My First Computer – c. 1974

When I was 18 years old, I worked a full-time second shift job as a computer operator.

Computers were so expensive at that time that even large companies often paid for machine time at computer service bureaus. I had gotten a job the prior year as a “control clerk” at Swift Computer Services and management knew that I was detailed and careful in my work, and able to problem-solve independently. So when they needed a new operator, I was in the right place at the right time.

This is a IBM System 360/20 computer – the first mainframe computer I learned to operate:

IBM  S360/20

The 360/20 was the low-end of the System 360 line and it provided just 4K of core memory. . . .

IBM sales materials often showed women operators. I’m sure there were – somewhere. But no operator could actually work in heels like this. These machines were operated around the clock, and you were on your feet the whole time.

IBM S/360-20
I also learned to operate the System 370/115 (below). This computer cost over $1,000,000 (yes, million).

IBM S370/115

I remember that when the S/370 was installed at Swift, the older operators had a tough time adapting and it handicapped them. In contrast, I got into it – and I told myself then that I would always resist getting locked in my old ways, and try to remain open to new technologies.

One thought on “My First Computer – c. 1974

  1. Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority in England had one of these. I was the Control Clerk from the beginning, and when the Operator was promoted to Programmer I became the Operator. The girl who was the Senior Punch Verifier became the Control Clerk, so we had two young women running the computer. We also had six attractive young ladies on punch machines at the other end of the room, so we got a lot of visitors. The Big Boss was across the corridor, and would frequently bring in people to show them the computer. They would invariably lean on the flap above the path that the cards ran along, which would come open causing a pile-up of the cards, or “crash” as we would call it….

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