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How it was: Paper tapes and punched cards

Clive Maxfield
10/13/2011 05:32 PM EDT

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Koda23
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re: How it was: Paper tapes and punched cards
Koda23   10/21/2011 6:10:07 PM
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One of my first engineering jobs was at ROLM Mil-Spec Computers in Silicon Valley where I learned how to load a program on the Model 1602B minicomputer using a paper tape reader. The 1602B also had a front control panel with switches for loading and running small programs. Here's a webpage from a collector who has been able to obtain some of these computers: http://www.ph21.de/loef/My_Rolm.html

prabhakar_deosthali
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re: How it was: Paper tapes and punched cards
prabhakar_deosthali   10/16/2011 11:07:42 AM
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This article brings some nostalgic memories of my first encounters with computers in 1974. In the Atomic energy establishmentin India where I joined as a trainee engineer we had to study FORTRAN PROGRAMMING. There was a hude Russian computer which we could never see as it was in a restricted area at 15 degree centigrade . There was a huge area where about 25 card punching machines were installed. We used to punch the program on those machines, prepare our tiny deck of cards and put it into a tray for the operator. As per the batch timing we used to get the output of our programs ( always some fatal errors!) The printout used to be in Russian in half legible letters. Later on a smaller computer in our lab I used paper tapes to store my programs.

Jeff.Petro
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re: How it was: Paper tapes and punched cards
Jeff.Petro   10/16/2011 10:23:23 AM
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My first experience with punch cards was in the mid 70's and a few select students in our grade 5 class got to go to the local university to see a real computer. At that impressionable age, everybody was just fascinated by this high tech storage mechanism. Stacks an stacks of cards were in boxes and the operator let us each take home some for ourselves. Now they never did make it back into a computer. We had a much grander plan. Each one had a picture drawn on it that was just slightly different than the last. So why did we do this? Let me first bring back some childhood memories of your own. Do you remember 'Big-Little' books? And do you recall the 'Flip-It' movies each one had? [insert your flashback here] Those punch cards ended up being Flip-It movies of our own. But hey, we were 10 years old and would never own a computer like that. What else would we do with them?

David Ashton
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re: How it was: Paper tapes and punched cards
David Ashton   10/16/2011 9:10:31 AM
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"on the 5 level TTY there was a 'NULL' key that sent all mark and only 1 space stop pulse, so the punched tape had only a sprocket hole." Think you are right there Glen, rings a strong bell. In an earlier post I told Max...I used to have a teleprinter tape that printed out "The Ballad of Eskimo Nell". Alas, I chucked it ten years ago when I moved out of Zimbabwe, along with a lot of Nixie tubes, some Quad electrostatic speakers and other things that would now be antiques....

Roger46
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re: How it was: Paper tapes and punched cards
Roger46   10/14/2011 6:58:47 PM
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As an FCC licensed amateur radio operator since 1958 and computer user since the 1960s I've had experience with all the paper data methods discussed. The "Morse" code table you provided is actually the "International" code developed in Europe around the same time as Morse's code here in the US for land-line telegraph. The International code is what has been used on radio since Marconi's time and what I learned using a code practice oscillator and it's what I still use on the air today. Actually, amateurs still use the code extensively. it's my favorite mode of operation on the shortwave frequencies since the equipment required is very simple yet effective even at very low transmitter power levels. Back in the 60s, when I was still in high school, I had a surplus model 15 teletype machine that I used with my radio setup. It used Baudot code which is still used on the air by some hams today, but it's now digitally generated rather than the noisy mechanical methods. When I went to college in the mid 60s, I took my first programming course and, of course, could be seen carrying boxes of Hollerith cards to the computer center. After college, in my work I used Genie time-share to do filter design and punched my fortran programs into 8 level ASCII tapes with a model 33 teletype. Been there and done all of it. 73 - K9LJB k9ljb.com

zeeglen
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re: How it was: Paper tapes and punched cards
zeeglen   10/14/2011 6:01:54 PM
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Yes, wonderful old memories. Thanks Max, great article. Wonder how many kids actually sit down today with a code practice oscillator to learn Morse code? David, if I recall correctly on the 5 level TTY there was a 'NULL' key that sent all mark and only 1 space stop pulse, so the punched tape had only a sprocket hole. Been a long time, could be wrong. I remember making up a punched tape to the rhythm of 'Jingle Bells' that used the machine's kerchunk and bell sounds. Took a lot of planning and repeats, any screwups could not be fixed with the erasing letters code (5 holes) since that would destroy the rhythm. But it was a boring night shift in the Arctic, so I had lots of time to get it to work. Also remember the joke "Some girls like to hug and kiss, but my girl likes to go like this..." followed by several alternating repetitions of the figures/letters codes. Anyone familiar with the old TTYs knows the resulting print carriage mechanical movement. This could never be duplicated on a modern video display. I still have several feet of fan folded 8 level tape (bit 8 = parity) left over from old times. I'm going to try to decode the first few bytes to see if I can remember what it is. Probably something from college daze...

R G.Neale
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re: How it was: Paper tapes and punched cards
R G.Neale   10/14/2011 4:14:59 PM
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Max the M - I am afraid I do not have a physical example of an 80 column round-hole punched card, The reference below mentions the company Powers Samas, that later changed its name to ICT then ICL and an 80 Column card http://www.computerhistory.org/revolution/punched-cards/2/4 Quote “In 1928 IBM switched to rectangular holes on 80-column cards. Powers-Samas in the UK continued to use round holes, and over the years had cards with 21, 26, 40, 65, and 80 columns. In the 1970s IBM introduced a 96-column card with very tiny round holes.” Example of a Sperry Rand and Univac using punched cards with round holes can be found in these references. http://www.fourmilab.ch/documents/univac/cards.html http://www.westwoodworks.net/HowItWas/BeforeComputers/index.htm

Max The Magnificent
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re: How it was: Paper tapes and punched cards
Max The Magnificent   10/14/2011 2:28:18 PM
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I'd forgotten that you could use the hole combinations associated with different characters to spell out words on the paper tape It's amazing how much we forget -- that's why I started this series of articles -- the funny thing is that while I'm writing things down I start to remember more and more tidbits of trivia...

Max The Magnificent
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re: How it was: Paper tapes and punched cards
Max The Magnificent   10/14/2011 2:25:34 PM
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I never saw those round-hole cards -- I must have missed them -- I joined ICL in 1980 -- do you have any examples in your possession?

David Ashton
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re: How it was: Paper tapes and punched cards
David Ashton   10/13/2011 10:33:42 PM
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Nice article Max, brings back many memories. I used to deal with Baudot code tape a lot, and figured out how to use the dot patterns to print readable text on the tape using the holes like dot matrix printers. for instance to make an "O" you'd type CZZZC. I forget how I managed to put the spaces in with no dots punched. So you could, for example, send someone a tape which said "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" though it would print out complete jibberish on the printer. It only worked over direct links or Telex, when I tried it though our message system the message handler put in extra CR and LF characters and messed it up.

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