Computers – My First Encounter

I stared at the clean, gleaming machines behind the glass door. There were two people in the room feeding punched cards to a machine, taking out cards from another, putting a rubber band and along with a piece of printed paper and bundling them together. It was the first time I saw the computer. It was towards the end of 1970 and the computer was IBM 1620.

The place looked like a temple. You have to leave your foot ware outside and step around carefully. We talked in hushed tones. Gawking at those gleaming machines with blinking lights, we felt we were in a world of wonder. It was the computer center at College of Engineering, Guindy, now called Anna University. Many of us prefer the old name. The college itself was 175 years old, one of the oldest engineering colleges in the world.

I sat nervously in front of the card punching machine and typed my first program in Fortran II. We had to submit it and return to the computer center the next day to see whether the program compiled successfully and produced any output. Either way, we would get a print out with compile errors or some outputs.

50 years later, when I think about it, I laugh. It was a piddly Fortran program, copied from some book and did not even compile the first time. I don’t think I ever ran it successfully.