I have been fortunate to work with some amazing people in my career. One that stands out in my mind is Fred Longstaff. I was reminded of him recently when I had lunch with an old friend who talked about his design and implementation of a real time executive. I met Fred on a project where we were using a mini-computer to control a nuclear power station. Fred created a very efficient low overhead executive that ran high priority programs in memory and lower priority ones were swapped in and out. It was an amazingly simple design but worked like a charm. My friend took the design and used it in his real time systems for the last thirty years. It was such an amazing design.
I was then involved in developing systems for the Bruce Nuclear Power Station. The computer system we were using had an very poor development system. The editor and the assembler were incompatible and the filing system treated the disk like a magnetic tape. I convince my client to bring Fred in to build a development system. Fred estimated it would take him forty days. He had to prepare the programs by using coding sheets which would be key punched by two key punch operators. It was the most amazing thing to watch. Fred sat with his feet up on the desk thinking for about a week, scribbling a few notes. The following week he took his feet off the desk and started coding. He coded so fast that the keypunch people could not keep up with him. He coded for a week. Remember he had to use the old development system to assemble and edit his programs. He was developing a completely new disk operating system, file manager, editor, link editor, and putting a front end on the existing assembler. Then he started assembling the programs. It was quite incredible but at the end of the forty days we had the most amazing development system. A team of developers used that for years to develop all the code for Bruce 1. I expect it was also used for future stations but I do not know. How he did all that work with old development system and then move to the new one. I think he also built a debugging tool as well.
It was quite an experience. He was really a genius. I think it is such a gift to be able to design and build things like that. I am still in awe. The system fitted together exactly the way we needed it for the work we had to do.
Does anybody remember Fred?