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  #1  
Old 05-29-2010, 08:33 AM
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Default All you old actuaries: share your stories

So, I'm writing up a paper/presentation for the European Spreadsheet Risks Interest Group conference in July, and one of the things I'm going over are the various systems I've used in my life [computers, OS, software].

Now, I'm 36, and started in this profession in 2003. I have run across some legacy systems, but for the most part, I've been doing my work in Excel/Access/proprietary systems. [to be sure, I started computing back in 1982, when my dad got one of the first IBM PCs, but for the first 10 years or so of my computing, I was doing "toy problems", not having to work on anything where the answer might be useful to anybody.]

So I'm wanting to hear war stories of the various systems people have gone through, stories of systems that have continued for decades after they were last supported, and how they had to be held together with bubblegum and paperclips. That sort of thing.

Anybody?

[and yes, I'm specifically calling out JMO and Brad Gile here, but anybody else feel free to chime in]
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Old 05-29-2010, 02:26 PM
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you also want salzman for a PC perspective. Perhaps Mary Frances as well.
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Old 05-29-2010, 02:57 PM
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Sounds good to me.

I'm mainly talking about whatever systems - databases, valuation systems, software packages, programming languages, etc.

When I left TIAA, they still had some stuff in COBOL, though I think they were moving everything over to C [didn't really require C++].

And we used PTS, which is in APL/2, of course. I have a soft spot for the language.... on my skull. I'm not sure its good points make up for the insanity part of it.
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Old 05-29-2010, 03:35 PM
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When I first started my actuarial career in 1969 at Aetna, I knew absolutely nothing about pragramming or computers. In 1970, I rotated from health to Life, where on my first day the VP walked over, introduced himself, and told me to write a production program for all of our annuity rates. He then plunked down four Fortran IV manuals on my desk so I could learn Fortran. I had 2 weeks to do this. After a day of reading, I was hooked forever on programming.

My first attempt was pretty, but would not work because it required far more memory than was available (16K for code and data combined)! I got it fixed and made the 2 week deadline. From that time on, I was determined to make programming a major part of my actuarial career. This literally exploded when the first IBM PC's came out.

I remember that back then we had an advanced actuarial student (Joe Brezinski) who was a programming powerhouse who actually wrote his apps in Autocoder-a form of machine language even more primitive than Assembler! I'll bet those programs were used for decades.
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Old 05-29-2010, 03:58 PM
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Default Monte Carlo Simulation on the PC

I first stumbled upon Monte Carlo Simulation in a study note for the old CAS Part 4 in to 80s. This was quite sketchy, but it fascinated me and over the years became a major tool in my programming arsenal.
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Old 05-29-2010, 04:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad Gile View Post
I first stumbled upon Monte Carlo Simulation in a study note for the old CAS Part 4 in to 80s. This was quite sketchy, but it fascinated me and over the years became a major tool in my programming arsenal.
I came across it in high school w/ the Buffon's needle problem.

Anyway, after an article Carol wrote for CompAct in praise of approximations, I'm thinking of doing some toy problems w/ head-to-head comparison of approximation methods. MC will be one of them, of course, but also fitting to particular distributions and other stuff.
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Old 05-29-2010, 05:23 PM
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My very first gig in the actuarial world was Y2k-fixing the rate-indication-generating software for a small P&C company. (Since - and it's not my fault! - gone el-bust-o.) It was in various cobbled-together flavors of BASIC, some having line numbers, some from the post-line-number era.
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Old 05-29-2010, 05:37 PM
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One of the 1970 assignments I had was to find out which life premiums in our manual that were off by a cent. I solved that problem using elementary number theory and provided a proof to my boss. Someone else had to apply my algorithm to fix the manual.
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Old 05-29-2010, 05:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by campbell View Post
I came across it in high school w/ the Buffon's needle problem.

Anyway, after an article Carol wrote for CompAct in praise of approximations, I'm thinking of doing some toy problems w/ head-to-head comparison of approximation methods. MC will be one of them, of course, but also fitting to particular distributions and other stuff.
I graduated high school a few days shy of FIFTY years ago! Never heard of MC back then.
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Spoiler:
Obama sucks and we all know it-TDA


Spoiler:

That's been the funniest subplot of this whole thing, the people on the left attacking this bill for not being even more of a steaming pile. - erosewater
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Old 05-29-2010, 07:01 PM
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I started in P&C in the late 80s (not as an actuarial student) with no programming skills, at a very small company that had recently implemented this 'Lotus' product on their 286's.

My first project was to help them manually enter data for a Schedule P application they'd bought. When I realized there were macros, and that investment data could be downloaded in text files from the mainframe, a light bulb went off and I wrote macros to do all the work. They were so impressed that they sent me to finance, where I wrote software to translate general ledger dumps into spreadsheets, and then they sent me to something called 'actuarial', where I took text files of loss data, formatted triangles in Lotus, and created a cute little reserving system that lasted quite a while.

Somewhere in there I did do some actuarial work...but clearly actuaries entering the field at a certain time found themselves doing a lot of straightforward programming.
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