Monday, April 17, 2006

First Experience with Computer

I am bad at remembering dates, I can guess though that, this happened in the '50s sometime. I was working as a group leader in Research and Development. Computers were being talked about in the newspapers and pictures showed huge arrays of tubes that resembled radio tubes. The department signed up for a service offered by General Electric. A gigantic work station was installed in a central location at the labs. Supervisors were gathered together and given a lesson in "Basic" computer language. The work station was connected by telephone wire to a big computer somewhere in north Jersey. There was no monitor, no mouse, just the oversized typewriter-looking thing and an enormous printer. The printer used paper that had those holes along both margins and fed up in a continuous stream from a cardboard box on the floor. I decided that I would like to be able to enter the data my group gathered and have this miracle machine do all the calculations. But first I had to write a program.

I wasn't burdened with a lot of confidence (never was good at languages). So, I waited until after hours when most everyone had gone home. I labored away at the program-writing until I thought I had it. It was time to send my imput to the big computer at GE. (There was a substantial cost per minute of connection.) I pushed the appropriate keys and, sure enough, the printer groaned and started printing. First problem was, it was printing gibberish. Second problem was, I couldn't turn the darn thing off. I could see the Department being charged dollar after dollar as page after page of random letters and numbers accumulated on the floor. With no help available, I did the only thing I could think of. On hands and knees, I crawled under the monster and pulled the plug. I stuffed the acres of paper into my briefcase, put on my coat and went home.

p.s. Later, I got the hang of it and became a steady user.


Archana said...

LOL :-D...I feel as though I have just finished watching a funny cartoon :-D!

Well, my first experience with a comp was pretty funny too...shd write a post about it sometime :-)!

east village idiot said...

There is so much to comment on concerning your last few posts.

It's so true about kids and their playtime. Nowadays kids have become targeted consumers - a group stalked by business (through cereals, tv, computers, clothes, gameboys, and all the other crap). These businesses have no interest in you living outdoor active lives,doing things for free (god forbid). My siblings live in a very wealthy New York suburb - no one there would ever dream of letting their kids walk to school alone - let alone bike ride a distance. Everyone is convinced their kids are a day away from getting abducted.

I can't believe you saw the Hindenberg - what an experience that must have been to be engulfed in its shadow like that and then to hear of its explosion on the radio - wow.

Your computer story sounds hilarious. It reminds me of the time a former boss of mine meant to send me an off color joke via work email and he ended up sending it to the entire company just by hitting the wrong button!

Prabhu said...

50 years and things have not changed.
If something goes wrong - you still plug the wire. :)