* Posts by John Thorn

13 publicly visible posts • joined 30 May 2007

ALGOL 60 at 60: The greatest computer language you've never used and grandaddy of the programming family tree

John Thorn

No, it's something different....



Call Proc(A+B)




Print C ..... ALGOL answer will be 4 - in other languages it will be 3

John Thorn

There was one particular feature of Algol that made for some interesting programming..

If a procedure was called with an expression as one or more of the parameters the expression was re-evaluated every time the parameter was referenced in the procedure (not just as the procedure was called). Nest that down a few levels and debugging was a nightmare.

John Thorn

.. never used .. ?

I wrote my first Algol program in 1965. I can't tell you what for as I think I'm still bound by the Official Secrets Act.

On the same theme I recall a cartoon when PL/I (remember that?) was launched. Mummy COBOL and Daddy Fortran are crooning over their new child PL/I. Driving off in the background is the ALGOL milkman.

'Turn to nuclear power to save planetary ecology from renewable BLIGHT'

John Thorn

All electric?

My house uses about 4000 KWh of electricity and 15000kWh of gas each year. If we no longer have gas - and even with heroic levels of insulation - the capacity of the electricity distribution system will need to double. This applies whether the source is nuclear, wind or solar. Is anyone planning for this?

Can Big Blue survive another century?

John Thorn

And another thing

One of IBM's great strength in the 360 era was forming relationships high in a customer company's hierarchy. The was a claim "nobody was ever sacked for buying IBM" but if it suited them, they would bypass the IT manager - even stabbing him in the back on the way to the CEO.

IBM engineers were good but also cheap. When I set out to buy a mainframe, the deicding price factor was IBM maintenance costs at <5% of price versus 10% or more elsewhere.

Plane or train? Tape or disk?

John Thorn

This reminds me

How should we upate the old adage "the fastest data rate is a magnetic tape on a motor bike" for the modern age?

Steve Jobs denies Judas Phone antenna problems

John Thorn

Dry fingers

I wonder if the air-conditioned offices of Apple meant all the testers had dry fingers that didn't 'short' the aerial??

EU plays catch up on mobile single charger standard

John Thorn

What saving?

It's all very well to talk (as on the radio this morning) about the tons of chargers being thrown away. But if this is to stop it means that at some point the phones' boxes will say "This phone doesn't come with a charger, use your old one". But that won't be 2011 because there won't be any old micro-usb chargers to re-use. So the earliest savings look like about 2015 to me.

Cobol hits fifty

John Thorn
Thumb Down

What was COBOL for??

I recall being told that the design objective of COBOL was to eliminate programmers (before COBOL, programming for commerce meant Assembler). If that was the case it's a massive failure.

UK.gov plans 'consensus' on PAYG phone registry

John Thorn


So anyone coming into this country with a foreign mobile phone will have to register before they can use it here. And then to tie down the Internet you'll need a passport to enter an Internet caff and it will be illegal to have unsecured wi-fi in case the terrorists find that instead.

VMware renders multitasking OSes redundant

John Thorn

What goes around.....

I'm retired now, but I spent 20 years running an IBM mainframe using IBM's VM operating system. Although VM was developed to host multiple versions of MVS etc, IBM also offered a simple OS called CMS that was a single-user operating system designed to exploit the VM hypervisor. It was fast, stable, reliable - all the things your author describes. And I miss many of its features....

Will Darling's data giveaway kill off ID cards?

John Thorn
IT Angle

Too much power

It's wrong to blame a junior clerk. The problem is that organisations have stumbled into a situation where too much computing ability is placed on every desk. Someone handling tax returns doesn't need a CD/DVD writer on his/her desktop - nor a USB connection that allows data transfer to flash memory to take away. Even in an organisation as big as HMRC the number of people (other than the tecchies who can't access live data (can they?)) with this sort of capability should be in single figures.

Maybe a FOI request asking how much of this sort of kit is in HMRC??

Westminster blows £29m to save £20k

John Thorn


If each light saves 1500Kwh that means that for 365 days a year, 12 hours a night the saving is 300watts while illuminated. Given that the average power used for a light is 48-65 watts (http://www.hillingdon.gov.uk/environment/street_lighting/index.php) I find this saving unlikely