Early computing memories

January 10, 2011 | By | 6 Replies More

I took an unexpected walk down Nostalgia Lane yesterday when I stumbled across my copy of The Best of Creative Computing, Vol. 2 in my library.  I know at one point, I used to have Volume 1, but I think it disappeared long ago in one of my many moves.

Creative Computing was founded by David Ahl in 1974 for the hobbyist and home/personal computer enthusiast as a more accessible version  BYTE.  I subscribed for several years (though I didn’t have a personal computer and did all my work on mainframes and an IBM 1140 via…punchcards!) and learned a lot on programming from its pages. I copied, adapted, and created from the programs Ahl and his contributors provided in each issue.

The Best of that I still have was published in 1977 and has articles from 1974 through 1976 , grouped in topics on technology, programming theory, quite a bit on computers in education, humor and puzzles, resources, (as mentioned) programs (whoa – open source!) for different applications and games, hardware of the day and reviews. When I was young, I was more interested in the programming and puzzles.  Still have that interest, but I this time read with increasing interest and amazement several of the other articles.

One of the first pieces on technology in the collection looked at video discs (this was 1975 – before Betamax and VHS). Alfred Bork, from UC Irvine, wrote a piece called “Videodiscs – The Ultimate Computer Input Device?” I decided to look up Mr. Bork and found that the entire three (apparently a third came out after I stopped subscribing) volumes of the Best of Creative Computing here, so you can read Bork’s article yourself here.  If you follow the next few pages, you’ll see a side-by-side of Philips-MCA’s laser disc with RCA’s (failed) competing videodisc.

Cutting edge discussions with eerie future parallels pepper the compendium:

–          page 68, “Information Anyone?” by Bill Griffith of Boston College opens

With the CIA collecting information on private citizens (Why don’t they stick to overthrowing foreign governments?), commercial credit companies recording the contents of your trashcans and your seven year old using words like “software” and “hardware” and “PL/I”, is it any wonder you wonder?

Hmmm…CIA (Homeland Security, FBI, etc.) – check; credit…recording…trash = targeted ads from cookies and internet use – check; seven year old using foreign words – always going to be a check there….

–          Two pages later, a Charles Winn voices an opinion lamenting “The Government Dinosaur”, and offers a vision that could have been written today (need to outsource to private sector) and pre-sages some things that have become a reality (electronic voting – though not quite as envisioned, firewalls – though not called such – to prevent tampering and misuse, use of radio/television to gage the pulse of the constituents), and was a little wishful in hope (instant demographics from the public recreating a true democracy – in use for “reality” shows…but not where it really matters, massive data availability which would render lobbyists unnecessary – yeah, right!).

–          David (Ahl) comments on the problems of the new Electronic Funds Transfer System and having to pay fees for services rendered, though no service was actually performed!

Should the urge take you, I recommend checking out an interesting Way Back look at how some of us learned computing, what we were using, and the way of the future (circa 1976): ads for computers and printers, Star Trek (of course!), computers in teaching geometry, [Hunt the] Wumpus 2 – again, open source, a review of the HP-25 (go back one page for a review of the Magnavox Odyssey).

I have a feeling at least one reader (contributor) will enjoy the flashback.


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Category: computers

About the Author ()

Jim is a husband of more than 27 years, father of four home-schooled sons (26, 23, 16 and 14), engineer delighting in virtually all things technical, with more than a passing interest in history, religions, arts, most sciences (particularly physics) and skepticism.

Comments (6)

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  1. Dan Klarmann says:

    AtariArchives.org just stole my morning

  2. Jim Razinha says:

    Thought so. Stole part of my night. Bookmarked for later reminiscence!

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Jim: Thanks for the vintage computer ads. I'd be afraid to transport 25 years back in time a notebook computer you can buy today for $500. I'm afraid that it would be so magic, so overwhelmingly mesmerizing that even good-hearted tech-savvy people would be tempted to take it from me by any means necessary, including murder.

  3. Dan Klarmann says:

    Jim, yes. I remember seeing several of those ads.

  4. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Here are a couple of links you might find interesting




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