Long Forgotten Computer Techonology

I wrote my first computer program in BASIC in 1972. I thought it might be interesting to reflect back on some of the different technology I've used, most (if not all) of which are obsolete today.
  • EasyCoder, assembly language for a Honeywell computer. It was used in my twelfth-grade data processing class. The only program I remember writing was one that had to sort three numbers.
  • Patch panels, for some long forgotten IBM machine. Also part of the curriculum for the previously mentioned class.
  • Keypunch machines, IBM 026 and 029 models. I used to know how to punch the cards that controlled the keypunch.
  • Punch tape, both paper and mylar. H-P would send the system software for the HP-2100 Time-shared Basic system on mylar tape. I have a friend who learned to read paper tape. He is why I know what the punch tape says in Harlan Ellison's story I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream.
  • Punch cards. I once thought it awesome to have a collection of different punch cards which were custom-printed with company names and logos. I'm now embarrassed to admit that.
  • Dedicated word processing terminals, such as the Lanier "No Problem" machine. A company I worked for developed a sort package for it.
  • Idris, a Unix-like operating system written by P. J. Plauger. I used it in the early 80's. It could have been Linux. Fortunately, Unix is still alive and well and living in my MacBook Pro. And Plauger's book, The Elements of Programming Style, remains a favorite.
  • Weitek math coprocessor ASICs. A friend developed the hardware for a Weitek chip on a PS/2 board and I wrote the software. We managed to sell a few. Weitek chips were later used in a graphics terminal that used floating-point numbers in its display list.
  • CGA, EGA, and VGA graphics.
  • Apple's "Slot Manager" for NuBus-based cards.
Yet not everything evaporates that quickly. FORTRAN and LISP are the oldest high-level languages still in use today. I learned FORTRAN in high school and used it in college. I had a brief exposure to Lisp in the late '70s. I still have my copy of Weissman's LISP 1.5 Primer. Having revisited the language in the last three years I find I'd rather write code in it than most anything else. What languages will we program in a thousand years from now? Will we even develop software anymore, or will our machines do it for us?
blog comments powered by Disqus