Computers and my history with them

This is the story of my first experience with a personal computer(PC). It was 1981 in a science class. I had successfully completed the school typing course and had used a typewriter before so I was comfortable in front of the PC. “What do you know about microbiology?” is what I typed. “SYNTAX ERROR” was the response I got.

What I learned that day…

  • Science fiction movies are sources of misinformation
  • You have to tell computers what to tell you. In other works, you give them the data and instructions because they do nothing until told to do something
  • A computer programming class should be in my future

That was in 1981. Today, I can input my question through a microphone on my phone. “Hey Siri, what do you know about microbiology?” will get me “Here is some information” with the definition of microbiology from Wikipedia. Pretty cool!

Data Processing, Information Technology(IT) as it is know today being taught in the early 1980’s included languages like PASCAL, FORTRAN, COBOL, BASIC, and TSO/JCL. I was fortunate enough to be able to do my homework at the office using the State of Washington’s IBM390 mainframe computer. I would do some work in the classroom on a Tandy TRS-80 (nicknamed the “Trash 80”) and the majority on the mainframe (nicknamed “Big Iron”).

The progress from hard wired computers with only print or text display to watches that connect you to the world has been amazing in retrospect. The first “callback” portable computer I took home was as big as a sewing machine and just as heavy. The modem was a 2400 bit/s… yikes!

It was my good fortune to be there through the transition from batch processing to having endless information and tools in a wireless hand held device. All this in a few decades.

One last historical reference… before Word for Windows there was Word for DOS. Before Word for DOS there was ATMS (nicknamed “Antique Text Management System”). ATMS was similar to HTML in that you had to use tags to specify the formatting within the documentation. It was used for creating memos and help documentation. It was coding the web pages before we even had visited a web page before.

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