Confessions of an Antediluvian Geek - A personal history of computing

Part One - The Beginning

It all started in the early paleozoic, before the personal computer, around 1965. I and a good friend of mine were starting college, just not the same college. We were both going to be Engineers, we thought, so we were both starting in the engineering programs at two universities. His school, however, was a bit more advanced and prosperous than mine, so his engineering program required that he learn something called "Computer Programming". Thus, he gave me an extra copy of a book he had -- not really a book, more of a booklet. It was only about 50 pages, and was an introduction to the Fortran II programming language. At the time, I knew almost nothing about computers, or programming, but I read the book.

Pow! Shazam! (Insert your own choice of comic book exclamations here). I was hooked. I really, really wanted to write a program. Even better, I wanted to have a computer run my program. Fortunately for me, and this story, a few months later my friend got a student aide job at his school's computer center.

Now I have to explain something about computers to any young urchins who might be reading this, like those of you under 30. In the 1960's, computers did not sit on a desk. Picture of Punched Cards Computers took up a large room. They didn't cost $399.95 from your local mega-mart. They cost millions. In fact, they cost so much that there was this concept called "computer time". You had to pay for the number of seconds that you used a computer. In schools, they didn't really charge you money, but they carefully measured the amount of computer time you used, and if you went over some pre-determined limit, you were cut off.

So I had no access to actual computer time, and my friend couldn't really let me use his, but because he was an aide in the computer center, and because the school didn't use the computers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, we got to use it in the wee hours of the morning, on weekends. So, since his school was about 100 miles from where I lived, once every few months, we would arrange to get together and "play" on the computer. We wrote programs, and ran them. It's hard to explain to a non-programmer how much fun this was. In fact, 40 years later, I still have fun writing programs and running them, so I was, and am, an antediluvian geek.