My First Personal Computer
I Loved My First PC
Computing Power Beyond my Wildest Dreams
The IBM PC in the photograph may not look like much to you young whippersnappers with your smart phones and tablets, but it was an incredible productivity-boosting asset back in the mid-eighties. I was beside myself with joy that so much computing power could reside on my own humble desktop. Of course, the hardware took up most of my desktop, but I had a credenza in my office to hold my books, massive green and white computer printouts (dot-matrix printer) and mail.
I suppose for you to really appreciate my excitement, you would need to understand how far technology had progressed during my college and early career years. Cue the flashback:
Photo Credit: Colleen via Photobucket
State of the Art Computing, Eighties Style - A Geek Flashback
Progression from Keypunch to Point-and-Click
Today's students have grown up in a point-and-click world. Our modern home computers have memory capacity and processing speed we could only dream of in the eighties. For those in their twenties or thirties, imagine a world without personal computers. Travel with me back in time to 1981 or so.
Programming a Computer
Who among us has ever keypunched FORTRAN code onto IBM cards? That was the state of the art when I was a freshman at Purdue University. Each line of code was punched on a separate card. The cards were carefully kept in order (we numbered them in a corner in case they were dropped) and fed through a card reader. The programmer then put a rubber band around the cards and went off to dinner or to bed for a few hours while the program ran on the huge mainframe computer in the bowels of the Math-Science Building.. The results were printed in large sheets of green and white paper and placed in cubbyholes for the programmers to retrieve. Any errors had to be corrected by punching new cards for each line of code that needed correction and replacing the faulty code cards. This process was repeated until the program accomplished its intended purpose.
Terminals Replace Cards and PC Replaces Terminal
By 1982, I was using a terminal on campus to create digital files that could be run on the mainframe. This was a great improvement from the punched cards, although one still had to stand in line for a terminal during peak hours. For engineering students, peak hours are 24/7.
By 1984 I was writing FORTRAN code in Chicago and getting paid for it. My workplace had terminals where we could work on programs, but only senior management had terminals in their own offices. By 1986, we had IBM PCs in the office running spreadsheets (Lotus Symphony) and connecting to larger computers via modems. Younger readers have probably never seen a modem such as I used. It was a large black desk telephone sitting on top of a silver box. If the phone lines were not too busy and the modem was set correctly, and the moon was in the seventh house, and Jupiter aligned with Mars...well, let's just say that getting a file sent from one computer to another was not a walk in the park back then.
(Image credit: waelder at Wikimedia Commons)
My Very Own Computer
It fit on my desk!
My first personal computer on my very own desk was an IBM PC AT. It had a 386 microprocessor for lightning speed, a hard drive that could hold several files, and a keyboard. There were no icons, fancy graphics, or video. The operating system was DOS and all commands were entered through the keyboard. I had on my desk more computing power than I had ever thought possible. I was a happy geek.
As the years and decades sped by, I acquired a mouse, Windows, and home internet. We were early adopters of internet technology because my husband is an engineering professor. The day he told me about the internet and showed me how to access it from home, I was floored. Yes, it took each page a million minutes to download over our telephone line, but still--I had access to the whole world! But that is a story for another day.