How old are you (in computer years)?
Ten years and a few days ago, I published my first blog post in this space.
That is really hard for me to believe. It makes me reflect on the way technical people who work with computer technology mark the passage of time. It seems to be an almost universal trait of technical professionals that we date ourselves using stories of our earliest computer experiences.
Cleve Moler, creator of the original MATLAB program and co-founder of The MathWorks, has an endless supply of computer stories. I particularly enjoyed one that involved a programming error in a deck of punch cards. It seems that Cleve accidentally encoded one card with a hardware instruction that powered down the computer. To make things worse (much worse), when this particular computer suffered an unexpected shutdown in the middle of a job, it would automatically rerun that job upon powering back up. As Cleve told it, the system administrators were not especially amused.
So how old am I? Well, the first computer game I ever played was a text-based Star Trek program in which “E” represented the USS Enterprise, “K” represented a Klingon ship, and “B” represented a star base. I played it on an IBM 5100 at my father’s office. I learned to program in high school using a teletype printer terminal connected to the county school system’s mainframe, which was located about 15 miles away. I used it to program (in Basic, using variable names like $A3) an eight-queens solver for a math fair. As a freshman at Georgia Tech, I wrote Fortran code using a line editor on a terminal connected to the campus mainframe via a 300 bits per second acoustically coupled modem. My first word processing program was Volkswriter, which I used on an IBM PC that had only floppy disk drives, no hard drive!
So tell me: How old are you (in computer years)? What are your favorite computer stories from early in your technical life? Leave your comments below.
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