[vcf-midatlantic] my first BYTE into computers (was My first computer memory was ...)

Jeffrey Jonas jeffrey.scott.jonas at gmail.com
Fri May 28 02:15:34 UTC 2021


I got my first taste for computers while still in the crib.
I teethed on tape write rings!

Despite my dad programming computers since the 50s,
it took a friend to really kick-start my interest.

Ryan Junior High school had 3 programmable calculators in the
vice principal's office for "independent study":
a pair of Compucorp 025 Educators and an Olivetti Programma 101.
Steven Popper showed me how to program them and I was hooked!
I thought it was awesome being able to teach a machine to follow my directions.
A key turning point was learning conditional branching.
Now the machine was making DECISIONS!
[using an "if" statement may sound trivial but those programmable
calculators were very limited that way].
I learned the Compucorp so well that I wrote another folder of
self-learn exercises and tutored others!

I always adored using teeny FiloFax loose-leaf binders because I can
rearrange the pages.
I still have that notebook with my first programs.

Francis Lewis High school in Queens may not sound prestigious but in
the mid 70s, it was quite the "magnet school" with special programs
such as the Math-Science Institute.
The best math teachers were recruited and that spring-boarded the
school's success, becoming the first public high school to achieve
International Baccalaureate accredation
http://ferretronix.com/flewis/#ib_footnote

The math department taught computer programming as if it were a
science lab experiment.
Learn something (such as calculating the area under a curve), do it by
hand, and then get the computer to handle the tedium of more and more
points.
We started by sharing one HP 9820A
https://www.hpmuseum.org/hp9820.htm
https://www.oldcalculatormuseum.com/hp9820a.html
Then we learned EDU-25 basic on the PDP8/e with 2 terminals
(originally ASR33 teletypes, later ADM3A).
Having our own PDP8/e was a big deal. Few schools had a computer in-house.

The main computers were batch.
Programs were keypunched onto cards, using IBM 029 keypunches.
Operators (such as myself) ran the IBM 3777 RJE (Remote Job Entry)
terminal: a card reader and line printer to a modem.
https://www.ricomputermuseum.org/collections-gallery/equipment/ibm-3777-model-3-communication-terminal

We dialed into 3 IBM mainframes: UAPC, MIDP or CCNY.
Each was slightly different, requiring their own JCL (Job Control
Language cards).
Some ran HASP, others JES2.
CCNY (City College of NY) had the student compilers: WATFIV, PL/C, SNOBOL, etc.
UAPC (University Application Processing Center) was administration
only: attendance, report cards, class scheduling.
MIDP (Management Information Data Processing) was the board of
education's mainframe, which was tolerable after the upgrade.
I learned FORTRAN/WATFIV, PL/I, BAL, JCL and the operator commands
among other things.

The Cooper Union Computer Center was a PDP 11/45 running Unix version 6.
What a joy to finally use INTERACTIVE TERMINALS
(initially Olivetti teletypes, then ADM3A and Decwriters).
Of course, K&R "C" was the main language.
It was fun extending the Unix utilities with new features.
I took ownership of the line printer system: LPR/LPD.
See: http://ferretronix.com/cucc/

That's all for now!


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