35 years with computers

Jakob Nielsen’s Thirty years with computers reminded me that I am about two months shy of my 35th anniversary of computer usage.

My first computer was the CDC 6400, which served the computing needs of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel. The computer had a lot of magnetic core memory – 32K 60-bit words. That is 240K bytes (or 320K characters, as CDC 6400 represented each character in 6 bits). I communicated with it by means of punched cards, which spoke FORTRAN IV. It communicated with me by means of printouts, for which I had to wait an hour after submitting my punched cards.

The thing which I remember most from that time was the extremely limited power of the programming tools then available. It happened sometimes that I wanted to do something, but the language or the libraries just did not have the requisite feature to support what I wanted to do. Today, almost all languages and libraries are complete in this way.

My vision for year 2039 (that’s 35 years from now) is that the languages, to be used for communication between humans and computers, will be much more powerful. They will make huge strides toward the Software Engineering ideal of having a small change in specs always translate into a small change in the source code of the actual software. Any case, in which a small change in specs yields a big change in the final software’s source code, will be a major news item, a reason to invent a yet more powerful computer language, and lots of rejoicing by bored software developers and language lawyers.

Author: Omer Zak

I am deaf since birth. I played with big computers which eat punched cards and spew out printouts since age 12. Ever since they became available, I work and play with desktop size computers which eat keyboard keypresses and spew out display pixels. Among other things, I developed software which helped the deaf in Israel use the telephone network, by means of home computers equipped with modems. Several years later, I developed Hebrew localizations for some cellular phones, which helped the deaf in Israel utilize the cellular phone networks. I am interested in entrepreneurship, Science Fiction and making the world more accessible to people with disabilities.

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