Category Archives: history

Membership lists

tfmcs_membership_tape

Mike VA3MW sent in a picture with this note: This is how I used to get it. 9 track tape.

In response, Nigel VE3ID wrote:

Mag tape!!!! Bloody Luxury!

Oh! Those were the days!

When I started on the TFMCS membership list circa 1972/3. I inherited a box of punch cards from Al Molden, VE3CLE. He was an engineer with IBM and had been running them on their mainframe, a 360/168 I think.

I worked for Bell in data switching, and we had a spare Univac 418 for maintenance. As long as it was always available for backup of the two live Trans-Canada message switching services, I could do whatever I wanted. I was not allowed to use the random access device (a Fastrand II drum weighing 2 tons with 132 million 18-bit characters storage. So I had to use punch cards, Uniservo VI C tape drives (220/556/800 bpi seven track) and a 600 lpm Univac 1004 printer. (You can look all these up using google, I am sure some museum has one or two on display)

I read the original cards onto tape to run mailing labels. When I wanted to add members, I punched them up on cards, put the stack of cards in the reader, and wrote a program to read in the input tape up to the callsign before the one on the next card, writing each record out to the output tape (start/stop tape, not streaming) then wrote the contents of the card to the output tape and continued reading the input tape until the place for insertion of the next card read, then started the whole process all over again until the end of the input tape and the cards!

I did have a sort program, but always managed to keep the records in alphabetical order of callsign, because it would have taken a whole 12-hour shift to sort, both tapes swinging back and forth!

All of the above was written in ASSEMBLER CODE - ART418.

I had lots of time to myself, once voltage and timing measurements were done to satisfy the PM schedule. I even converted the whole database for the Canadian mailing list of Ham Radio Magazine from 6-level Friedin Flexowriter code to ASCII 8 level for Fred, VE3ZL. But I was very bleary-eyed after on of those 12-hour shifts. If you are a fan of Stuart McLean, he has just published his book celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Vinyl Cafe (CBC Radio, Saturday mornings) and the story of what happened to me after one of those shifts is in page 93!

Time Now for the Vinyl Cafe Story Exchange

And when you tell these young guys how hard we used to have it, they don't believe you!

Aye, luvverly bit of plonck that is! (Monty Python: Three Yorkshiremen)

I also remember creating a database of all Canadian Radio Towers. The idea was to find the owner of tower in green belts, so you could rent space to put your system on their tower. Communications Canada did not have the personnel to do the lookups. Eric, VE3EI, filed a Freedom-Of-Information act request to get the database from CC. (It is now completely online, but now we have "The Web".)

It was on two 6250 bpi 9-track GCR tapes. I could only read 1600 bpi PE. So one ham, who shall remain anonymous, met me at the IBM data centre at 2 am one morning, took the tapes from me, and converted the database to 20 or so 1.44 MB floppies. I then got the database up on a dial-in system, but dropped the project when I got hired to teach at Seneca College. A year later everything was available on the new "Web".

Those were the good old days. Happy memories have you brought back!