Saturday, November 7, 2015

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - Your Computer History

Calling all Genea-Musings Fans: 

 It's Saturday Night again - 
time for some more Genealogy Fun!!

Here is your assignment if you choose to play along (cue the Mission Impossible music, please!):

1) I am a slave to my computer - how about you.  What is your computer history - what have you used, when did you get it, what did you do on it, etc.

*  Tell us in your own blog post about your computer history, or in a comment on this post, or in posts on Facebook or Google+.

Here's mine:

1)  I started on computers at San Diego State University in about 1965 - with punch cards and FORTRAN programs for my engineering classes.  I also had a slide rule that I used in math, engineering and science classes all through high school and college.

2)  In my first paying job, I used an electronic four function calculator with a small screen to make calculations, but it didn't have a square root function so I had to do that with a short process.

3)  When I started at Rohr in October 1967, the engineering group had developed some FORTRAN programs for analysis work, so I was able to use my programming skills and develop more analysis programs.  We filled out coding sheets and sent them to the keypunch operators who sent us back a card deck, which we put together, put in a box with rubber bands around the punched cards, and carried them to the computer center.  Every morning, we would go to the computer center to retrieve our card deck in the box (and hope the cards had not been scrambled) and the 11 x 17 printouts from the dot matrix printers.  If the program failed, the printout included a core dump in hexadecimal numbers (base 16) so we could figure out where the program failed.  We then revised the coding, got new punchcards, put the deck together, and submitted it again, hopefully by the end of the day.  

Department secretaries transformed our handwritten pages into engineering reports on typewriters, which we then edited and redlined and they typed them again.

4)  In the mid 1970s, we got keypunch machines in our work area, and punched cards ourselves.  By the late 1970s, we had a card reader in our work area so we could submit jobs to the remote computer center without walking over to the center.  We also had a printer in our work area that received the printouts.  By the mid-70s, the first word processors were provided to the department secretaries so they had to edit the memos and reports.

5)  In the early 1980s, Rohr got a VAX 11/780 computer system for engineering, and we got terminals in our work area to replace the punch cards, although some engineers still used the punchcards.  On the terminals, we could create a FORTRAN program file, add control cards, and electronically submit our program and data deck to the remote computer.  The printouts still came to our work area printer.  Since the terminals had upper and lower case letters, and Greek letters, the some of the engineers typed the memos and reports on the terminals, printed them off, etc. 

6)  In February 1983, I bought an IBM 8086 PC with no hard drive, two 360 kb floppy drives, MS-DOS, and a dot matrix printer for about $3,000.  I used the EasyWriter program for word processing at home, and wrote BASIC programs for my radio wave propagation hobby.  I had this computer when I upgraded to a hard drive in the late 1980s, along with a 300 baud modem, and started my genealogy work in 1988 using Personal Ancestral File.  I still had this setup in 1992 when I used the Prodigy network to connect with other researchers in their forums using the modem.

7)  In 1994, I bought a 80386 PC, with a larger hard drive, 3.5 inch floppy drives, Windows 3.1, and Microsoft Works.  I used this for the online services and email.  

8)  In 1998 I bought a Windows 95 PC with Microsoft Works and MSWord, with a zip drive, an internal modem and an inkjet printer, and started using the Internet for genealogy research on message boards and mailing lists.  I bought Family Tree Maker Version 5 and transferred my genealogy database into that program.

9)  I upgraded again in about 2004 when the previous computer crapped out, again upgrading to more RAM, faster CPU, Windows XP, CDROM, and a scanner and an inkjet printer.  By now, we had cable modems.  I bought a laptop in about 2002 so I could make genealogy presentations.  I switched to RootsMagic in 2006 for my family tree program.  

10)  I upgraded again in 2010 when the 2004 desktop computer crapped out, and this is my current system with Windows 7, an all-in-one printer, DVD and CDROM drives, etc. I switched to Gmail as my email client in about 2011 because Thunderbird was so slow.   I need a new desktop machine soon since this one is almost full and really slows down during the day often using 70-80% of the physical memory.   I got a new laptop in 2012 with Windows 7.  I work 8-12 hours a day on genealogy on my desktop computer.

That's my story in a nutshell - I'm sure it bored most readers.  

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Copyright (c) 2015, Randall J. Seaver

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GeneGinny said...

Hey, Randy. You were a couple of years ahead of me. I took a 1 credit Fortran programming class at Penn State my junior year, Fall 1968. Tried to change my major to computer science, but was told that wasn't an appropriate major for a girl. Proceeded to take classes in Assembler, PL1, Basic, Cobol as a Geography major. Having those programming (and analytic) skills helped my leverage my geography degrees into all sorts of interesting jobs, from an electric utility power analyst to doing health services research for a children's hospital. Very handy!

D Prakash said...

I was born in the early 1980's and don't remember a time we didn't have a home computer. I do remember when everything was dos, then getting Windows for the first time. My dad used a dos-based genealogy program, along with a binder full of stuff. I played games mostly, then wrote school reports that we printed on our dot matrix printer. In the mid 1990's my dad telecommuted over a direct dial-up internet connection for a year when we moved out of state, before most of my friends even knew that was possible. We upgraded regularly growing up, my oldest brother being really into computers and eventually going into IT. I figure I am part of the first generation really growing up with a home computer and bridging the pre-post internet gap.

ncaton said...

San Diego State, Fortran, and punch cards, summer of 1971...That brought back memories as did the double floppy IBM luggable computer, my first as well.

Mary Foxworthy said...

My Computer History

Randy, mine's more boring than yours.

Lisa S. Gorrell said...

Here's mine. We started out with a computer with 8 inch drives. I don't think we ever had one with 5 1/4 inch drives. Thumb drives are certainly an improvement.

Marian said...

Let's hear it for VAX/VMS! I didn't start with it, but I still love its elegance, privacy, security, and reliability.

I remember going to a presentation with other VMS programmers and system software engineers to see a presentation at the Wang Institute in Chelmsford or Tyngsboro? MA to learn about the STAR system under development at Xerox PARC, probably in 1982. A mouse?

What a powerful outcome. As soon as I could buy a LaserWriter for a Mac, about 1987?, I pondered the irony of Canon and Adobe getting so much of the business from the PostScript printer market -- not Xerox. Not to mention the operating system.

Good old days indeed.

Marian said...

Wait -- there's more: I also remember that my husband sold me on the Mac purchase in 1987 by showing me Microsoft Word on the Mac -- ideal for the fonts, footnoting, bolding, etc. that I wanted for writing a genealogy article like the ones in the NGS _Quarterly_. He knew my soft spot.

This subject caused me to look through my old 3.25" diskettes, and it appears that I started out by using something called Family Roots for my genealogy database. And apparently I didn't stay with it for long, because the copyright on my first PAF disk is 1988.

Eventually I wrote a VMS program that would convert SSDI data that I extracted onto disks at the Family History Center into GEDCOM files to let me import them into PAF as new persons. Later I did it for families in the 1880 and 1900 census.

Thanks for the reminder that I need to dump the old media!

teri said...

I realize this is not Saturday night, however, still one of my favorite subjects. I actually took business machines and accounting in business school. I worked for a bank right out of school and we had one of those full keyboard adding machines at the window, you know with each button having all ten buttons. After I got married, I went to work for a Savings and Loan which actually had computers. Computers on stands that had to have a punch tape run through it for programing. When my 32 year old was a baby I got a computer from Radio Shack, a tandy I believe. you could record your programs on a audio tape so you didn't have to input them. I have since then evolved in the PC world. I have had my most recent desk top for I think a year and a half -- Yes I still like a desk top. I do have an Asus laptop, but most of my computing is done on my desk top. I am also an IT professional doing inhouse tech support remotely from home for a corporation.

Louis Rich said...

I found it interesting and a good topic to put in genealogy history as the technology field moves so quickly. By accident; that is, I was told working on the IBM equipment paid more money, after graduating started in 1954 with tabulating equipment, and the rest is my life. After job changes, Ran the "computing" at University of New Mexico in the 1960's with memories of stacks of punched cards by students and frustration things were not faster. Retiring a couple of years ago, I tell my kids the problems that existed prior to computers are still the same - people, process, and problem-solving techniques. To me genealogy research is the same; but a lot more fun!