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Author Topic: Back in MY day... aka, the Computer Thread  (Read 9648 times)

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Re: Back in MY day... aka, the Computer Thread
« Reply #30 on: June 14, 2014, 08:24:39 AM »
For a time line on how fast computers improved, I graduated from college in 1981.

My college had been buying computer time from another university which had a large mainframe. In 1981, the college finally acquired its own mainframe and the last time I registered for classes was the first time in college history that it was done on line and not with little computer punch cards.

The guys I knew at MIT during my college years were the only people I knew who had their own computers. Many of them bought their first one at Radio Shack.

My first job had no computers in the office, even though we ran a mail-order business and had a mailing list of over 35,000 names and addresses.

My second job, all four employees had computers, but the owner could barely use his and kept expecting it to work like a typewriter, so I was constantly having to fix his documents. We didn't have MS Word, but used software called MultiMate. No internet, no email. Lots of DOS commands. I was really good with a few basic DOS commands and the rest of the office thought I was a computer genius. Nope, I just read the manuals.

In 1985, four years after graduating from college, I went back to grad school. Things had changed so much in those four years that I went around asking where the computer lab was, not if the university had a computer lab.

The computer lab had these new-fangled Apple MacIntosh computers with these funny things called mice, and no DOS, just this weird interface with folders and a desktop. At first, I thought this was strange. Then I sat down at one of those funny computers. And never willingly used a PC again.
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Re: Back in MY day... aka, the Computer Thread
« Reply #31 on: June 14, 2014, 01:52:08 PM »
When Mr. Thipu's office was starting to implement PCs in the office, they had two machines that would be taken on rolling carts from desk to desk as needed. 

One cart was a rather elegant wooden model.  That one was dubbed 'The Cocktail Cart'.  The other was a bare-bones affair that was called 'The Souvlaki Wagon'. 

At the time, the idea that everyone would have a machine on his or her desk was considered out of the question.


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Re: Back in MY day... aka, the Computer Thread
« Reply #32 on: June 14, 2014, 02:59:57 PM »
At one of my first jobs, we had two (2) mainframe computers - a CDC 6400 and a CDC IFORGET.  These were water-cooled machines.  Indeed, they produced enough heat that the no-longer-cool-water leaving them was used to heat the rest of the building.

One aspect that I found fascinating - the various components (chips and switches and such) were connected by wires and, to make things work correctly, each wire had to be the same length.  So Component A and Component B, six feet apart, were connected by a six foot wire.  And Component X and Component Y, a quarter inch apart, where connected by a six foot wire.  Seemed like each cabinet was more than half full of color-coded wires.  Kinda pretty, actually.


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Re: Back in MY day... aka, the Computer Thread
« Reply #33 on: June 14, 2014, 08:51:11 PM »
I finished high school in 1979.  The last couple of years there, we had a 'classroom computer' for maths.  It was a fancy looking calculator that had to be programmed to produce results for maths problems.  A Teacher Only tool. 

In my last year we were taken out one day for a demonstration of a groundbreaking new computer, an Apple of some sort.  Fascinating to all of us because it had a monitor, with pictures on it!  Way out of our price league, any of us, and I suspect it was an early demonstration to gauge interest or something.  They were definitely not available in any local shops.

My younger brother (not quite 2 years younger) worked with a mainframe VAX machine in uni. 

In my 20's I had a small Australian produced computer of some sort (DS2000 springs to mind), totally hopeless and a waste of money.  Mid 20's I bought a Commodore 64 with the floppy drive - bliss!!!  I taught myself basic programming on it, played games, some word processing.  I loved it!

When I was around 30 I got my first true PC - a 286 with a hard drive!!!  It was a whopping great 30Mb drive, and it was partitioned because it was 'too big'.  The games were better (remember Hoyles Solitaire?) and no annoying waits to load them.  I learned DOS, and how to write batch and config.sys files to make the most of the really limited RAM.  It also had XTree Gold (anyone remember that?) which made file management really simple, but also enabled a totally self-taught numpty like me to really stuff it up.   :P

Since then, I've graduated one by one up the computer ranks, keeping the hardware and software up to date.  The machines available now are just so mindblowingly powerful compared to what we started with.  It makes you wonder what's going to come in the future.

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Re: Back in MY day... aka, the Computer Thread
« Reply #34 on: June 15, 2014, 02:49:04 AM »
Back in the 1970's i worked at a publishing house.  They had a room in which the computer lived and keypunch operators worked.  They also had a telex machine which was part of my job.   I thought it was neat that you could type up a tape to make little holes that would print out as actual words at the other end.
Back before I knew about computers I almost bought a magazine called "Windows" because I thought it was about real windows and we were replacing some in our house at the time. 
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Re: Back in MY day... aka, the Computer Thread
« Reply #35 on: June 15, 2014, 04:02:06 AM »
sometime in the mid-80s, my newly widowed father married a widow with three children and moved into their home. they had a computer that the late husband had bought for his business - he had died several years earlier and the widow was still paying off this machine. by that point it was perfect for playing pong and pac man >:D

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Re: Back in MY day... aka, the Computer Thread
« Reply #36 on: June 15, 2014, 08:35:27 AM »
If you want a walk down memory lane, check out the photos from the RI Retro Computing Society:

My advisor has been in computer science since the 60s, and he said the website was like a scrapbook of his early career.


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Re: Back in MY day... aka, the Computer Thread
« Reply #37 on: June 15, 2014, 02:55:44 PM »
And of course the original Star Trek had its own idea of what the future's computers would look like:

Edited because I know the difference between "it's" and "its." Sheesh!

« Last Edit: June 15, 2014, 03:32:28 PM by Amara »

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Re: Back in MY day... aka, the Computer Thread
« Reply #38 on: June 15, 2014, 03:14:20 PM »
Our first computer was a 64k Mac. Lurved it! I was an undergrad student with a new baby and husband. The ability to save and come back to papers was the most awesome thing. It wasn't loud, until I printed something.

We upgraded the memory to 128k and thought it was all w would ever need.

I was just reminiscing the other day about PrintShop. There are times I miss it.  I could create book relate coloring sheets for my students. 

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Re: Back in MY day... aka, the Computer Thread
« Reply #39 on: June 15, 2014, 03:59:39 PM »
I remember my first memory upgrade. I had a Mac LCIII (the "pizza box" mac) back in college, and after graduation decided upgrade it from 4MB to a whopping 8MB! I got the RAM, and the directions, and swapped them out. Then I made a barrette out of the old one. :-)

Later, I was wearing said barrette and a friend, one of the nerdiest people I know, asked me "is that a 72-pin SIMM??" and was horrified I had made a barrette out of it. Until I told him, it's only 4 MB!
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Re: Back in MY day... aka, the Computer Thread
« Reply #40 on: June 15, 2014, 09:10:19 PM »
my inner geek thanks you so so much! for that ST link!!

:) :) :) :)
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Re: Back in MY day... aka, the Computer Thread
« Reply #41 on: June 15, 2014, 10:53:45 PM »
My parents bought us kids an Atari computer in the early 80s.  We mostly used it for games but could also use it to write BASIC programs.  It had a tape player for saving programs.  No internet or anything like that and it was hooked up to the TV for a monitor.

We used the main computer at college in the late 80s.  We had special access to it for our Auto-CAD class.

The first one I bought for myself was a Packard-Bell 486 with dial up internet.  Boy, I was cool.  That was in 1994.


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Re: Back in MY day... aka, the Computer Thread
« Reply #42 on: June 16, 2014, 07:34:40 AM »
First, my Mom was awesome and bought us one of the first home video gaming systems:

In high school I found out that theoretical math is not my cup of tea, so I switched from that track to the middle track, which included the "computer math" class. We worked on Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 1 machines at school, saving programs on cassette tapes: If I couldn't get my programs done at school, I'd have Mom drive me to the mall and I'd work on them at the store. The store loved that, because it helped them sell more Trash-80s  ;D

When we started our first CS classes in undergrad, you had to work on the Hollerith cards first. You would save the JCL cards for the beginning and ending of the job and insert in the cards for your program. There were 2 card punch machines and you would hope that getting there early would get you one of the machines that would let you type the entire card out and then punch it, rather than the ones that punched as you typed. Then after you had your deck ready, you went upstairs and handed them to the operator who would run your deck and then hand you the printout of how your program failed  ;)

When I started my first job in 1988, we were creating software for different personal computers to dial in and connect to the then Mead Data Central system (now Lexis-Nexis). We had to support all of the speeds, from 300 baud up to the whopping 9600 baud that the more cutting-edge law firms had. We had HP testing devices that we'd put between the machine and the phone line that we could monitor the data stream and capture it in a buffer. At 2400 baud and up, it went by too fast, so we'd have to capture and review it later. But at 300, 600, and 1200, we could actually read it in real time. 300 was painfully slow - you could s....e....e.... ....i....t.... ....g....o....i....n....g.... ....b....y.....


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Re: Back in MY day... aka, the Computer Thread
« Reply #43 on: June 16, 2014, 09:43:23 AM »
When computers were first introduced into our offices, it was widely believed that the machines sucked up massive amounts of electricity.  As a result, it was a rule that any machine had to be completely shut down and turned off when not in actual use. 

Of course, this turned into a nightmare.  Mr. Thipu, who was very computer savvy for the time,  finally convinced the Uber-Boss at the library that the machines we were using used no more power than a light bulb. 


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Re: Back in MY day... aka, the Computer Thread
« Reply #44 on: June 16, 2014, 10:06:29 AM »
I still remember being blown away by the first portable computers sans hardrives, aka laptops, back in the day. They only had about 30-60 min. of battery time, but still, the thought that you could take your computer and write anywhere, even outside, was mindblowing to me.