Jim Gray and the existence of working software

Jim Gray disappeared and I hope he will reappear unharmed. I met him once at a Supercomputing show when Cort Dougan and had just been snubbed by the AIX developers at the PowerPC booth who explained that the Linux PowerPC port Cort had just written was beneath their contempt. Gray came up to us and was interested in discussing the work we were doing. Gray was one of the main designers of of the Tandem fault tolerant systems – our competitive target back at Auragen in the 1980s. We lost. After Auragen I eventually went back to graduate school and one day a famous “formal methodist” came by to lecture us about how lousy software was and how we all needed to use his brand of mathematical analysis to improve ourselves. The sage pointed out that without such intellectual tools, limited software engineering as practiced by the ordinary folk could never develop anything like a fault tolerant database that was reliable. I tried to explain that Tandem, and Jim Gray, had done exactly that, but data points were not persuasive to the formal methodist.

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