Those of us old enough to remember “real computers” think back fondly on the IBM 1130 or 370 or 360 or a Honeywell 6660. These were the things that carved out my career with computers. The languages were the classics. Fortran made us think mathematically. And, I’ve jokingly mentioned many times that it was COBOL that taught me how to type.
At university, I recall going to bed at 6pm so that I could be up and over to the mathematics building by 1am to take advantage of the faster processing times and the shorter lineups. Lineups? For what?
There were the good ol’ days when computer programs were keypunched onto cards or optically marked with pencil. We were actually far removed from the computer that did the processing. The lineups were actually whole classes handing in decks of cards to be run through a card reader – then communicated to the computer for processing – to finally generate a printed output.
For me, this was classic computer. Because the whole process was time consuming between algorithm design and successful execution of the program, the more care that you put into things, the shorter it took to get the job done.
Flash forward to this afternoon. I’m waiting for my wife and have my Blackberry in hand in the car getting caught up on email until she arrives.
I wouldn’t want to use either methods of computer as my primary source. I was thinking about how technology has bounced around over the years. I recall my first TRS-80 computer, my first 8086 based machine, my Aptiva, my Palm, my P4 clone, my first work laptop, my current work widescreen laptop, and now into the mix we’re starting to see a smaller network based computer. I haven’t delved into that area yet because of lack of need and a nagging spidey sense that the market hasn’t quite determined where it’s headed with this technology.
It would be an interesting exercise to chart the size and performance of these things. Normally, we think that things get better in all specification with time, but it hasn’t. There are compromises in terms of screen resolution and size, hard drive storage, processor speed, keyboard size and functionaliy as we bounce around on a harmonic series of specifications.
I do get a sense that we’re narrowing in on the perfect computer but we’re not there yet. However, we’re closing in.