INQUIR, fun fun

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One of the little-reported facets of my job as network manager is that I'm the guy who's responsible for the LCS INQUIR database, one of three different databases which keep track of who's who in the Lab. I'm in the process of taking the database into its N+1th generation -- I don't know how big N actually is, but perhaps some of the old hackers can tell more about it.

An interesting (and, as far as I can tell, almost unique) feature of LCS is that we effectively provide a life-long identity for people, so that they can publish their address in an article and still have it work ten years later (assuming they bother to keep it up-to-date). There are presently some 3,000 people in the database, of which about 700 will be dropped in the coming move for lack of a forwarding address. (Even of the entries that have one, many are probably dead, and one of the features I'm adding to the new database is the ability to periodically scan the database and check addresses for validity, recording the information in a new LOSING: tag in the database.

Judging by the ALTER: tags, many of those 700 dead entries are survivors from whenever the database was first moved from whichever PDP-10 it used to live on, to the first UNIX machine to run the code. At some point, it got mangled in the process of moving from mintaka-the-VAX to mintaka-the-Sun, and I'm in the process now of rewriting it from scratch (in a maintainable language) to migrate it to mintaka-the-Avnet-PC. While the old entries will be dropped, I'll try to salt away in human-readable form the database as it exists before porting.

Any old-timers want to comment on the history on INQUIR?

-- Garrett A. Wollman, September 17, 1998


The INQUIR database software has a newer version written in Maclisp, and an older version written in MIDAS assembly language.

-- Lars Brinkhoff, May 1, 2018