the B800 job-swapping system. I left before that project came to fruition, but it was a fun project. If you ever played the "Battleship" game on the B700, I did the firing algorithm. It was quite a machine, and (IMHO) well ahead of it's time.
Subject: Burroughs and SAM Systems - From: Mike Piper, Menai Bridge, Anglesey, United Kingdom
Talking of Altham's Travel, I took over the majority of the programming work for them from Brian Fairies (a colleague at SAM's) in 1982, who'd written the original batch processing travel agents system, which SAM's also sold to Star Travel. I converted the system to real-time and added various new features, such as BACS output for ticket payments and an airport transfer system to provide transport scheduling to and from Manchester Airport. All this work was specified by Altham's financial accountant, David Ball who might still be working there - I spoke to him about 5 or 6 years ago. Apparently they moved to IBM AS/400 equipment in the early 1990s.
Stollers is another company I did programming work for. By then, they had a B80 running a modified KeyBMS accounts receivable system. I went there a couple of times with Martin Harbour (of SAM's, also an ex-Burroughs guy - Stockport office I think) to install extra sales analysis tailored for their furniture business.
I used both the SL3 and SL5 languages on the L series machines, L2000, L3000, L6000, L8000 and L9000 - also the TC500 comms-capable machine, up until around 1980. After that I used Cobol and MPLII for the CMS machines (B80/90, B800/900, B1800/1900) up until 1992. MPLII was used mainly for the on-line applications, to write tasks (sub-programs) that slotted in to Burroughs Proteus skeleton application (written for them by Cap Systems, based in Leeds) which communicated with TD830 screens.
Cobol was best suited for the reporting functions.
When I talk to people about Burroughs equipment, I usually receive a blank expression. It always surprises me that Burroughs weren't more well-known, and as you say they were the world's second largest computer company at one point.
’Too far ahead of its time’: Britain, Burroughs and realtime banking in the 1960s
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Last modified:23 December 2011