Project Delta was an incredible learning experience that introduced thousands of Delaware high school students to computing in the 1960's and 70's. Delta was founded on the radical idea that computers in education can be run by the students. At Delta, the students ran the computer, installed the terminals at the schools, improved the operating system, and invented early versions of things like e-mail and online chat.Project Delta was hosted at the University of Delaware (UDel) using DEC PDP-11 processors running the RSTS/E operating system. From 1972 to 1978 Delta was located in UDel's Department of Electrical Engineering. This allowed high school students to interact with and be educated by the EE department (and in some cases the students went on to join the department). In 1978 Delta was moved UDel's Department of Education (partly due to politics, according to the web page). From this point onward the focus of the project changed and the project started to decline. Project Delta was terminated in 1982.
My high school, A. I. duPont High School (Greenville, Delaware), was a member of project Delta. Around 1976, Dr. Carl Hauger (then at A.I.) applied for and received a grant to purchase a computer for education use at A.I. One of his requirements was that the new computer be able to run programs from Project Delta, thus a PDP-11/34 was purchased.
One of the nice things about RSTS/E was that most of the system programs (called "commonly used system programs", or CUSPs) were written in BASIC-PLUS and the source code was provided by DEC. I spent a lot of my time reading RSTS/E source code and manuals. I entertained and educated myself by either writing new system programs or re-writing existing system programs. For example, I re-wrote LOGIN.BAS and the home-grown E-Mail system on the PDP-11 to use Unix-style usernames rather than account numbers. I also learned how to use the TECO editor during this time. TECO is the editor that emacs was first implemented under. Although I didn't realize it at the time, I was doing the same sorts of things high school students did at Project Delta (when it was active).
Interestingly enough, it turns out that the remains of Project Delta were also located on the A.I. campus (in a separate smaller building). "Project DIRECT" consisted of a HP2000, a Data General Nova, a VAX-11/780 (running VMS), and two MUX systems with modem banks for communication. It was never fully clear to me what the goals of DIRECT were. They had a huge number of modem lines, most of which never seemed to be used. The DIRECT folks avoided most of us high school students (easy enough, since they were in a separate building). However, since the DIRECT HP, Data General, and MUX were located in the A.I. machine room, I ran into their system mangers from time to time and I managed to obtain unofficial access to their VAX. This allowed me to learn all about VMS.
Meanwhile, the rest of the school district was trying to enter the computer age by purchasing Apple IIe's. We had a few that we used for learning Pascal. After becoming used to a multi-user PDP-11 system with chat programs, dial-up modems, and e-mail, using an Apple IIe was a giant step backwards as far as I was concerned. I did not like the Apple IIe at all.
After COBOL, the second class I took at UDel was the "intro to computer science" class. This was my first exposure to an IBM mainframe (an IBM 3081). The system ran VM/CMS and we were taught Pascal. I do not remember much about this class, except that I didn't like the IBM environment much. It was hard to use the internet from the IBM and it wasn't compatible with anything else on campus. For example, the IBM expected IBM EBCDIC terminals to be attached to it. This was a problem because UDel had a network of ASCII terminals connected to a port selector (a serial line based terminal server). In order to overcome this problem, a conversion box had to be inserted between the terminals and the computer. It translated sequences like ESCAPE-1 into IBM function key sequences ("F1"). This was important because the IBM's editor ("XEDIT") and directory listing program ("FILELIST") required the use of function keys.
One of the fun things about being a UDel student is that the university has a one month "winter session" between fall and spring semester. Taking a winter session class allows you to better enjoy living on campus while taking a light course load. I had been playing with the Unix systems at UDel, but I found that my lack of knowledge of C was preventing me from learning what I wanted to fast enough. So, during the winter session of my freshman year I took "CIS-135: C" and finally learned C. I really enjoyed this class. Learning C helped me better understand Unix. Also during this time I started playing /usr/games/hack frequently (I used my newly learned C skills to examine and understand hack's source code, in great detail).
Also during my first winter session I started undergraduate research with Professor David J. Farber. As part of Farber's group (F-Troup) I got access to IBM-PC/AT's running SCO's Xenix operating system. This was my first chance to learn about "root" access to a Unix-like system. I was involved in several projects in this group. I ported the MMDF electronic mail system to Xenix (MMDF was later used as a mailer on SCO Unix partly due to this). I wrote software for a PAL programmer that was used by Gary Delp to program PALs in his Memnet system. And I worked with Ron Minnich to port ISODE (the ISO network protocol development environment) to Xenix (painful). We also attempted to write a device driver with Dave Crocker for an ISA ethernet card, but Dave's company never provided enough programming information for us to complete the driver. In 1987 Farber left UDel to join UPenn, so I was out of work for a while.
During my final two years at UDel, I worked as a system manager for Dan Grim in EE/CIS Computer Lab. I was the main EE student running the lab. This was somewhat unusual because I was an undergraduate, but Dan was involved in Project Delta and was pretty comfortable with the idea. When I was working at the lab we had three VAX-11/780's, an ARPAnet IMP (node #96), an eight processor i386 Sequent running Dynix, and a network of Sun3 and Sun4 systems. On the VAX systems we were beta testers for Mt Xinu's MORE/bsd operating system (I helped run the beta test on the UDel end).
In 1994 we received a donation of Sun equipment from Southwestern Bell Telephone. We used that equipment to start a networking and operating system's research lab in WU's Applied Research Lab (ARL). We choose NetBSD as our platform because it was freely available and ran on sparc systems. I coordinated all equipment for this lab. We eventually moved to i386-PC based equipment due to its high performance and low cost. At last count (in 1998 when I left), WU had about 30 NetBSD PC systems with over 200 GB of disk space (partly for our video server).
Also, around 1994 I ported BSD to the Motorola MVME-147 board (68030 processor). This was later used to port BSD to the 60840-based MVME-167 board (by Theo de Raadt).