18 January 2005

In my day....

    Grampa: You know, when I was your age, I had to walk twenty miles just to get to school. And back then, we didn't have pacifiers. We had to suck on pieces of wood. And in my day, we didn't have TV sets. We used to sit on our grandpa's lap all evening and listen politely to his entertaining stories.
    Bart: Was your grandpa a liar too?
    Grampa: No, but his lap was awful slippery!
      -The Simpsons
Okay, so I am in training all week. It's for a product that I find incredibly boring and have absolutely no interest in, but I digress.

I observed something today that made me think. When you put several computer professionals together in the same room, there will invariably be a conversation about what computers used to be like. Today was no exception. One of the slides in the course material had, as an example, printer software. This led to a discussion of printers: then and now.

"...depending on what printer you have. Laser, inkjet, dot-matrix... Remember them? How about daisy-wheels? Who here remembers the IBM daisy-wheel printers? They were loud. Not as loud as band printers. Do you remember them? You had to spend thousands of dollars on an acoustic case so you could hear yourself."

And so on. We have these same discussions at work every so often. It's a way of demonstrating the level of seasoned veteran you are. Of course, some guy will always talk about his first programming class where he had to use punch cards. The conversation is pretty much over after that. Either that or programming with paper tape. Punch cards and paper tape trump everything. Every now and then someone goes for setting registers with toggle switches, but they're mostly showing off and end up looking old and pathetic.

This is not to say I do not ante up in these conversations. There is, however, a fine line you try to walk in them. You don't want be so old that you're out of touch, nor so young that everyone has already been there and done that. I think I'm in a bit of a sweet spot. I don't remember punch cards, but I programmed on the first Mac. Assembly code was a footnote for me, but I was in the first object oriented programming class at U.B. Acoustic coupler modems were long gone, but I posted on message boards well before the term "blog" existed. There was already an internet, but I remember a time when there were more .edu addresses than .com addresses.

I also remember when everyone surfed with Mosaic, anyone could add a link to their start page, and you could follow all those links in an hour or two. So, for those of you who share this same character flaw, I'll offer up this link: The Obsolete Computers Museum. I remember many of the items on display.

But not the ones with toggle switches.


Rob said...

You were part of the internet as part of the educational system - I remember being part of the whole BBS scene with 300 baud modems. BBSs and real time chat were all the rage. Ddial (http://www.ddial.com) was the software of choice - 7 people could be dialed in and talk to one another or use one line and link to another system in another state and even more people could talk to each other. A 20 state string of systems could bring you a hundred people you didn't know.

That was the other side - the non-internet yet connected side. Eventually the two merged. The chat systems and BBSs became portals to the internet. Before the big ISPs got big - they were the ones providing your modem connection to the internet. I remember having at least five different internet providers before getting broadband.

No real point here - just reminiscing really...

Andrew said...

See? This right here is what I'm talking about.