Help reading a 9 track tape

James Liu jimliu at
Mon Aug 2 10:11:13 CDT 2021

Thanks for feedback and offers to assist.  I received the tape from
one of the maintainers of Schoonship at CERN, and it was probably made
around 1978 at SLAC.

For some background, Tini Veltman developed Schoonship in the 1960's
at CERN on the CDC 6600.  My understanding is that he more or less
insisted on coding in assembly since he thought FORTRAN or other high
level languages would just get in the way and slow things down.  The
code was maintained by Veltman and Strubbe well into the 1970's, but
its future was held back by being so closely tied to CDC hardware.

In the mid 1970's, Strubbe began a conversion of Schoonschip to IBM
S/360 and S/370.  It was sort of a curious technique, as far as I
gathered.  The idea was to first translate CDC COMPASS source to an
intermediate PL/I like language.  But then, instead of using the IBM
PL/I compiler, a bunch of macros were developed to implement the PL/I
like language in IBM assembly.  This conversion was never fully
completed for reasons unknown to me.

Later on, when Tini joined the University of Michigan (that's where
I'm located), he realized that Schoonschip needed to be updated.  But
the update was ... instead of CDC assembly he decided on m68k
assembly.  (At this time, in the early 1980's, C probably would have
been the natural language of choice.)  Moreover, he insisted on
developing his own toolchain (assembler, linker, etc).  This was
before my time at Michigan, but basically he ported Schoonschip to
just about all the m68k machines of that era (Sun, Atari, Amiga, Mac,
NeXT, and others I am not familiar with).  We have a pretty good
collection of m68k code
(, but nothing

Getting back to the tape, I'm pretty sure it has Strubbe's PL/I like
code as it is an archive of the PL/I conversion.  It may also have CDC
source, but that is less obvious until we can see the contents.  The
CDC source is historically the most relevant, and I am hoping it
exists on the tape.

- jim

James T. Liu, Professor of Physics
3409 Randall Laboratory, 450 Church Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1040
Tel: 734 763-4314    Fax: 734 763-2213    Email: jimliu at

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