Welcome to the introductory 'systems' article. This is the first in a series whose purpose is to discuss topics in computing systems of interest to the Recorder's readers. These will cover a broad spectrum, with a focus on those most relevant to exploration geophysicists. In general there will be a bias towards subjects that lie close to my current area of expertise: UNIX systems programming.

Over the past decade or so, the UNIX operating system has enjoyed increasing popularity with geophysicists and has become somewhat of a de facto standard for seismic processing, modelling and interpretation. In many ways, there seems to be a convergence of software to UNIX platforms. even from the extremes of mainframes and personal computers. As such, from the computer operator, who deals with it on a continuous basis, to the company president who is affected less directly, UNIX intrudes into many of our professional lives. My hope is that, through this column, I can change this intrusion into an invitation. Thus UNIX will become more of a useful tool than an unpredictable daemon.

I intend to cover topics which will be useful, informative, educational or just plain interesting to many readers. These will range from the boringly practical (How do I ... ?) to the equivalent of UNIX party tricks (Hey, watch this ... !).

I will start the main body of articles with a condensed tutorial. This will introduce terminology, discuss the purpose of operating systems and explain why these systems are invaluable to computer users. It will also address the contentious issue of what constitutes a 'real' operating system. From there I will discuss the broad topics of why operating systems and computer programs require administration and maintenance, what the difference is between programmers, system programmers and system administrators and what they do on a daily basis. The majority of subsequent articles will address individual topics which arise from my own experience or which are brought to me by readers.

If you have any topics which you would like discussed, please contact me. I welcome feedback about these articles. However, be warned: if you strongly agree with me, I may ask to quote you. If you strongly disagree I may ask you to write a dissenting article.

Mark Lane holds degrees in physics, geophysics and computer science and is a systems programmer at Veritas DGC Ltd. in Calgary. He can be reached via e-mail at mark_Iane@vsJ.com or telephone at 205-6112.



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