Monday, June 23, 2014

Key Punch



In the early days of computers, computer terminals did not exist. You entered programs and data into computers via punched cards. Each card had one line of computer code. The picture above shows the key punch machines which were used to punch the holes in the cards. The blank cards are entered into the top of the machine, and as you type on the key board holes are punched into the cards. You end up with a stack of cards, and those cards are then run through the computers card reader to enter the program into the computer. These were still in use in the 1980's, and when I learned to program at the University of Texas, it was using card punch machines similar to the ones in this picture.

9 comments:

  1. Again, I marvel at how you can come up with these photos. I once worked for a lawyer, back in the early 1970's. With my poor typing skills, I only survived because my "sorta computer" was programmed with all the fancy language, and it would stop typing at the points where I needed to insert specific names, dates, places, etc. I would type a few letters and hit "continue." Saved my bacon.

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    1. We used a program similar to that in the mortgage department of the bank where I worked. The computer would type "Dear Mr. and Mrs." and wait until I added the name, then it would chatter along until I had to add something else. Great time saver!

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  2. I enrolled in a computer course at Penn State in the mid-70's that involved punch cards. I had patiently written my program and got in the line to the card reader with my thick pile of cards. When a good looking young woman got behind me with only a few cards I suggested she go ahead of me. Not only did this not result in getting to know her better, but her few cards were accessing some program within the main frame computer. Printouts came off the printer in the same order cards were scanned, and I thought her printout would never end. My huge stack of cards, to add insult to injury, resulted in a short one-page message that I had an error in my cards. I think I heard the computer gods laughing at me...

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  3. I never had the opportunity to use punch cards. The year I started at Wentworth Institute, (1979). was the last year for punch cards at that school. My first computer when I started working was an IBM XT with one 5 1/4 floppy drive and an add on floppy so we could copy from one to the other. 5 people had to share it. In 1982 my Dad bought a comodore 64 with cassette tape programs. That was very high tech at the time. Astonding 64 K Ram and 20K Rom! Remember those? I still have an IBM XT and the original all in one iMac in the attac. Can't bring myself to throw them out. One day the grandchildren will find them and be amazed.

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  4. I typed many a Hollerith card during my Fortran IV days at Southeastern Illinois College ('71-'73). There was no spell check!

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  5. I worked as a keypunch operator for Beech Aircraft Corporation from 1965 thru the time the keypunch system was phased out in the mid '80's. I then became an avionics planner (same company although then owned by Raytheon Corporation). I really enjoyed doing data entry on the keypunch machines (3 different models over the years). Avionics planning - not so much. In fact I took early retirement due to the stress of the job & the chaos that came from the Raytheon ownership.

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  6. I also used them, right up to the time that Digital Equipment Corporation installed their DEC-10 in the university computing center. We could run jobs in a couple minutes instead of waiting half the day. No cards, either! And that modern wonder, the 'delete key'. Ah, what a timesaver.

    Oh, but the musty, oily smell of the keypunch machine was missing.

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  7. I took a FORTRAN course around 1970. It was only about half way through the semester that I learned that, if you made a typo and stopped immediately, the press of a button would reject the bad card, load another, and punch everything you had entered up until the last character automatically so you could begin at the place where you had erred. Delight! Regret over wasted hours!

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  8. I was an 8th grader in a 5 year high school in 1970-71. There was a "Senior Business Course" taught to the Senior Business students who selected it that involved key punching. I had no idea what was involved or why, but I did know that it was the noisiest room in the whole 3 story, brick and stone building (built in the early 1900's and still had the holes in the wooden classroom floors from the old stationary desks, and wooden windows with sash weights instead of air conditioning in most rooms except the "Office.") All you had to do to use it as a landmark was to find that hall, walk past that room on the marble hallway floor, and you'd walk away with those tiny little card punch-outs on the bottom of your shoes. They were all over the place. I heard more than one cry of woe accompanying the dropping of a handfull of those cards too.
    By the time I graduated from another high school (the 4 year kind, 9th through 12th grade) in 1975, the "computer room" was a closet-sized niche that was kept frigidly cold and it had some kind of waist-high dot printer with an odd looking keyboard that ran off information on reams and reams of green and white striped folded printout paper. Some of the egg-heads I knew who played with that thing delighted in showing whoever would pay attention their skills in making the printer produce "pictures" made with printer characters. I have no idea what happened to those folks ~ I married an Airman in the Air Force and moved out of state the year following graduation. Probably ended up making a relative fortune in the burgeoning industry.

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