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Student Oriented Batch Facility (SOBF) at the University of Alberta

2. E-mail from Gerry Gabel

posted Nov 4, 2010, 10:07 AM by Jeff Ogden   [ updated Jun 9, 2014, 3:59 AM ]

From: Gerry/Joy Gabel
Date: August 6, 2010 3:01:29 PM EDT
To: Jeff Ogden
Subject: old MTS photos


I read the Wikipedia entry on MTS and I too have to congratulate you on an excellent job of preserving this piece of computing history. You may not remember me but I was at the University of Alberta from 1967 to 1977 and was heavily involved in the adoption and development of MTS at U of A.

 . . .

One item not mentioned in the Wikipedia article is the Student Oriented Batch Facility that U of A Computing Services developed in 1971 to provide a quick turnaround facility for undergrad students learning to program in FORTRAN, ALGOL, PL/C, and 360 Assembler.  The compilers were fast versions developed at various Universities (eg., WATFOR at University of Waterloo).   It was a dedicated punch card input, printer output system that provided a 5 minute turn around and ran several thousands of jobs a week at a cost of 15 cents each.  I don't believe it was adopted at other MTS sites, however, so I leave it to your discretion to include it or not.

Thanks again for undertaking this task and for bringing back some fond memories for me.

Best regards,  Gerry Gabel

1. Processing of programs in the 1970s

posted Nov 4, 2010, 9:57 AM by Jeff Ogden   [ updated Dec 25, 2011, 9:07 PM ]

Until 1970 the Computing Science Department and the Computing Centre at the University of Alberta were a single unit.

From A Short History of Computing Science at the University of Alberta by Keith Smillie, October 2007:

. . . a few remarks about how the Computing Centre handled the processing of programs in the 1970s.

In the 1960s and 1970s input of programs and data was by means of punched cards. In order that student programs be processed efficiently and quickly the Computing Centre developed a “Student-oriented Batch Facility”, with the acronym “SOBF” which was abbreviated of course to “SOB”, Students in a computing course were issued a number of "SOB tickets", each valid for one run. Those who used up their allotment of tickets could purchase “SOB balls” for a nickel each made of translucent plastic and dispensed by a gum-ball machine which had been bought at an auction. The SOB Facility was in a large room on the third floor of the General Services Building where there was sufficient space to accommodate a number of keypunches. The SOB Facility was used very heavily with up to one hundred persons out of the twenty-seven hundred possible users waiting to submit program decks or pick up output at any one time. The continued upgrading of the facilities in the Computing Centre with time-sharing capabilities and the use of terminals for remote of programs and data entry resulted in the SOB Fcaility being discontinued at the end of the decade.

And a few highlights taken from the "Partial Chronology" given on the University of Alberta's Computing Science department's history web page and the Timeline of Computing Services at the University of Alberta:

1967 - IBM 360/67 installed

SOBF at UQV, c. 1969

1969 - Student Oriented Batch Facility (SOBF) implemented
1970 - Computing Centre and Computing Science become separate units
1971 - Michigan Terminal System (MTS) is adopted
1975 - Amdahl 470 V/6 mainframe, the first in Canada, replaces the IBM 360/67
1979 - SOBF replaced by remote-access terminals

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