Archive for the ‘Stories’ Category


Only 40 years?

July 15, 2008

An alumnus shares memories of life as an MSU student in the late 1960’s:

“I fell in love with computers in my first semester at MSU (1966) and graduated with my BS Computer Science degree in 1970. Lots of memories punching card decks (programming), duplicating them so we could make one change in the deck and get two runs on the overnight compile process. Our big fancy CDC 3600 was replaced with a very cool 6600. I hope some of you got to see messages someone programmed to display across the console using the rectangular status lights. I remember looking at real core memory (invented by Dr. An Wang), reading computer tape with a magnifier, and making great printouts of pictures on the line printer using only alphabetic characters. Ongoing debates of Cobol vs. Fortran – some of us preferred Assembler (DrumScope). The big news was about how one of our CS guys got $10K for making the Fast Fortran compiler.

Everything I learned was obsolete each semester since technology was moving so fast. We had long hair; protested the Vietnam War; went to Woodstock; drove 19 hours each way to Florida for a Saturday/Sunday of sunshine in the winter – making it back to Monday 8am class; and hung out at Coral Gables ogling the pretty sorority girls. Us geeks went on to build an amazing industry, make a bunch of money, marry beautiful women, live in California, and buy Porsches and Ferraris.”

— Tom Politowski, 1970


When time stood still

July 11, 2008

I believe it was Spring of 1978.

We used to submit programs via keypunched cards, and anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours later, you would retrieve your printouts. (Keep in mind we were all sharing the same CDC mainframe computer). I don’t recall who was doing it (maybe Physics), but someone was running some massive research data analysis and the turnaround time for programs escalated in some cases to 24 hours or more. I recall several outcomes from this:

  1. There were a lot of very cranky CPS students trying to get their projects done,
  2. We made a lot of new friends as we all had one very common point of misery to share, and
  3. We all got very good at “desk-checking” our programs before we submitted them!

— Kevin Ohl, 1978 & 1981 MSU alumnus


CPS memories

June 10, 2008

Thank you to Roy Saper, who owns Saper Galleries and Custom Framing in East Lansing. Mr. Saper was kind enough to take time from his busy schedule to share memories of his time as a student at MSU.

How wonderful to learn of the 40th anniversary reunion in October. I will be there!
Next year will be my 40th year since beginning my CPS program at MSU in 1969. Of course I didn’t know much about computers before I selected the major as computers as we know them today did not yet exist.
I valued a friendship with professor Carl Page who asked me to help him with a CPS reunion not long before he died. I also remember enjoying classes with Richard Dubes, Richard Reid and (still-around) John Forsythe.
I suspect students today have no clue what it was like to have to key-punch our program cards and debug our code with once-a-day-turnarounds to find a missing character or typo.
One of my memorable experiences from senior year 1972-73 was when riding my bike on campus in the rain my box of 2,000 computer cards fell onto the wet street intersection and I saw months of work littered everywhere. The source code back then was not stored on disks and the cards were everything. Luckily I had recently made a back-up deck and was able to complete my compiler project in time to graduate with my computer science degree in 1973 — a few months after Larry Page was born and a couple years before Microsoft was created.
I believe there may have been about 2 or 3 women in my computer classes and most of us students spent hours each day on the second floor of the computer center working on our programs and submitting them for batch reading, returning the next day to retrieve our output. We dealt with a lot of theory in our classes but I don’t know of any of us that dreamed of the computing capabilities that we realize today.
And 40 years from now today’s students will probably have similar observations!
Thank you for putting together the reunion at homecoming! See you then!

Roy C. Saper