I saw a forum posting on Zunescene.com where a person was commenting about having some trouble with his Calculus class, and it made me think of the days when I was a young engineering student in college. That was about 20 years ago, back in the days when there were no “Personal Computers”. No PC’s or Apple Computers, but only large mainframe systems.
When I was learning Fortran programming in college, fortunately I didn’t have to deal with computer punch cards. Instead, we had the brand new “timesharing” system where our files were stored on a shared magnetic tape and our main interface was a DECwriter terminal. This terminal was essentially a large printer with an attached keyboard (no monitor). So, you typed in your program line-by-line and it printed out on computer paper via a dot matrix printer head. Editing your program was done using anarchic text substitution commands (it makes me shutter thinking about it). No highlighting with a mouse and changing text as you would do today using Notepad on your Windows PC.
When I was studying for a class or doing homework, I often went to the library to find some text books on the subject. Since there were no computers, I had to search manually through a card catalog system (what’s that, you might ask?) and then try to find the book on library shelf. Often times, the books that I was searching for was already checked out and I had to put in a recall request with the library. Of course, this would take about 1-week before the book would possibly show up. In most cases, the book sat on a shelf in a professor’s office, and they didn’t need to return the book for 4-weeks from a recall notice.
Jumping to present day, most students would simply do a Google search from their laptops connected to the university WiFi (or coffeehouse WiFi) to get the answers they were seeking. Volumes and volumes of information would appear in their screen, and their biggest task would be to filter through the data. No more late night journeys to the school library for a hunt-n-seek search for relevant reference material. Of course, I and others made it through college with an education, but a lot of time was wasted looking for information (time which could have been well spent sleeping!).
Imagine that the beginnings of the American space program was supported by primitive computers requiring computer punch cards and 5k of memory. The Apollo lunar module with a on-board computer no powerful than my HP-41CV calculator. The task was done using these ancient computer systems, but it took a lot of man hours and time to do it.
So the next time you’re complaining to yourself that your Google search is taking way too long, remember that some of us ancients survived using stone knives and bear skins. 🙂