How It Was In The Beginning of Computing

Dear Kevin, Rob, and Sarah —

I know that Rob and Sarah vividly remember you, Kevin. They know that while you made a career in computer programming, I dabbled in it with you back at Long Lots Junior High School, from 1969 to 1972, when we went to Staples High School.

An article on this morning is written by one of our contemporaries.

The First Program I Ever Wrote.

The writer is Debra Lobel, who describes herself as “author, fan of legacy and modern technology, and dedicated family caregiver.” She also describes herself as a software developer for four decades. Yep, she’s right in our age bracket.

And here’s the very first thought in her piece. It’s visual, not words:

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Kevin and I, and our friends, spent hours working on these pads designed for FORTRAN coding. We used it for BASIC. Kevin’s father, who was consulting for Sheraton Hotels in Boston on the rollout of its earliest online reservation system, had dozens and dozens of paper pads with these forms. We could’ve written out BASIC on lined paper, but it was way more cool — and probably more disciplined — to write out the code, character by character, one block at a time. Ken Short kept us well supplied with pads that probably had 25 sheets of these coding forms per pad.

We typed our code into the mainframe at the Westport Town School office using a Westinghouse acoustic coupler teletype terminal at Long Lots that looked like this. We dialed up the computer, which was housed in a big room at the high school. Probably no room at Staples was secure as the room where the IBM mainframe was installed.

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Douglass T. Davidoff | Bridgeport, Connecticut USA

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Writer, p.r. strategist, marketer. History, politics, religion, dogs. Father, sailor, traveler. New Englander, Tar Heel, Hoosier, New Yorker, and Chicagoan.

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