As I mentioned in my previous "How it was" column, I started my first job after graduating university in the summer of 1980 at International Computers Limited (ICL) in West Gorton, Manchester, England.
This was one year before the introduction of the first IBM Personal Computer (PC), which would eventually be presented to the market on 12 August 1981. Having said this, even in 1980 there were a number of small (desktop-class) computers around.
At that time, computers of different types from different manufacturer could not typically "talk" to each other. Actually, if the truth be told, it was hard enough to get two computers from the same manufacturer to talk to each other. There was little (if anything) in the way of standard network protocols or file formats (even ASCII and EBCDIC came in multiple flavors); in fact, everything was something of a hodge-podge.
One day (sometime toward the end of 1980 or in the early part of 1981), my boss invited me to a demonstration in which a mainframe computer had been connected to a desktop computer via a relatively rudimentary, internally-developed network. The demonstrator commenced by creating a simple text file on one of the computers and saving it.
I can no longer recall if the file was then copied over to the second computer, or whether it was possible for the second computer to access the file while it was still resident on the first (I suspect the former). But the point was that the same file could somehow be opened, viewed, modified, and passed back-and-forth between two dissimilar computers.
I know this doesn’t seem to be particularly "earthshaking" in these days of wireless home networks and the Internet, when everyone is uploading, downloading, emailing, and sharing all types of video, audio, text, and other data files between a multitude of totally disparate systems ... but in those days of yore this was truly revolutionary.
When I say “revolutionary” I really mean it. This was such a breakthrough that the national newspapers sent journalists by train from London (about 180 miles away) to observe the demonstration, which was duly reported in breathless terms. One reason I personally recall the occasion so well is that tea and sandwiches (with posh fillings and the crusts cut off) were served – an unexpected bonus for a junior engineer.
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Editor's Note: It would be great if – in addition to commenting on my articles – you took the time to write down short stories of your own. I can help in the copy editing department, so you don’t need to worry about being “word perfect”. All you have to do is to email your offering to me at max@CliveMaxfield.com with “How it was” in the subject line.
I can post your article as “anonymous” if you wish. On the other hand, what would be really cool would be if you wanted to add a few words about yourself – and maybe even provide a couple of “Then and Now” pictures – for example:
On the left we see me as a young sprog – I was still a student at this time, poised on the brink of leaping into my first position at International Computers Limited (ICL). On the right we see me as I am today – a much older and sadder man, beaten down by the pressures of work and bowed by the awesome responsibilities I bear (grin).
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