Fast Kilobaud Interface – computers through the decades

Back when I was teaching an introduction to computer science course I posted some vintage computer ads and images to give the students a little perspective. Here are some of my favourites. Laugh if you will, but remember that a lot of today’s technology will in turn look pretty silly thirty years from now!

Burroughs used to be on the cutting edge of technology.

This is still beautiful today. Burroughs No. 5 adding machine.

I actually got to use one of these when I was a kid in Penticton BC. My dad was head of the tax office and brought one home one weekend. I had a great time calculating logarithms and the like on it. I was a nerd … but not a total nerd. I also watched the Sunday cartoons and, distracted, punched the wrong button. The machine jammed!

Since my dad was the boss he wasn’t in trouble when he brought it in on Monday but was sure embarrassed to have to explain that his (he didn’t say: idiot) son had jammed this (very expensive) machine. Luckily the clerks said, “happens all the time”. Thump! … clickety click whirr …

“We’ve made great progress but it will still be years before we will be able to transmit pornography” – caption I saw on a rejected New Yorker cartoon.

That’s Von Neumann, looking especially disappointed. Btw I originally typed “pronography,” which has a nice ring to it. What is your stand on nography? Why, “pro” of course.

It says “Many executives who use today’s most advanced punched-card computer say ‘Yes!’ Because it makes dozens of record-keeping decisions and calculations every second.”

Dozens! In a second!

Still no pornography.

Notice the stylized atom – IBM used it as a symbol of technology for quite a while, till this whole nuclear thing started getting scary. They also used their name in an outlined punched card because nothing says high tech like a punched card (an 18th century invention).

This has got to be my favourite – it’s so creepy. The engineers are all white and male, of course, and each has a rather intense relationship with his slide rule.

(You youngsters may have never seen one. When I was a kid I had one and knew how to use it.)

Notice how the punched card is eclipsing the atom.

No comment.

Hah! “Excuse me good sir, you’re trying to divide by zero.” Doesn’t sound like the computers I know. “Memory fault, core dumped” is more likely.

As a student I actually used one of these suckers. The young folk with their bluetooth keyboards, they don’t believe you. Bluetooth – sheer bloody luxury! Oh aye etc

Worth reading for the details.”Entry and examination of programs in hexidecimal [sic] notation.” “32K bytes of onboard RAM!!” (when available). “a fast 1 kilobaud cassette”

Ahhh this is the life (slurp). 64K of memory, a screen so big you get lost in it … err maybe not bright enough for full daylight (slurp) but portable.

I wonder if the ‘executive’ was a celebrity we were supposed to recognize, with his trademark finger-gun gesture. Not a clue who he is.

What a deal! That’s $166/M. Today you can get a terabyte for $100, which works out to a hundredth of a cent /M. Which is nearly 2 million times less expensive.

Make up your own caption. I got nothing.

It’s got everything: horizontal text scrolling, 64K memory, 192p resolution, and only weighs 11 pounds! Plus Pascalman looks like Robert DeNiro.

Hello, my name is Bill … As far as I can tell, this is genuine!

Computers in the kitchen again. I thought this was an artist’s conception, but Honeywell really did make a “Kitchen Computer.” (A steal at $10k.) I doubt it survived the first bowl of chicken broth spilled on it …

What the heck … looks like a piano married a telephone switchboard. Actually, it’s an early Moog (music) synthesizer. Distant ancestor of Garage Band.

Wooo … rudimentary forms of pornography, at last!

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