RUSS JENSEN'S "COMPUTER HISTORY"
I am a retired Electrical Engineer - I got my degree from UCLA in 1958 and worked as a civilian employee for the Navy for 36 years. I was always interested in computers and took several
computer courses in college, including machine language programming for the pioneer computer SWAC (National Bureau Of Standards Western Automatic Computer) which had been "retired" to UCLA several years earlier. That machine had a Cathode Ray Tube memory where data bits were stored as dots on a CRT.
Also during my college years (1954-1958) I was introduced to
one of the earliest "personal computers" which was used in our
Engineering Economics class, students having to solve an economics problem by creating a program (using an Interpreter) on it. That computer was the Bendix G-15, was about the size and shape of a refrigerator, used vacuum tube plug-in modules, and a magnetic drum main memory. The Input\Output consisted of a paper tape reader/punch and an IBM electric typewriter.
After graduating in 1958 I got a job at a Navy missile range
in the "Pulse and Digital Branch". There I first worked with
another early "personal computer", the IBM 610. That machine was
about the size and shape of a desk, was partly electronic and
partly relay, used an IBM typewriter (of course) for I/O, and was
programmed by a punched paper tape which duplicated itself in order to perform extra "passes" through the code; subroutines (such as Trig functions) being "programmed" on a removable wired patch board. The 610, incidentally, was not made by the Computer
Division of IBM, but by the Time Clock Division.
A co-worker and I were placed in charge of this machine which was used as an "open shop" computer facility where engineers and scientists could solve problems they were working on. The two of us, as our first junior engineering project, were asked to design and build an "off-line" paper tape punch control unit to use with the IBM 610. The pinball circuit experience I had as a kid helped in that project. The device we made I later purchased at a base surplus sale and still have lurking in the rafters of my garage.
Due to my past experience with the Bendix G-15, I recommended that that computer later be purchased to replace the IBM 610 as the department's "open shop" computer. This was subsequently done and my associate and I were again in charge of that operation. I was sent to both the machine language programming and hardware maintenance schools and became an "expert" on the machine.
When later a computer was needed to perform radar tracking
calculations on a missile tracking ship, a G-15 was used and "went to sea". Incidentally, I still have several instruction and technical manuals for both the IBM 610 and Bendix G-15. Also,Bendix Computer Division who made the G-15 was taken over by the newly formed Control Data Corporation in the mid-1960's and they produced the machine for a short time afterwards.
As far as "main frame" computers at the missile range were
concerned, when I first started working there in 1958 they had a
brand new IBM 650 which stored data using the "bi-quinary" number
system. This was later replaced by a 709 (using vacuum tubes) and still later by the new "transistorized" computer, the 7090.
They also had a specially built large computer called the
RAYDAC. It as a vacuum tube machine designed especially for the
facility by Raytheon in Massachusetts. That computer had a
"mercury delay line" main memory and used some very unusual
magnetic tape units which had binary coded ink marks on the tape
used for performing fast searches for data. That computer was
dismantled in the early 1960's and our branch used some of the
surplus electronic modules to build other equipment.
At that point in my career my direct involvement with
computers came to an end as my assignments were involved with
acceptance testing of input/output buffering hardware used on shipsto interface with on-board computers. I did, however, witness changes in the UNIVAC military shipboard computers in the 1970's which used transistorized plug-in modules and magnetic core memories.
My next direct involvement with computers in my career came in the early 1980's when I volunteered to be trained in "computer
program maintenance", again involving UNIVAC shipboard military
computers. I learned about compilers at that time. Also at around the same time I had my first introduction to a "time sharing" system called "SHARE 7" which ran on a UNIVAC AN/UYK-7 military computer. We could log onto that system from various terminals in our offices and access databases or use a word processor. I also could access time sharing functions on our main-frame DEC VAX computer.
A few years after that the organization I worked for decided
to go to "office automation". First they purchased a slew of Tandy TRS-80's distributing them around the offices. I attended at that time a course in VISACALC and was introduced to "the wonderful world of spreadsheets". I also worked with a larger Tandy computer running UNIX.
A few years later they decided to let a contract for a
networked office automation system. The winning contractor was
Hewlett Packard who provided a host of Vectra (286) personal
computers all connected to an H.P. 3000 minicomputer (one per each department) which were interconnected to each other. Each
department assigned a "System Manager" and I was selected as ours.
The "system" also consisted of standard software to run on the PC's including a word processor, a spreadsheet, a database, and a graphics package. An email system was also provided on the
HP3000's accessible from the PC's. My main task was to help the
secretaries, admin personnel, etc., to learn how to use the system and its software to better perform their duties.
After a year or so our department started slowly upgrading the PC's to 386's with WINDOWS, etc.. Well, I being only a "support person" had a little trouble getting a new machine, but I finally convinced the "powers that be" that if I was to help people who were using WINDOWS I should have it myself.
Well, I was given a 386 with WINDOWS, was sent to a one week
class, and soon became a "WINDOWS expert" :-) Our department also installed a LAN and our PC's were interfaced with that which led to the elimination of the "HP3000 network". A year or so later I retired from Federal Civil Service after we were offered a $25K bonus to do so.