[rescue] Perverse Question

Bill McDermith bill_mcdermith at yahoo.com
Fri Jun 20 15:40:21 CDT 2003

My first "real" (as opposed to summer jobs in school, etc) was
working for a little local company that was contracting for
Citibank, NA. It started out as a letter of credit system that
was later expanded to do demand deposit, etc. All done on PDP-11/70s
using Tek terminals. Whole system written in Basic Plus and
Basic Plus 2 (you need bp2 to access the RMS record management
library) on RSTS/E. All sorts of redundancy built in to reduce
the number of transactions that would be missing if things
crashed -- identical transaction logs identically written
to several disks (sort of an early RAID concept, assuming the
I means Identical, not Inexpensive :-)

There was a story (truth unverified) that Citibank would come
up out of balance every day, and every evening roughly the
same number of error corrections records would be run, in
the hundreds... It seems that as the story went, the daily
error was huge -- much larger than my salary :-)

You didn't have to rerun transactions unless there was a
crash -- then you had to run the whole days transaction
set against the backup. Otherwise, every evening they
would run corrections against the accounts -- there was
a lot of programming involved to keep the audit trials
intact on corrected transactions.

Almost all the errors were accounting errors (mistyped numbers,
etc.) -- hardly any programming errors that I remember -- well,
not on the production systems anyway, plenty on the test

I was one of the programmers on this system, responsible
for terminal handling -- all terminals handled by one detached
BasicPlus program; it opened the terminal devices directly to
access them, and used a sort of IPC (using the SYS function) to
send messages to the other detached control programs (database
managers, transaction sequencers, etc)

The company retained the rights for the software, and sold
it to a couple of other large banks, while I was there --
that would have been around 1978.

Bill McDermith


On Thu, Jun 19, 2003 at 11:53:24PM -0400, Sheldon T. Hall wrote:

> Heh.  My "first job in computers" was in a bank, as a computer operator,
> the days before disks were the ultimate in on-line random access storage.
> It was my job to do the overnight batch runs that applied the day's
> transactions to the master accounts, produced reports, and generated the
> next day's master accounts.
> It was not at all unusual for things to come up "out of balance" because
> transactions that got made-cancelled-remade and where one of the steps got
> bollixed up, or because of storage read/write problems.  When that
> we were supposed to find the transaction (easy if it as an odd amount like
> $136.47, but near impossible if it was $100.00), _edit_the_transaction_ to
> make things balance, and re-run all the batches.
> I expect things are a bit different now, but, to judge from the number of
> corrections and notations in the various monthly statements I get, the
> difference is that it takes today's operators multiple tries to get it
> right.

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