Posts Tagged ‘Stories’

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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

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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