- The programmer is probably playing guitar because he is waiting for his compile. It had to be batched and returned, sometimes hours later. Imagine getting things done with only one compile per day.
- The programmer is giving an obscene gesture to the terminal because he forgot a semicolon (more likely a period in his COBOL program) and will now have to wait another day for a clean compile. Move that deadline back to October.
- The terminal the programmer is giving an obscene gesture to is a state-of-the-art Datawriter, a PAPER-DRIVEN terminal. A moment of silence is needed for all the trees sacrificed for our future.
- The programmer was special because he had access to the Datawriter, which was probably in the computer room. Anyone else, including all users, had to use pencil and special forms (like taking their SATs) to enter data into the IBM Mainframe. Those forms went to the Data Control Unit where teams of mostly women keypunched the data onto 80 column cards which were fed into a hopper. The early keypunch machines put the holes in the cards as you typed, so that if you made a mistake, you had to start over with a new card. Later, these machines had memory, so you could finish the virtual card, and hit a key that did the whole card. Probably saved a lot of paper.
- Notice all the coats hanging in the break room. It may have been winter, but just as likely, they were needed in the computer room. It was cold in there!
- Note that the "Data Terminal" pictures are at the bottom of the page in the mini-computer section. This was a big deal back then. Mini-computers got CRT displays before IBM mainframes. That's how they competed with Big Blue. For programmers, this was as big an advance as we would ever get. Imagine building that web app today, buying cases of cards from Office Depot and getting one compile per day.
- The Demonstration Center was a big deal, too. Several places I worked had the computer room behind glass in the lobby. Companies wanted their customers to physically see how advanced their technology was.
Thanks for the memories. Now burn those pictures.
I may not have written my first program until I was 16-17, but I read my first IBM manuals around age 8 or so :-)
they were needed in the computer room. It was cold in there!
The other reason I liked going with her when she had to work Saturdays: it was always air-conditioned.
Using a pen + paper to write programs isn't a huge deal and I'd do it more often if it weren't for the retarded amounts of API docs you have to wade through nowadays before writing a complete program.
1. On any given day, how many times does a compile (or interpretation) of your work fail?
2. On any given day, how many times does a test run of your program give anything other than the most desirable result?
If your answer to either question is less than 2, then you're either (a) not working enough or (b) the greatest programmer in the history of the world.
I was not "bitching". I was pointing out that in those days you usually got "one shot per day". Think about how this one little fact affected everything you did.
There was no such thing as "Release early and often," "Ready, Fire, Aim," "Iterate, iterate, iterate," "Prototype," or "Get User Feedback ASAP." The existing technology simply didn't permit it. When you got one compile per day, you damn well better spend 6 hours per day proofreading. How many hours per day to you spend proofreading? If it's more than .5, then you're wasting your time. It is your morale imperative to use technology to do that for you.
We laugh at those pictures and those days, but forget how hardcore you really had to be. We're all standing on the shoulders of giants. Respect.
Not bad, but gear that's not grayscale would be pretty cool.
Mind, then we'd have to worry about whether our keyboards and monitors matched...
I remember the transition from cards to online terminals, when hacking (as a high-school junior) at the Naval Electronic Labs computer center in Point Loma (San Diego) in the early 70's as a part-time systems programmer. (Don't remember how I got a job there, but I do remember adding some small features to their WATFOR Fortran compiler over one summer.)
TSO (time-sharing option) was a huge upgrade at the time, running as a permanent "job" under OS/360, and virtualizing the job partition to run separate sub-jobs per terminal user. After using punched cards for a while, the thrill of actually typing in programs directly (mostly assembler and PL/I in my case), running, and DEBUGGING them interactively was nirvana.
Note that once upon a time a “computer” was a person who did computations, often a woman with a BA in math. ENIAC’s programmers were women (http://www.columbia.edu/acis/history/eniac.html).
I wonder what happened to change the demographics so heavily.
Through this lens the gender shift can be seen as an artifact of the higher education system: Fewer women were getting into these schools and finishing with advanced degrees in math and computing. Even today women can have a tougher road putting together the 7-10 consecutive years of full-time academics required for a terminal degree given that the 20s are also prime child-bearing years.
pg explains the corporate hiring mindset better than I can with a "nobody ever got fired for buying IBM" analogy in News from the Front:
A recruiter at a big company is in much the same position as someone buying technology for one. If someone went to Stanford and is not obviously insane, they're probably a safe bet. And a safe bet is enough. No one ever measures recruiters by the later performance of people they turn down .
I/O control staff (who gathered input data, scheduled batch jobs to run, and distributed printed output) were mostly women.
If you were male, you wore a tie. Those of us kids who didn't know how to tie one (or who operated drum printers and high-speed decollators) were forgiven for wearing clip-ons. I worked one place where men were required to wear ties, and the women all wore a uniform dress.
Also this impressed me:
"The computer room was in the basement of a building for security and other reasons. There was no natural light and I had a slim budget for decorations. I also had staff with artistic talents so I bought the materials and they made their own decorations."
With the guitars and the art projects it sounds like he fostered a very progressive work environment.
Maybe a cache can help:
Dan Margulis' book on this subject is definitive.
I was about 60% sure someone got access to a preserved data center that's now a museum, raided the Mad Men wardrobe and took a bunch of pictures, but then I saw the personal page of the guy and it's an older version of him:
The Internet has made me such a cynic. But still... someone should take my idea of faking old timey things for a different theme and set of pic ;)
Either that, or he was committing corporate espionage. In which case, I wasn't getting nearly enough presents, Dad!
The thought-writers are halfway there already, they're working on tech for disabled people that lets them manage somewhat crude gestures by thinking in directions.
Full size images are 1600 x 1061, so with 16 bit colour and no compression you'd be looking at about 25MB per image, or about 25 per drive. As a jpg they're about 600k each