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Memories of my life as a Data Center Operator

I always enjoy reading E.G. Nadhan’s blog posts, and his most recent one, “NASA’s Transformation Journey to a mainframe-free landing” triggered a few sweet memories that I want to share to see if you can relate - although I might be dating myself with all this technological history!


Card Sorter.jpgBut with age jokes aside,  it can be fun going down memory lane. Do you remember punch cards and keypunch machines? How about card sorters or card duplicators? Or an IBM 360? If these words bring a smile to your face, you and I probably have a lot in common. If not, you might be too young to remember these technological marvels of the past. Either way, you can’t deny the historical value of the technology that was. However, it can be pretty depressing though to realize that these computer hardware devices are now only housed in computer museums .  Am I really that old – or has technology moved at the speed of light? I often wonder if my Smartphone has the computing power of the IBM 360?


The last line of the article Nadhan referenced in his post states “NASA's first IBM mainframe, a 360/91 Model, Nasa.jpgshipped to NASA in 1967.”


 My first “real” job after college was as a data center operator for a large company in Boise, ID. (Think trees). It was SO impressive and fun! I still remember the ride down the elevator to the basement, going through the locked doors into a maze of equipment that I operated on my own during long, 12 hour weekend shifts.  Of course the fun sometimes stopped when a program crashed.  However, I still remember the thrill of getting a tape to spin onto a tape drive on the first try. It was like magic!


I feel that I have more of a true appreciation for the newest technology since I know where it began. My father was a meteorologist, and I grew up in the world of telex machines – so the IBM 360 was a wonder to behold.


What memories do you have of technology days gone by? Share your experiences with me by adding a comment about your favorite (or least favorite) memory.


Nadhan | ‎03-05-2012 05:21 PM

Thank you for the kind words, Judy.  Really like the way you have personalized the event I discussed in my post.  Takes me back a few decades to my college days when I had to prepare punch cards to program in FORTRAN IV to calculate a math problem on the Burroughs 6700 mainframe -- for those born in the late seventies, that would be a Unisys.  We had to be really careful in punching the right holes and sequencing them -- otherwise we would get an error back from the gigantic contraption referred to as The Computer.  At the same time, our professor would have a black and white terminal where he was the only one with the privilege to actually key in the text on the terminal without having to go through the punch-card decks.  Really doubt if the Transformation GPS for my alma mater would have shown a network of mobile devices in the cloud with a new generation of youth doing a lot more typing than talking.  It has indeed been a long journey.

| ‎03-05-2012 08:23 PM

I started working for HP as a field engineer in SoCal in 1983.  Back then, one of the bigger disk drives we had was a whopping 125MB and was about the size of a dishwasher.  It's amazing to me to think today you wouldn't carry 125MB in your pocket because it's too small for most of our needs for personal storage (like on a thumb drive). The pace of change has been amazing to watch. BTW, I blog about storage at www.hp.com/storage/blog and since I'm in Boise, I know who you used to work for!

Lee Mason | ‎03-06-2012 11:20 AM

I certainly remember punched cards.  When I started in Computer Operations in 1979 we still got punch cards delivered every day to load up for batch work.  Usually got 2-3 full boxes of cards (that's about 1000 cards per box).  We also got piles of 1/2 inch tape to load up whenever the punch card jobs had a tape card in them.


All IBM JCL as we used Data 100 TSO terminals into a remote IBM 3033 mainframe.  We also, for a very short time, had (I think) and IBM 380Z onsite but that went a few months after I started.


What fun it was in the small hours to be punching up a restore job onto card and running it.  I got quite good at reading what one on punch cards though!


kh360 | ‎03-20-2012 02:14 PM

Alas, the days of running my WATFIV jcl deck through the compiler at the end of the (university) quarter crunch time only to drop my 300 cards (deck) on the floor and trying to get it back in order!  Is it just me that it seems with the Cloud technology it appears much like the days of computer "time-sharing" and limited function terminals?  We have come full circle.

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