Computing in late 60s

Computing in the late 60’s

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I started as a scientific research officer in the Division of Mathematical Statistics in Adelaide, South Australia.  I was straight out of university with a BSc in Maths.  I had never heard of computing.  I started on a CDC3200 and my first program was to solve a cubic equation using Fortran.  It took me six weeks where I did that and nothing else.  I was quie proficient by the end   The computer changed to a CDC3300.  For more on the CDC 3000 series see archive

The photo that Laurence has put up shows the consoles but not really the cupboards that held the tapes and later disks.  They are hidden back on the left.  They took up lots of space so that computer rooms were as big as a barn on a big farm  with few windows and high ceilings.  Dust was the enemy so they were early users of air conditioning.

I started off with paper tape and if, as Laurence said, there was an error, we had sticky that would unite the working bits of tape with the new replacement bit.  It was terribly fiddly.  I was there for 3 years.  One could watch the machine lights flickering and know if the program was going wrong if the lights did not flicker in the orde r one meant them to so could stop the machine to save time between coding.

My next job was as a programmer at Monash University with no access to the machine which was a CDC 6400.  It was housed in its own building and programmers in various departments took their punched cards to the machine room where they were fed through the system by the computer operator.

Marriage and children intervened.  Eight years passed and my family and I landed in London.  Providentially for me a job came up at Imperial College helping students to learn programming.  Imperial had just bought a CDC 6600 so the workings of the machine was familiar to me and the programming language, Fortran, had changed little so I had no trouble getting up to speed after such a long time off.

Each year the students were more computer literate and after 6 years I didn’t have much to do so I applied for and got a job as a systems analyst in the Computer Centre.  Computing was changing so much and so quickly that I gave up keeping up and with a push from management I moved over to the help desk side where my extensive background knowledge was very useful.  So many computing languages have come and gone.  Mainframes changed to smaller mainframes , then to PCs.  In 2009 I retired and yet computers are still changing.  When will they stabilise?




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