Last month at Tam’s place people were commenting things we had which were old. It was sort of “back when I was a young’n…” story telling time.
I visited my parents last Saturday and picked up my contribution to the discussion:
I brought it in to work today and asked my office mate if she knew what it was.
Her eyes got big and she said, “Oh my! Is this a punched card? I have never seen one of these before!”
I told her that it was more than that. “This”, I told her, “Is proof I was writing software before you were born.”
I took Engr 131 fall semester 1973 at the University of Idaho. Punched cards is a tough way to program a computer. There is no back space or delete and retype. There is no “white out”. If you make a mistake on a card you get to type a new one (there were rare exceptions but that is beyond the scope of this discussion).
We would leave our card deck on a table in the hall and come back three DAYS later to read the print-out result of the submission to the IBM 360. Usually it was something like ten pages of paper that boiled down to something like “Syntax error on card five, column 17.” Or “Program error. Core dump follows.”
The next year using a line editor on a teletype that looked like an IBM Selectric typewriter with a box of paper in back was such a thrill. You could get the compile and run results in a minute or two instead of days. And “editing” was just AWESOME compared to punching cards.
In the early 80’s I started programming on a CRT. It was still a line editor but listing lines 120-140 only took a couple of silent seconds instead of 30 seconds of clattering with the teletype. I started hearing rumors of something called a “visual editor” about the time son James was born in ’84. I couldn’t imagine what the fuss was about. “Visual editor?” What is that about? How much better than Edline could an editor be? I didn’t bother to check it out for several months.
Even then I would tell people about programming the microprocessor system I had build on a plug-board. I had typed in hand assembled hex codes into a PROM programmer. Then I plugging the PROM into a socket and powered up the system trying to debug it from the deciphering the way the LEDs blinked. Now that was a tough way to program.