Ashley Adlam wrote:
> We've all spent too many years supporting the venerable VS to
> just cease any association with its legacy in our later years! Why,
> it has shaped our very psyches - and that actually explains a
> bloody lot. Seriously though, keeping in touch this way may help
> to alleviate your sense of loss from not getting any more of those
> challenging and enjoyable band printer calls. Bring back the 5573,
> 5574, 5574-1, and of course the mighty 5575 (arrrrgh!). And
> remember when some customers replaced the standard plastic
> Daisy Wheel font disks with metal ones so that every fourth letter
> was smudged? Ahh, the good old days! Actually, wait a minute,
> they weren't really that....
This touches on something significant. Yes, I think many of us were indeed shaped by the VS. I credit Wang with having created the best, most efficient, easiest to use business data processing environment the world has ever seen. It converted me from a minicomputer, command-line person to a block-mode, named parameter person, and I have never looked back. PACE got me used to high-quality database features such that in 1989 when I became involved with Oracle 5.1, I was bitterly disappointed by the lack of features and poor quality of utilities in Oracle. I heard just a few years ago about a shop that uses the VS and Oracle and sends their database guy to Oracle seminars every once in a while. Each time he returns saying about Oracle... "Well, it's ALMOST there..."
My memories of 25 years working at various VS sites do not include difficult recollections of any hardware problems worse than anything else I've encountered in my career. If anything, with the exception of printers, most of the Wang hardware was built like tanks and was exceptionally reliable. Printers, being highly mechanical, gave more problems than most other equipment, but nothing worse than I've experienced with other vendors and often better. And in any case, one could lay the responsibility for most Wang printers at the doorstep of Data Products, as Wang didn't manufacture any but a few of the VS printers.
For me the VS has been a totality of experience, a gestalt, an IT worldview from which no individual components can meaningfully be separated. I think it is for this reason that conversions and substitutes, all of which fail to duplicate some aspects of the VS, always fall short. I had occasion to consult on a project for a conversion house, a followup to their Y2K remediation. Studying their proposal for conversion to a Unix system I was struck by the large number of footnotes... it seems that minor feature after minor feature would not be carried forward in the Unix conversion. I realized that while no one feature was critical, the totality of the effect was a death of a thousand cuts -- that the final result would be nothing like the VS and would lose the magic that made the application excellent on the VS.
My thinking and my expectations have been substantially shaped by the VS. I don't mind admitting that even though it has set me up for many disappointments with non-VS systems and environments and products to which I have been exposed. Wang, for all its faults, was the source of an exceptionally well-done data processing platform and environment and many component technologies. If that means I have to be bitterly disappointed by almost everything else I encounter, so be it. If that means that I have had to devote the latter part of my life to bringing the VS back to life, so be it. I only wish that the New VS had been possible earlier, that it could have saved even more VS customers from "life after Wang," which has almost never been good.
I am happy being an unashamed, unabashed, enthusiastic devotee of the VS. I am unafraid to point out that GUI is a bunch of unnecessary crap in the heart of almost any business, where characters are still the business of business. I am unafraid to point out that databases, while neat and cute and sometimes very useful, are horribly inefficient and often unnecessary to the conduct of the back office business of business. I don't hesitate to point out that client/server was a non-solution to the wrong problem, that it only complicated design and programming and implementation, all of which it was supposed to improve. I readily point out that application portability is a false objective, that almost any application, once hosted on a platform, can happily remain on that platform as long as the platform is viable, and that no one in his right mind would "replatform" an application without a damned good reason.
One of the first VS systems, the VS80, released in 1977, served up to 32 users and countless peripheral devices in a system maximum of 512 KB -- half a megabyte. That is so much more efficient than almost anything seen since that it's difficult to make any meaningful comparisons. Today a PC can't serve even one person without hundreds of megabytes of memory, while a modern New VS can serve many hundreds of users with that same amount of VS memory.
The VS systems at most of my clients, companies ranging into the half-billion-dollar per year size, have had no more than 15-20 GB of storage handling all their business functions. A single disk of that size would today be considered too small for a single PC serving a single user.
The VS CPUs, never objectively very fast, the reason we are now able to virtualize them at several times the peformance of the fastest legacy VS ever released, were nonetheless able to comfortably serve tens, scores, hundreds of users. The fastest legacy VS, the 1999 VS18950, had a clock speed of 58 MHz. No PC user today would be caught dead with a PC running only at 58 MHz, yet the VS18950 was and is able to support 500 users in real world environments. The New VS today can provide performance 2.4 times greater, and with the new Intel QPI machines, probably over three times greater. The era of VS systems capable of supporting 1-2,000 users is upon us.
So... I agree that the VS has shaped us. I admit it. I embrace it. I celebrate it. Long live the VS and rational, sensible, efficient data processing.