What We Miss About the Old Days : An Old-Schoolers Thought

For those people who have been in IT for lots of years now, technology has fast improved. By the time that we have started our careers in computers in the late 80s and early 90s, technology now has been different.

Well, as the old adage says, “No one and nothing will stop improving and changing.” It holds true in the IT field, for if we are to go back to that era, technology was much simple, but still was effective.

So I would ride my time machine and go back to the era that I have started by IT career:
THE NAME

Back then, people call us as the EDP guys. Or the electronic data processing guys. Why? Because we only do data processing. And that is it..

COBOL

Identification Division.

File Control Section.

Input-output Section.

Coding COBOL was pretty much a challenge and was left to highly skilled programmers. And that big sheet of paper that we call as the “COBOL Coding Form…”

THE GREEN MONITORS

Yes, it emits radiation. It can cause sterility and can cause cancer. It is too bulky. But then, we do not have to worry about the correct device drivers that we have to use. And remember the Matrix? Pretty cool.

The 3.5 Floppy Disk

Back then, IT students are easy to track.. They carry a box full of 3.5 Floppy Disks (or diskettes as what we call them). They boot, they carry files, they carry programs. And yes, if they are warped (which comes very easy). Then so goes your files.

And oh, they carry around 300 kilobytes of information. And they are full.

NO NETWORKS

PC’s then were not interconnected. So its easy to track and remove viruses, which leads me to the next item..

VIRUSES

No such complex viruses that time… All I remember was that virus called (c) Brain, which can be removed easily and resides inside the floppy disk. It only affects the boot sector of the floppy and the only payload was, delete all the files in the floppy, which was not that much, considering that, as I’ve stated earlier, a floppy only contains 300 kb of data.

The IBM PC/AT Computer

This was the first desktop computer then that came with a hard disk. That time, it was luxurious. You do not have to carry a floppy disk case everytime for you can store everything inside the hard disk. The hard disk capacity? Around 5 MB.

DOS

Back then when Windows GUI was not around, there was DOS. We were skilled back then in manipulating hard disks, creating batch files and programming in PC using this operating system.

But now, when I am using the command prompt within windows, people around me get quite puzzled.. I often get questions like, “What is that all about?”

That Noisy Dot Matrix Printer

Comes in two sizes….The big one, which can print 132 columns and the small one which can print 80 columns.It was a luxury that time for it replaces the typewriter. But then, people would admire you then if you know how to use these devices. And, they do not come in cheap and are noisy. But they are quite durable and the overhead costs for repairs and ribbons are low.

WORDSTAR

It was the premiere word processing software back then… Control KD, Control KS, Control B….You have to memorize all these combo commands so that you can utilize the software properly. And when you are using them, you cannot change fonts like Arial, Times New Roman, etc…. You will only have to contend with one font, which is the Wordstar default font.

LOTUS 123

If Wordstar is for Microsoft Word, then Lotus 123 is for Excel. It was the premiere spreadsheet software that time. Like Wordstar, you would have to memorize all command combinations to use them properly. I remember having these commands triggered by the keystroke “/”.

DATA CENTERS THAT HOUSE LARGE MAINFRAME COMPUTERS

Data Centers back then are at an average of 400-500 sq. meters in floor area. Why? Because one mainframe computer takes around 300 sq. meters in floor space. Outside of that are really big printers that are capable of printing a box of tabulated stock forms in 10 minutes, that emits lots of dust and make a lot of noise. And the processing power of these mainframe computers? They are less than the processing power of a desktop computer running on Pentium IV. And yes, these mainframes run under VSAM or VSE, so you would have to be trained first before you can operate one.

TAPE DRIVES

The tapes and the tape drives that we use before were circular disks, around 8 pounds in weight and can store around 20 MB in data. And the tape drives that run them? They are around 5 feet six inches tall.

DIAL UP MODEMS

Back then, we use these modems to connect to other modems for peer to peer use. They are tad slow, usually transmitting at 8 kbps and are very noisy. But then, it was quite a wonder for us. Imagine getting a file outside of the metropolitan area using a phone line? We thought before that phone lines can only be used for voice communications.

There are lots of things that I miss that are far too plenty to be enumerated here. But after 20 years in information technology, technology improved but infrastructures got complicated, management of these infrastructures got tedious.

So can I call it, improvement for the better? Or improvement for worse? Where is the concept called “Simple Is Better” now?

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