My World of Tomorrow – Back to the Future
The build up to the Business Connexion (BCX) event has really got me thinking back over the early days of working in the computer industry.
As a fully fledged baby boomer, my career started when being a computer programmer still had a strong air of mystique.
Computer rooms were gigantic, smoke free zones, limited to the chosen few.
We hand wrote code, the punch room ladies punched it onto cards, and we booked time for testing.
Testing time was very tight, the reason so many of us worked lots of overtime. Much easier to get a testing slot after hours, and the computer rooms ran 24 hours shifts, anyway.
Overtime usually started with drinks at Jimmy’s Tavern in Braamfontein, and led to a few punch card disasters!
Carrying the punch cards for a big program was a delicate, balancing act. If you dropped them, getting them back into order was a real challenge, even if you remembered to number them….
At NCR, developing communications systems so that computers could talk to each other was done through wiring. I loved this. We had insertion tools (our poor trainers struggled to control classes on this topic!) and different coloured wires which you had to carefully insert into (if I remember correctly, it is a long time ago) a glass fronted box. One of our really brilliant programmers, Dougie Hynes, only used white wires. This made updating his communications set ups a nightmare for the rest of us more normal people.
It was such fun, though. It was a young industry, and we were constantly exposed to the most amazing new ideas and always challenged.
Looking back, it moved so slowly, compared to today. We had time to really understand each phase of what we were doing, before the next one arrived.
I worked on the mini computer side for a few years, working in binary and hex. Minis started at 1K. I remember the excitement when the NCR 399 moved from 8K to 16K, and then 32K. We were developing systems for municipalities and 32K gave us enormous flexibility.
Now my iPad can’t update because I only have 3.6 GB available, and I need 4.6!
Hope to see you at MWOT.
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