How I Got My Start in Computing (2014)

I have always been guided by a high school teacher who took some of us aside and said that we were all his age, everyone would have a desktop computer, a startlingly thing to say as this was in the early 70s. Therefore, I made sure to touch the only computer teleprinter terminal in the high school. It had a keyboard as intimating to me as a mid-sized pipe organ, full of strange keys.
When I went to a liberal arts college and discovered a brand-new $4 million computer that was sitting mostly idle that had an easier to use teleprinter (a TeleType 33) as well as a newfangled display terminal with a typewriter-like keyboard. I sat down and started to read the manuals. That’s when I first learned the importance of clear user instructions.
I did learn quickly how to do cool things such as print Happy Birthday banners and store and retrieve files. In retrieving my file, I accidentally retrieved a list of professors salaries one day, my first lesson in data security. I benefited from things taught me from some skilled folks, including the guy who would use the system to sign into the system of the State College down the road I order to randomly change for the better, grades of students whose names he liked. As a struggling undergraduate, I also learned to curry favor by operating the “statistics package” for my professors. What a package that was: it did five basic numerical statistics.

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