Fran Hensler

May 6, 2008

Today is my 45th anniversary in data processing at Slippery Rock University of PA.  On May 6, 1963 I founded the Data Processing Center at the then Slippery Rock State College.  The center consisted of one half-time key punch operator and me.  My mission was to automate student registration by the fall semester and have class lists in the hands of faculty before the first class meeting.  We had an arena style registration for 1996 students in three days.  The class lists were produced after working 27 straight hours.   


We had Series 50 (half speed) IBM punched card tabulating equipment: One 024 keypunch, a 548 interpreter, 082 sorter, 085 collator, 514 reproducing punch and a 402 accounting machine that could print 50 lines per minute.  The 402 could only add and subtract.  Later we acquired a 604 calculator that could divide and therefore calculate QPA.  All of these machines were programmed by wiring plugboards.


In 1968 we installed an IBM System/360 Model 30 computer with 32K core memory and 14.5M of 2311 disk storage running DOS/360 Release 17.  Now the 7.5 hour job of sorting 20,000 course cards only took 10 minutes!  The 360/30 was soon replaced by a 360/40 with 64K core memory and 2314 disks.  Next to be installed was a 370/135 with virtual memory running the DOS/VS operating system with standard five partitions but we needed six.  I modified the Supervisor and Job Control to allow six partitions.


The first computer usage by students was in 1970 for FORTRAN classes.  Their programs were compiled with a stand-alone program called RAX.  We had to shutdown DOS in order to IPL RAX.  Later we acquired BUFF40, a fast FORTRAN compiler from the State University of New York at Buffalo.  It ran in DOS/360.


Six model 2260 terminals were leased in 1972 and I designed an on-line student registration system using FASTER (an on-line transaction system that predated CICS-DOS) that is still in use today, under the covers, in the RockTalk system whereby students can register via telephone or on the web. For the first on-line registration that fall, all six terminals were setup in the Student Union.  It took 3 days to register 5897 students.  


Students had to punch their programming assignments into cards until 1975 when I implemented IJS (Interactive Job Submission) to allow input and printing via DECwriters at a speed of 110 baud and eventually 300 baud.  The printing could also be done on a 3780 RJE.


In 1985, SRU acquired an IBM 4361 computer with 12M main memory. I tailored the VM/SP Operating System Release 3 for student use of WATFIV, WATBOL, Pascal, WAT-C, Lisp, SPSS, ADA, Basic, Spitbol, GPSS, PL/C and Assist and two years later, Modula-2 WATFILE was widely used by administrative offices.


The 1990 connection to BITNET brought email and file transfer capabilities with other universities.  1992 saw the acquisition of an IBM 9221-170 computer with 96M of main memory and SRU was finally able to connect to the Internet.  Since 2003, VSE and VM are running on an 18-MIPS FLEX-ES system.


I have enjoyed being a programmer, systems analyst and most of all a systems programmer.  I have been honored by receiving the SRU President's Award for Outstanding Service in 1994 and being inducted into the Order of Knights of VM as 'Sir Fran of the Rock' in 2007.


I would like to hear from anyone who has had a career with a single employer running more than 45 years.