1978 – "The Technology of the Future!"

This must have been around 1978. I had managed to get access to the data processing center of the university of my home town, to a guided tour.

I am recalling we first had to listen to an introduction on a tape, everybody with headphones. I don’t clearly remember the content of this talk, but part of it was that when we heared a sirene we better leave the building, as the doors would close within a minute, and the rooms would be flooded with some gas… I forgot which gas it was, but I remember that every five or six minutes the speech was interrupted by some stupid instrumental pop music. I asked what for, the answer was: This was in order not to overcharge the mental capacities of us listeners. Well, modern times…

And then the guided tour! We could not see the machines (one CYBER-70, one CYBER-72, and a third machine which didn’t rhyme; I do not remember). But we were shown the room with the card punchers and the punched-card reader and then the hall where they put the calculation results: An incredible amount of tables with big piles of large-size paper where you would find your result after having had a coffee or better two. Later, when I did programming myself, I would also receive my printout here – usually listing the full source code (in Fortran), then finishing with the sobering but undisputable statement ‘fatal error in line 1’.

In the end and as the climax of the tour, the guide promised to now show us the computing of the future, the dernier crie from the USA. He opened the door to a room and we saw some 20 men in shirts sitting at terminals!

Terminals! Hey, they were directly connected to The Big Computer! Getting an answer immediately on a screen! (I thought, o well, they see an answer and must remember it, they cannot take it home like a printout! Maybe they use photo cameras?)

But the guide was much more shocked by another detail. Such a waste of resources and money for such little gain – so, what do you think was his biggest concern?

  • Wrong! No, there were no colour monitors. The monitors all showed green on black.
  • Wrong again. No, there were no German letters ÄÖÜ with diacritics.
  • Right! You guessed it. My gratulations. The letters were using upper case and lower case letters. Upper case letters! What a waste of money and computer power! (I thought, now we are loosing all this cool tech look and feel. What will we do to make up for that??)

All visitors seemingly made clear how shocked they were. We went out and had a coffee, deeply impressed.


Still waiting for that to happen here. Darn APPLE II’s taking over the world with Connect to the TV.
I wonder what one would have had, if we had not used TV’s for basic video output formats?
Notice Fortran and Basic and BCPL use just upper case, you could have saved movey with
just upper case terminals.
Did any one use MOTOROLA’s mcm657x character generators
other than the VDM-1?
I am using the mcm6574 rom font with a 1978 ish display terminal.
What are all the graphic’s in 0x00 to 0x1F range used for? (image not avalable)
Soon I will have
complete 1978’s home brew computer on DE1 altera fpga protoyping kit.
Soon I will will rule the world * evil laugh*


Back then, we weren’t even allowed to let write the content of our output punch cards in the first line (in capital letters, of course), because that took up too much capacity. We had to learn the Hollerith and the Bull code.

Really expensive home computers. PET or TRS-80 vs. Apple II ?
(and a few years later the BBC Micro which did a good job of 80 column text of most decent TV sets at the time).

BCPL is happy to use lower case, although you need to tell the compiler that you’ll be using keywords in lower case. I tend to stick to upper case for keywords and mixed case for variable/function names in my own code though.

Modern BASICs support lower case too - my own BASIC is case agnostic for keywords, but variable names are case sensitive (by design)

Same for modern FORTRAN. F90 supports lower case keywords.

So the world caught up :slight_smile: