I graduated in 1975, that’s even before IBM signed a contract with Microsoft to build what we now know as MS DOS. In those days, there were no desktops. The coolest things were the Atair computers that were inspirational desktop machines for people who were enthusiastic gamers.
The first machine I worked on was an IBM 6804 equivalent which filled up a large room. It had an eight-bit processor, a ‘huge’ memory of 256 kilobytes, four hard disks each with a ‘huge’ capacity of 5 megabytes…not terabytes or gigabytes, megabytes.
It functioned as the operating system for transient files, sorting tables and so on. The main data was kept in open spool tapes. If you had a huge master data of the city’s electricity billing customers, one tape would contain the list of customers, another one would contain transactions to be processed for the month, and then the computer would process from tape to tape.
The input device was the card reader. Each card was four inches tall and 10 inches wide with holes punched in them. Each column of hole represented one character, and a card would have the ability to hold 80 characters. If you wrote a COBOL program of 2,000 lines you would probably have 2,000 cards in a big deck…those were the days!
And nobody outside IT had a clue about what we did in IT. I was working as a trainee support engineer for mainframe computers. The computers those days had a big console with blinking lights. One would have seen those in the movies of those days. My job was to look after and support these big machines, which was quite an impressive feat. We were considered superheroes!
Back then, we were proud of our abilities, but those very same abilities would sound ridiculous now–like dealing with memory. We used non-volatile memory that didn’t lose data, even when you switch off power. The most spectacular thing we did in those days was to extend the core memory with dynamic RAM. Today, your mobile phone can store 1,000 times more.
Honestly speaking, I never thought IT would grow the way it has. We all had heard the principal that processing power will double every 18 months, but never really believed it. If I had known back then, I would’ve invested in Microsoft!