Story-time with #GrandpaJohn

Chapter III. 

Jack and I have continued to test out the coding functions on the Kano – with limited success for looping because, despite using the codes as suggested, the code kept coming up with errors. We need to go back to square one and try again and I’m sure that things will be better next time. Our bonding time is now a lot more limited now that Jack is back in school for the first term in Year 2 and he has so many extra-curricular activities (swimming and piano lessons, rugby union practice, choir rehearsals for the Easter concert, and even Karate). At his age I was still playing with toy cars…

Looking at coding makes me recall being interviewed in 1965 to see if I could become a programmer. I scored well but the panel considered that I would make a greater contribution planning and managing computer projects. Nevertheless I was really excited when we got our first computers that year, a Control Data Corporation (CDC) 3600 in Canberra central office and CDC 3300 smaller computers in the six State offices. These machines were designed by the famous super-computer builder Seymour Cray, and at the time the 3600 was considered a super-computer.

This was before the days of computer terminals and the computer operator planned every job from a central terminal and decided which magnetic tapes and/or punch cards were needed for the run. Computer rooms were specially air-conditioned and featured rows of magnetic tape drives that spun backwards and forwards to access data and programs.

Programming was still a manual business using FORTRAN and COBOL. Programmers would write out code on pads of special code sheets. There were 80 entries for each instruction because programs were still converted to punch cards.

Despite their super-computer status memory was a great limitation and the very best programmers coded in Assembly Language or even Machine Code to make their programs run faster.

It took the Statistics Office 10 years to write programs to process all of our censuses and surveys. By that time a new computer was needed – a CDC 6600.

Next time Jack and I plan to look at creating a Minecraft Scrapbook and I will reflect on how data storage has progressed over the  years from punch cards to magnetic tape to magnetic and optical disks and solid state storage. In 1971, I first worked with mainframe systems with 60Mb and 120Mb exchangeable disk units the size of a large filing cabinet – your Kano comes with a 100Mb SD card which is the size of a postage stamp. We have come a long way in 45 years.

Isn’t it great to see technology and people interact so beautifully?