Nostalgia (not by Veidt)

I was thinking about what I needed to do tomorrow. One of the tasks involved writing a DOS batch file for a colleague. That got me thinking. When did I learn to write batch files? Scarily, I realised it was 20 years ago. I must have been 14 at the time. I had an Amstrad PC 1512 and I wanted to learn everything about it (and play Ultima V a lot).

So, I spent ages reading help, playing with commands to see what they did. I even managed to get a book or two (if the books seem expensive now, they’re even more to a 14 year old with practically no income).

Learning batch files was pretty much mandatory — you had to configure AUTOEXEC.BAT somehow. But learning why you needed to prefix “echo off” with an @ was fascinating[1].

Somehow this information has stayed relevant a lot longer than I thought it would. Certainly longer than the DOS assembly coding I did (a PSP was a Program Segment Prefix long before it was a Play Station Portable — but who cares these days?).

I had little realisation quite how bad batch files really were until I came across sh on SunOS 4 at University. The whole Unix thing (including the culture) was pretty mind-blowing.

I guess I’ve just officially joined the “old farts” club. 🙂

1 “echo off” stops outputting commands to the console. But the “echo off” itself has already been output to the console by that point. The @ in front stops that. Looking back now, it seems remarkably similar to the syntax used by make(1).

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