Mel Pullen

Tetchie Techie

Hardware, Mobile, Agile.

On keybase

Here to explore a non-sync file sharing that is secure.

In real life

Not yet out to pasture systems architect.

Mel Pullen picture Mel Pullen picture

Born in Australia, a long time ago. When I was born I thought I was an acrobat. Possibly because my parents were. However I found a book on electrical technology in my father's bedroom at his parent's home and was fascinated by the diagrams, like this:

Phase in AC waveforms

After that, I was lost. I loved diagrams.

Since leaving Australia, I have lived and worked in:

Due to that book, I became an electronics hobbyist, building circuits with an NKT 403 and an ECC83. That was the 60s, interrupted by some music.

I was nearly distracted from electronics by an ASR33 in Chesterfield College. I was taken there by the house master in sixth form and sat in front of this terminal. It was connected to a computer. The computer was in London and run Dartmouth BASIC. That was a lucky escape.

I went to Southampton University. I didn't go to Oxford or Cambridge because I had two physics teachers; one from each. So I decided to go to a new university to study a new subject. None of this Natural Philosophy malarky for me. One teacher had this written on the blackboard in the prep room:

Or Thwim

I think I may have added the second line. It stayed there at least till I left school.

At university I studied physical electronics and hated computers.

That was easy because the university only had an ICL 1904 that required us to write programs in Fortran on punched cards. I wrote electron diffusion programs (6 lines) and used the cards for roaches.

It was easy to hate computers in the late 1960s and early 1970s in England. They were mostly American, dominating the national products. And IBM had its Hursley research centre just up the road. They assumed all the electronics students would go and work for them. I didn't because I read Think. Oh, and Do it!.

I carried on rebelling for a while; driving lorries (artics) and teaching in secondary schools. Then a girlfriend showed me this article and said I would be out of a job if I didn't learn about computers. She was right. I did, and I haven't been ever since.

I didn't like the languages we were given in most jobs and continued to learn; Coral 66, BCPL, Snibbol, Pascal, Modula 2. In fact my best experience was one of the earliest; Macro 11 assembler, for the PDP 11 and Vax. I built virtual machines and floating point emulators.

Reading this you would expect me to be a very basic programmer. Well, bottom up, possibly. Although exposure to myriad software development methodologies during my time as a contract programmer meant I kept learning.

Through one contract I was introduced to Dr. David Hendry at Westfield College. I ended up working there and learning all about structured methods. Tom De Marco also worked there. So now I knew there was always a better way.

Since Westfield I've tried to learn new languages and architectures and see old paradigms re-appear. I wrote programs in the 70s with AWK, including language translators and saw the same paradigms when I learnt Scala a couple of years ago. My current favourite language is Lua, a multi-paradigm prototype language. Ideal for plopping into all sorts of systems as the extension language.

I see a resurgence of parallel ideas that were in the dataflow languages of the 70s, too.

I work for a large professional services company (they tell me). The fact that I am catalysing a culture change says more than their label. In reality they are a diverse and dynamic organisation that recognises and mostly celebrates their constituent cultures. They are not an American company.

I normally look out of my office at the sea. I get to cycle along the coast most weeks. Hmm, the real world of pain seems so far away.