I talk about punch cards, AI and "CODERS" with Joel Spolsky

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/09/17/i-talk-about-punch-cards-ai-a.html


Fun IBM punch card fact: the 8" floppy disk format was 77 tracks of 26 sectors of 80 (later 128) bytes. This allowed storage of 2002 lines of text, a smidgen more than a box of 2000 punch cards.


my first computer programming class in college was performed on punch-cards–fortran. within 3 years every keypunch machine had been replaced by dumb terminals which could connect to the vax if you knew the connection protocol. 3 more years and it was pcs that could connect to the vax, 5 years after that you only connected to the vax if you wanted to use a gopher server or connect to usenet.


Our high school got a hand-me-down computer as big as a room from NASA and they were going to use it to teach keypunch to the secretarial students. They then figured out somebody would have to write the stuff that they would be keypunching. So I got to be in the first programming class in our school district. It was BASIC.
When output came out garbled, students tried to blame it on falling or otherwise disarranged boxes of cards, rather than their coding.


Yup, tripped in the hallway and picked up all my cards and submitted the run. The computer centre manager was really pissed off on Monday because I’d bought the whole system down. Nobody told me the cards had to be in order and every time the run failed an intern kept resubmitting them - all weekend.

@Clive_T The link to the transcription is broken. Is this it?: https://stackoverflow.blog/2019/09/17/joel-spolsky-clive-thompson-discuss-coders-software-programming/


For me, taking a computer class gave me access to the North Campus Computer Lab where I could play Star Trek on and IBM 3270 Terminal. I kept taking computer classes and the rest is my story.

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I learned programming on punchcards in FORTRAN at University of Buffalo in 1980 on some flavor of IBM 360 or maybe a PDP-something. We didn’t have any of this programming on a screen stuff!!
Damned whippersnappers with their 64k of RAM… mumble, mumble…

Looks like it is

I had missed having to use punch cards by exactly one year when starting uni in 1986… and the civil engineering department really only stopped using them because the data centre had finally discontinued the last card reader.
So I learned FORTRAN77 at a dumb terminal connected to a Control Data Cyber-soandso mainframe.
Our prof still insisted that the code was formatted just the way he was used to from the punch cards, in other words each line had to be exactly 80 characters long, and the last three places had to be your initials.
All in all, a valuable experience.

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