2.15.2008

Key Punch Cards - FORTRAN

Is there a word for someone who waxes 

nostalgic about keypunch cards?


I mean, BESIDES codger, fogey and geezer?

It was in the early 1970s in my Computer Programming class at good old Belleville High School that we were introduced to the coding sequence of FORTRAN and the wonder of keypunch cards.

The keypunch machine ... that punched the holes in the card for each letter you typed and later read the card to perform a task, was not as big as a Univac computer - which would have taken a whole classroom, but was about half that size.

Courtesy Columbia.eduA Keypunch Card

In those days, our first question was What's an Abacus?

From there, we pretended to have computers for which we would write programming on the keypunch cards and I remember a lot zeroes and 1s and you left about 10 digits between coding lines.

Maybe that's how programmers still write programs?

Once during our year of Computer Programming class we actually visited the keypunch room and got to type our cards out and see whether or not our program worked.

My older sister worked down in Newark at one of the big insurance companies - I'm thinking Mutual Benefit, but it could have been Mutual of Omaha? - where she was a keypunch operator. That, of course, was back in the days before spelling was corrected holistically. Anyway, when she got married and moved to Ashtabula, Ohio, she got a job as a keypunch operator at Carlysle's Department store uptown.

Is there a word for someone who waxes nostalgic about keypunch cards?

Oh, now I know: Baby boomer.

Keypunch Machine at Columbia University

Keypunch Machine on Wikipedia

Copyright © 2008 by Anthony Buccino, all rights reserved. Content may not be used for commercial purposes without written permission.

1 comment:

jdavis said...

I know another name for that someone: library and information science student! I'm actually on a hunt to find some pictures of what department store punch card machines looked like. There is a reference to them in Vannevar Bush's wonderful article "As We May Think" from The Atlantic Monthly, 1945 (http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/194507/bush/3): "The salesman places on a stand the customer's identification card, his own card, and the card taken from the article sold—all punched cards. When he pulls a lever, contacts are made through the holes, machinery at a central point makes the necessary computations and entries, and the proper receipt is printed for the salesman to pass to the customer." That sounds fantastic! I had no idea that was how things worked then.

I was born a little too late to use punch cards in computer class, but I loved hearing about it. We wrote crappy Pascal on TRS-90s. The punch cards sound like more fun.