Wednesday, February 15, 2006

My First Computer

This is the front panel of an IBM 1620-II system unit, built ca. 1959 AD. I was only two years old at the time, so I didn't actually use this thing until 1975.

Learned Fortran II, how to keypunch it on to 80-column cards (the grandfather of the reason terminal windows are usually 80 columns wide), feed the deck into the card reader, wait for some output to be punched onto another set of cards, then take them over to another computer to have them printed. Find bug, fix bug, try again. Programming today is much the same.

The system unit was about the size of a large, thick upright piano. There was a Selectric typewriter buil into the console table, just to the right of the panel above. There was a refrigerator-sized memory unit, containing 60,000 memory locations. There were two hard-disk drives, each about the size of a washing machine. The card reader/punch was bigger than the disk drives, smaller than the memory unit.

Besides learning (primitive) programming, we got to play "Star Trek", which consisted entirely of moving around a 2-dimensional galaxy, and attempting to wipe out all the Klingons. There was also a program that played tunes over any nearby FM radio. The geeks of the day were pretty hard-core. They were called "hackers" back then, before the public & the press got confused about what the word meant. I wasn't one (at least not yet); my programs printed out a table of squares from 1 to 10, for example.

2 Comments:

At 15 February, 2006 13:09, Blogger Old Cranky Redneck said...

Well, what do you know... IBM has a page devoted to it: IBM 1620

 
At 15 February, 2006 13:22, Blogger Old Cranky Redneck said...

And Wikipedia would be the best place to start:

 

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