Into the Dark Past

Some time ago I ran across this cartoon: [Link]

and it brought back memories of my college days, particularly undergraduate at the Campus of the Black Warrior. I spent my freshman and sophomore years living in dorm. Because of my HS grades and being a Westinghouse Science Talent Finalist (and a Gorgas Fellow?) I was put in the honor (nerd) dorm Mallet. I don’t know who the dorm was named after but he was supposed to be a nerd as well.

The dorm had two stacks with four rooms per floor. The first floor rooms had shared between latrines; the upper two floors has shared among latrines. There were two landline phones in the dorm for student use. Needless to say I didn’t have to use the phone much those two years. In fact, I can only recall about three conversations. It was easier to hike over to the BIG dorm – Paty – with the cafeteria and pay phones to use the latter.

There were also no personal computers. In fact aside from research machines I think there were only two machines on campus: the administrative one for the business side; and a research support machine. I had access to the latter, an IBM 360 that we programmed in a mixture of FORTRAN 2 and JCL – Job Control Language. The media were IBM 5081 punch cards and one of the major burdens we carried were decks of such cards. 

I have already discussed the lack of calculators. Graduate students had access to rooms of electric (not electronic) calculator machines but we undergraduates got to use them only rarely. Mostly we made do with our slide rules and the mainframe. Oddly we undergrads had better access to the latter than did the grad students because almost all of them couldn’t code. In fact, my bachelor’s thesis was the first such that was purely computational. With a lot of negative comments by the older faculty who were unhappy I didn’t do any wet work. Of course the younger guys on my committee responded by asking what experiments I could have done?

In those days no one had any idea of a word processor or a laser printer. I remember typing papers on a typewriter – one key at a time in iconic fashion. Calculators didn’t even come about till I was in grad schule. And I had been in the workplace for over a decade before I bout an IBM PC. My office didn’t have them till two years later. 

Those were good times.

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