Saturday, November 23, 2013

Kermit oral history panel update

Around a year and a half ago I wrote about my trip to NYC and the interview I participated in for an oral history project on Kermit. I had a great time reminiscing and spending time with Frank da Cruz, my boss at the time and the person who did the most over the years to make the Kermit file transfer protocol, programs, and project so successful.

The Computer History Museum recently released a transcript of the interview, as well as another one from an interview with Joe Doupnik who worked on Kermit after I had left Columbia University. My guess is that none of you will want to read through these transcripts, but I’m happy and proud that my work is now a part of the museum. I guess that means I am now officially an old, museum piece.

A picture from the era when I worked on Kermit
As the picture shows, I was pretty young (about 23) when I started working on Kermit. I vividly remember the days flying by while I was coding. I would suddenly look up, notice it was dark, and have to run home to my new wife who was wondering where I was.

I wrote the first versions of Kermit in assembly language. Eventually, I wrote a version in C, but assembly language was my favorite.

In those days, open-source software did not really yet exist, but we felt Kermit should be freely shared as broadly as possible. As the Internet was still ARPANET and not widely available, we made the programs and code available on magnetic tapes and eventually floppy disks. We encouraged others to create their own versions and contribute them back to us so we could in turn distribute them to an even wider audience. Those were exciting times and the transcripts give at least some flavor of those times, or at least how we remember them.

Eventually, the Internet largely obviated the need for the Kermit programs and protocols. There are, however, some specific situations where Kermit still is used over 30 years since we first developed it. I consider myself blessed to have had a role in getting it started.

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