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October 12, 2010


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Tony Nunn

If you remember...
when 128k of memory occupied a wardrobe-sized cabinet;
poking the chads back into punched cards with a pencil;
rewinding the two reels of paper tape containing the Algol compiler by hand;
writing Cobol on coding sheets and waiting 24 hours for your compilation and (if you were lucky) test results.

J Lawrence

Started in fall of '77 on a Univac 9030 with 512k main memory and 4 washing-machine-sized disk drives. Jobs fed into card reader and disk packs switched out depending on the job. Tape backups. Our store communication system written in assembler. Stored boxes of cards in a back room where an overhead A/C leak ruined several boxes. The good old days!

Paul Gray

I 1st learned "DP" while feeding cards and wiring boards on an "IBM 407 Tabulating Machine". Wrote my 1st program on an "IBM 305 RAMAC". I remember printing an "80-80" list on a 1401 by manipulating the toggles and buttons on the front of the CPU. I have worked on 1620, 1130, 1401, 1410, 360's, System 3, System 34, dozens of (Z80) PC's before the IBM PC.

Paul Gray

Wayne M

One acronym: JCL

I lived through some of these. Cut my teeth on a teletype in high school learning Basic in the math lab. Suffered 029's and card decks on a IBM 360 with MVS. Learned assembly language programming and hardware interfacing on an 8080 trainer. Entered binary addresses to boot loaders on an 8080 IMSAI (sp?) for CP/M (on an 8" floppy, high tech by then) and programmed boat loads using an ADM 3A. Used 11/70's and 11/780's as our Unix systems (once I got a real job). Wasted reams of thermal paper on a TI Silent 700. And yes I could pull a modem tone by whistling at the 110/300 baud acoustic coupler.

Good times...


You might be a computing old timer if you cannot read this blog. 8 point font... really?


I remember hearing a Bach fugue played by varying the rate at which the brake was engaged and disengaged on an HP21mx fanfold paper tape reader. The program was encoded on about 12 feet of paper tape (short program and a data file), and the sound was best when you used a piece of mylar tape about a foot long in the reader.

David Patte

In fact, last week I finally threw out 4 large cardboard boxes of punch cards that I had used for a project. They had taken me about 4 months to punch, so it was somewhat traumatic.

Jerry Connelly

Well I guess I have to weigh in with my first programming experience on the IBM 650 with drum memory and S.O.A.P. (Symbolic Optimal Assembly Program). I had to hook up a card reader and punch for most I/O and a 407 Tabulating machine for reports. An assembly took two passes. Pass one resulted from reading the source deck and punching an intermediate deck to be read in for the final pass to punch a final object deck.
They bought me an Honeywell 200 with 4096 bytes of memory to replace it. (It went to the Smithsonian as it was one of only two remaining 650s in operation).
The Honeywell did not have the multiply/divide feature installed at first but after I demonstrated my prowess with it they bought me the m/d option as a reward. I punched in octal on the console to patch preloaded object programs during testing. Another Geezer/Geek heard from!

James White

To me, you are a computer old timer if you worked on a computer that -
1) Used punched cards or paper tape for input media or
2) Had a real front panel (allowed you to input instructions and data via switches, view memory on lights and allowed you to start, stop and single-step the machine) or
3) Had 64 KB or less of magnetic core memory

Anthony  Healey

In 77, preparing the fortran punched cards one week, to visit the college 40 miles away the next week to see if it ran OK comes to mind.

Troxel Ballou

...playing music on an IBM 1620 by placing an off-station FM radio on top of the memory unit and doing variable length Transmit Field (opcode decimal 26) and Transmit Record (opcode decimal 31) instructions.

Ken Stoole

I can relate to most of the above. I remember repairing IBM 421 Accounting Machines and programming IBM 360/20 with raw binary entered at the control panel byte for byte. I wrote my first commercial program on a Commodore PET with 6502 assembly routines to compress and uncompress data. Still Programming!!

Steve Naidamast

Programmed an IBM 360\20 but started working with the IBM 1101 scientific computer. Used the 029 and the later IBM 96 punch card machine. Worked on Univac 90\30s and 1100s and then moved on to IBM's terrific 4331 and 4341 machines. Did CICS in both Macro Assembler and COBOL. Worked on IBM 3030s and the Hitachi machine, which at the time was just a little smaller than IBM's E9000.

Younger technicians today do not have the professional disciplines we were ingrained with and produce a lot of sloppy results all with the idea that they can get things done faster. They also spend too much time "bit twiddling" thinking that reducing milliseconds is a step towards better performance.

Nonetheless, we have better toys to work with... :)


When I saw the title of this article I was worried that I was about to have it confirmed that I'm old. Happily I don't remember a single thing that you mention!

Justin Halls

Never mind RSTS, I used RSX and RT11 on my PDP 11-04 and my personal PDT 11/50. But I learned to program on an ICL1904 (later the 1904/S) in FORTRAN and ALGOL60. My first personal computer was the Sinclair SC/MP - 256 bytes RAM, a hex keypad and a single row of tiny 7-segemnt characters. But mainly I loved RT/11 and all that DECUS support.

Jim Danby

I must be an old-timer. I can barely read your blog without increasing the zoom to 200%.

Karl Kobel

I learned on a 1401 at DeVry (Chicago), and I started my embedded career with 8 bit micros. We thought punched paper tape would be a way to -permanently- archive the assembly code. One day, the roof leaked, and all the tapes completely disintegrated. OK, we'll move to Mylar, but the ASR-33 had trouble punching it. Oh well. ;)

Alexander Obrzut

I remember getting a ZX Spectrum in my early years (Pre-teen). And, typing out instructions / programs from the manual which actually taught me my first language (BASIC).

I never really got a handle on vector programming! But, I did enjoy the graphics routines. Sadly, today's systems are all GUI Internet terminals. Not a command line interpreter in sight *moans*

Patrick DeShazo

one word - overlays

Henk van Asselt

Oh yes, I did some programming on the PDP-11 with a real DEC VT100 terminal... The keys always bounched so you had to type carefully and slowly.


The 029 with the interpreter was a real life-saver. I never learned to speed-read EBCDIC from the punched holes.

James Horsley

What about having to enter a Fortran program for an ASCII Univac "mainframe" (96K of core memory - the real stuff with little donut magnets and wire) on an EBCDIC IBM card punch ... does that count?

Rodney Reid

I wrote 6502 assembly without an assembler (bytes in a string style) on a Atari 400 in 1981.

Made a program that dialed "pulse" really quick too... good times.

Alfred - the jingle bells on the printer is hilarious.

Paul T. Lambert

I still remember the time when my Internet-enabled 3G phone would capture only standard-definition video. Youth is SO wasted on the young...

Alfred Thompson

I remember line printer art being the hight of computer generated art. And a friend writting a program that caused the chunk chunk of a 1401 to "play" jingle bells - more or less. :-)

I was on the RSTS development team for a while. I really did love that OS. DCL was the best command line system ever. Though the command line completion on TOPS-20 was pretty cool as well.

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Dan Reed
Dan Reed

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