Oldest “Neil Webber” reference

Inspired by finding some thirty-year-old code of mine online, I wondered if there were any even older references… and I found one!

In the summer of 1979, having just graduated high school, I worked on a macro intepreter for the Initial Graphics Exchange Specification while I was a summer intern at the National Bureau of Standards (now called NIST). I wrote an interpreter for the MACRO statements that were proposed as part of that specification.

I found several copies of the full version 1.0 IGES specification online. This one is in text form:


Being text you can easily search it for “Neil Webber” and find my name. 🙂

The actual design of the MACRO language syntax is a hoot and reflects the FORTRAN language practices of the time. For example, variable typing is determined by the first letter of the variable name.

I didn’t design this language syntax all I did was implement a processor that could run the macros and generated IGES statements from them. I vaguely remember that I called the program “bigmac” because it was a macro processor and it was “big” (meaning 64K-ish). It ran on a PDP11 under v6 Unix.

The IGES 1.0 document was published in 1980. This is the oldest reference to any of my work that I can find – partly because I’m pretty sure this would be the oldest bit of my work that was ever referenced anywhere.

I have not, unfortunately, been able to find any copies of the source code of the macro processor. I’m pretty sure NBS released it because part of the point of asking me to implement it as a summer intern was to show that the MACRO capability wasn’t “too hard”. I’m sure my program was probably an embarrassing mess of bad technique; on the other hand, having a summer intern implement the MACRO processor probably helped make the argument that it wasn’t “too hard” to do. 🙂

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