Apparently Not a Visionary

"Apparently Not a Visionary"

I think I'm fairly smart.  OK, so I wasn't the class valedictorian, but I was smart enough...  But apparently I'm not a visionary - and I have proof.

In the early 80's  when I worked for Aetna Life and Casualty in the Data Processing Department (now called I/T I suppose), those of us in management got a few perks every now and again.  One of those perks was going to the Jacob Javits Center in New York to see the latest / greatest in computers at the annual "DATA PROCESSING CONFERENCE AND SHOW".  Aetna would rent buses and send a selected few of us for our field day in New York City! 

It was the first year that I was selected to go - and I couldn't have been more excited.  I was in my 20's...  and quite sure that I knew EVERYTHING that anyone would ever need to know.  Especially about Computers and Programming.  Let's face it - I was in one of the top companies in the country, and in management of that company.  Yup - I was a "HOTSHOT KNOWITALL". 

When the bus dropped us at the Javits Center - the folks from my department and I decided to stick together and walk through all the exhibits, meet the vendors and look for new technologies that we could use at Aetna.  

For many of you - I need to set the scene of what computer programming looked like back then.  Each programmer was assigned work to do.  They would create their "code" in COBOL - by writing it in pencil on a big coding form.  The 30 or so pages of your forms were then sent up to the KEYPUNCH DEPARTMENT where people would essentially type the code onto punch cards (the size of #10 envelopes with holes punched out so that the computer could read it).  Two to three days later (less with appropriate bribes) you would receive back a card deck  with all your programming code now transferred onto it.  

Checking for errors was a waste of time.  The keypunch folks were pretty dang good at what they did - and their work was double checked.  Yup - after they created your card deck - it was given to another person who loaded those cards into their machine and then retyped everything you had written.  Their machine would alert them if there was a discrepancy between what they keyed in and what was on the card that the last person had just keyed in.  Talk about efficiency back in the day - gosh we were great! 

That card deck was then taken to the "COMPUTER CENTER" and put through a card reading machine that would bring it into the computer - and provide you with a printout of the code.  You would also try to execute that code (and it would always fail the first few times) changing it until you worked out the kinks in it.  

We were pretty advanced because you wouldn't have to work with those cards again.  The computer could actually store your coding while you worked on it.  You worked on it by using a "line printer" that would print a few of the lines of your code.  You would then enter a series of commands that would change that code.  Hmmm... let me demonstrate for you...

Let's say your code said:
Move Plus-One to Counter-Twwo
you would then enter the change command:
C:  /Twwo/Two
which would result in
Move Plus-One to Counter-Two

End result was - within a couple of weeks - you'd have your programming correct and then you could test it.  

Back to the Jacob Javits Center.....

You can't imagine how hard I laughed when we went to the IBM area of the show and they were showing off this thing called  "A MOUSE"!  They said that it was revolutionary.  It would change how all of us programmed our computers going forward.  We laughed all the way back to Hartford - thinking about our card decks and the line printers.  MOUSE?   HAHAHAHA.....  That certainly wasn't going to be for "REAL PROGRAMMERS".  

Just for the record - I also didn't think the following would ever catch on:
SMART PHONE  (why?  What the hell could you do but talk?)
HOME COMPUTER ( Again - WHY?  What would you do with it - just turn your lights on and off?  That's Dumb@!)
INTERNET  (Oh heck - that could be another whole story!)

The list goes on and on.  

Here's your discussion question....
Where were you when you first heard of the internet?
Oh dear friends - I'm gonna get some great EMAIL this week.   (EMAIL -  something else I predicted would never catch on.)