Computing In A Snow Storm, Uphill Both Ways...
Re: "The first computer class I took in college was on punch cards. This wasn't before the earth's crust cooled, it was only 1979. Or maybe that was before it cooled for some of you.... Anyway, it's probably why it took me so long to sit down at a computer again; I had nightmares about those *&^% cards."
Oh yeah? The first programming I learned, we saved our programs on spools of paper tape. We didn't even have a CRT; just a teletype machine. (This would have been in 1975 or 6). We eventually got a 9 1/2" floppy drive and a CRT, and were some happenin' dudes. I've still got some of the spools, and the enormous floppy disk.
You had a teletype machine? We would have KILLED for a teletype machine! Once I had to write an entire operating system using nothing but a wall full of toggle switches! Keyboards.... HA! You had it easy! ;-)
You all had electricity? all we had was a bunch of gears that had to be rotated by hand...took years just to get the thing to add 1+1
You had gears ???? All we had was rocks and sticks. Rock = 0 and Stick =1. You'd get a line of code all written and then a dog would come and carry off your 1's and you'd have to start all over. You guys had it easy.
You had rocks and sticks?? Geez, try growing up in the desert. . . Grains of sand made the coding damn near impossible!
"Programming language? We don't need no stinking programming language!"
Actually, I Had It Easy
As a freshman in the first-ever class of Northwestern University's Integrated Science Program (September 1976, for those of you at home keeping score), we were taught to use computers even before our classes started -- and we were given ultimately essentially unlimited computer accounts. This made us quite hated on campus by some of the grad students and researchers, who still had to submit jobs by punch cards or use Real Old Teletypes with their awful yellow rolls of paper and weak ribbons at 50 or 100 baud -- while we had a couple of CRT terminals and dial-up modems at 300 baud (woo-hoo!), later upgraded to 9600 baud hard-wired (we were all of 150 feet from Vogelback Computing Center).
In my second year, while trying to finish up a Geophysics computer assignment at the end of the semester, I chanced it -- and logged in as two sessions onto the CDC-6600 mainframe. For three minutes I owned that machine and everything stopped at VCC. Got in, got out -- and had my homework done. Hot stuff.
Now, of course, I've got handheld computers with more memory and processing speed... (But can a palmtop read an IBM punch card that it bigger than it is? I think not!)
From The List Of Books I Haven't Read Yet...
When Computers Were Human by David Alan Green. This was mentioned on NPR's Marketplace show on Monday 2 May 2005. Not only were computers human before the 1950s, they were primarily women. And by and large, many of their contributions have been replaced. I mean, someone had to calculate all those interpolation tables for mathematical functions for all those handbooks which were published.