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A Case of the MUMPS

A Case of the MUMPS

2023-06-10 04:11:56

It’s possible you’ll not understand it, however the majority of us builders have been residing a sheltered skilled life. Certain, we’ve obtained that residing catastrophe of a C++ utility and that ridiculous interface between PHP and COBOL written by the boss, however I can guarantee you, that every one pales compared to what many, much less lucky programmers should work with every day. These programmers stay principally forgotten, toiling away at a dead-end profession sustaining historical info programs whose ridiculously shoddy structure is surpassed solely by the instruments used to create it. Bryan H lived in such a world for over two years. Particularly, he labored at a “MUMPS store.”

With no expertise and a three-week outdated school diploma, Bryan was fairly glad to land his first programming job. He had by no means heard of the programming language that the corporate used, however he was assured that he’d obtain loads of coaching and may have bother choosing it up. They usually weren’t joking about “loads of coaching.” Bryan’s first three months had been spent solely in a classroom stuffed with different current grads, all studying about what the following forty years of their lives had in retailer: MUMPS, MUMPS, extra MUMPS, and, in the event that they had been additional fortunate, a touch of Visible Fundamental.


MUMPS Defined

MUMPS (initially, Massachusetts Common Hospital Utility Multi-Programming System) is conceptually totally different from nearly each different programming language on the market. The first design objective MUMPS was to create code that, as soon as written, can by no means be maintained by anybody ever once more. The syntax is considerably harking back to FORTRAN and SNOBOL (no, not the bathroom cleaner), solely a lot, a lot worse. Paradoxically, being inflicted with mumps (the illness) is way more nice that truly working with MUMPS (the language). A extra apt identify for the language definitely would have been EXPLOSIVE-DIARRHEA; I’m certain they may have even labored SNOBOL (the language, or, heck, even the bathroom cleaner) in there as nicely.

To provide you an thought of what MUMPS is all about, following is an abbreviated record of options pulled straight from the MUMPS FAQ:

CASE SENSITIVITY: Instructions and intrinsic capabilities are case-insensitive. Variable names and labels are case-sensitive.

COMMANDS: could also be abbreviated to 1 letter, case-insensitive. Consists of instructions comparable to IF, ELSE, GOTO, WRITE, and XECUTE [which is my personal favorite, it allows arbitrary execution of code contained in a variable]

OPERATORS: No priority, executed left to proper, parenthesize as desired. 2+3*10 yields 50.

DATA TYPES: one common datatype, interpreted/transformed to string, integer, or floating-point quantity as context requires.

DECLARATIONS: NONE. All the pieces dynamically created on first reference.

LINES: essential syntactic entities. A number of statements per line are idiomatic. Scope of IF and FOR is “the rest of present line.”

LOCAL ARRAYS: created dynamically, any variety of subscripts, subscripts may be strings or integers. Saved in course of area and expire when course of terminates.

GLOBAL ARRAYS: arrays that begin with a caret image. Saved on disk, out there to all processes, persist when course of terminates. That is M’s major “database” mechanism.

Remember that MUMPS shouldn’t be a type of esoteric joke languages. It needs to be, however it isn’t. MUMPS may be very actual, and has been used for the previous thirty years to create and keep colossal medical info programs.


MUMPS Abused

On the firm Bryan labored for, they didn’t simply use MUMPS, they used it cleverly. Partially because of MUMPS’ limitation and partially as a result of they’d all gone insane.

All MUMPS code was saved in a World Array named ^ROUTINES. The one code that existed outdoors of this array was saved in “Utility Startup” codefiles, every containing a single line of code: X(^ROUTINES(“XSTARTGB”)). The one distinction between every file was the final two characters, or, the appliance identifier.

Inside every utility lived a whole bunch of modules, and inside every module lived 1000’s of routines. All of those routines shared the identical surroundings. To make sure that world arrays and code didn’t get combined up, a strict naming conference was adopted. Every routine identify was not more than eight characters, and consisted of a two-character utility identifier, a two-character module identifier, and a two-character routine identifier. The remaining two characters had been for “routine chaining.” You see, as a result of MUMPS has a reasonably small routine restrict, builders needed to unfold code throughout a number of routines (GBLVCM1, GBLVCM2, and many others) and “chain” them along with a GOTO on the finish.

To edit the code saved within the “database” (in case you’re charitable sufficient to name it that), builders wanted to make use of the internally-created textual content editor. It really made vi look user-friendly. The editor made in depth use of DEC VT 220 keys as shortcuts; these keys, naturally, didn’t exist on any trendy keyboard. Issues that we take as a right (the Enter key, for instance) required a weird set of escape instructions to be entered.


The Fortunate Ones

I discussed earlier that “fortunate” builders got the chance to work on the corporate’s Visible Fundamental elements. Being the neophyte that he was, Bryan was years away from even being thought-about for such a task. However they made certain that every one new builders noticed the carrot and understood that, in the event that they labored onerous sufficient, they may get to savor it someday.

See Also

Like most different issues on the firm, the communication protocol between MUMPS and Visible Fundamental was homegrown. The consumer VB utility learn an unencrypted UNIX login and password from a file, initialized a telnet session, opened the MUMPS surroundings on the server, after which despatched MUMPS code to be executed. As a result of their MUMPS system was so ridiculously sluggish, it might typically take minutes for a easy operation to finish. Experiences would take hours.


Bryan’s Job

The corporate was not too fearful about poor efficiency as a result of they solely went after big firms. This meant that they may blame the lag on the large quantity of knowledge their purchasers used. Regardless of that, they nonetheless had a Efficiency Enhancement Workforce. That was the workforce Bryan was assigned to work on.

The Efficiency Enhancement Workforce didn’t work proactively. They labored reactively. When a consumer had “emergency efficiency issues,” they’d create an emergency repair and save the “actual drawback” for “one other day.” Clearly, that day by no means got here.


A Method Out

On the eve of his second 12 months anniversary, Bryan lastly realized one thing. He had been a MUMPS programmer for 2 strong years. Outdoors of his present employer, the talents he now possessed weren’t solely nugatory, they made him a pariah. Truthfully, would you need to rent somebody who had solely used such a language and surroundings?

Together with his solely various being a future stuffed with MUMPS, Bryan knew what he needed to do. With none job prospects, he put in his two weeks discover and prayed that he’d be capable of discover a new job with none famous work expertise and a two-year outdated school diploma.

As of this writing, Bryan continues to be unemployed, making an attempt to land that “first job” once more. However he has landed just a few job interviews and is hopeful. One factor he’s certain of is that the following forty years of his life is not going to be stuffed with MUMPS, MUMPS, and extra MUMPS. Not less than, we will solely hope…

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