IT Episode 1 – Keypunch Machine

OK, it is time to blog something about IT (the trade I am in), but I reckon it makes little sense to blog the latest and greatest (as you can find easily in Internet) … so, what about something really “retro” ? Let’s start from the early 80’s (the time I get in touched with “Computing”) …

Way before the mini-computers, micro-computers (i.e. PCs), we have mainframe computers. And the only way (back then) to instruct the computers to do something smart (or stupid), was to use “Punch Cards“. To record those silly computer instructions to the Punch Cards and to “run” it, you need to do couple of silly things …

  • Get some blank punch cards by buying them from vending machines. If I recall correctly – 1 quarter for 50 cards.
  • Or you could “borrow” some from your friends, other computer centers, or other universities 😎
  • Then reserve a keypunch machine (or here) in the data center and punch in the computer programs (e.g. FORTRAN, PL/1, COBOL), line by line, with those machines.
  • Hand in the computer program (i.e. the deck of punched cards) to the computer room service desk, and the operator would submit the cards to the mainframe computer (see the card reader on the foreground …)

Lesson Learnt: WARNING – Don’t drop the punched card deck, or you need to re-sort the whole program …

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Author: Michael Yung

Michael possessed over 30 years of experience in Information Technology with focuses on complex application development, database technologies and IT strategy. He also spent the last 20 years in Internet technology, eCommerce development / operations, web usability, computer security and Public Key Infrastructure technologies.

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