However did we get here?
This introductory module is really about a personal journey.
I have been working with computers most of my adult life. I was an undergraduate at Adelaide University in the late 1960s and remember the computer building of the university under construction. Those were the days when a computer – with less crunching ability than today’s smart phone – occupied an entire building! From memory we were using a CDC 3200 made by Control Data Corporation and I was an honours student working in the Physics Department. It had a memory of 32k (what passes for the computers “brain”) and a cycle time of 1.25 microseconds. We wrote our own programs in FORTRAN which, along with the data we wanted analysed was transposed onto punched cards. These were fed into the system manually through a hopper. Dropping a stack of cards was a fate worse than death back in those days.
There were no screens to speak of and no printers as we know them today. In those days they were known as plotters and your results came back to you (usually the following day) on a wad of special computer paper that was then filed away in huge especially designed folders.
Nobody had ever heard of word processing or spreadsheets or desktop publishing. The best you could hope for was a line editor that allowed you to apply captions and comment to your data when it was printed out. If you wanted something typed you either did it manually – I had a portable Monarch typewriter my parents bought me as a Christmas present since they knew I loved to write even at that time – or, if you wanted something fancy, you sweet-talked the secretarial staff in the main office. They had Remington Selectric typewriters at their disposal with “golfball” typefaces that could be exchanged to provide different font types and characters. If only I had kept some of this stuff from my university days it would now probably be worth a fortune on e-bay!
In 1971 I joined the Commonwealth Government and went to work with the Department of Foreign Affairs as a diplomatic officer – you know, the sort of person who is sent overseas to lie for his country. No, it was not as bad as that, but there was certainly a good deal of PR and outright obfuscation inherent in the job. Switching from the sciences to diplomacy saw me retrained in economics and political science – at least the basics and the rest was learned on the job. Actually, having a basic degree in Maths was no bad thing as it turned out as I could “work the numbers.” I think at the time I was the only diplomat who kept a slide rule in his office drawer.
It was 1975 and I was in Vienna working with the International Atomic Energy Agency when one day, walking along Mariahilfe Straße, Vienna’s most popular shopping street, I set eyes on an Adler Electronic Calculator that was proudly displayed in one of the shop windows. I had never seen an electronic calculator before – at least not one that you could hold in your hand as distinct from one that occupied an entire building, and it immediately became a “must have”. This one was around four inches by three inches and half an inch thick.
In the world of diplomacy I never did find much use for cosines and exponentials, at least not until a later posting to Hong Kong where I started to look in detail at the economies of China and Taiwan. But my trusty calculator stayed with me for many years, even after I had left the Foreign Service and struck out on my own. Sadly, somewhere between the move from Taipei to Manila in year 2000, my calculator went missing, never to be seen again, but by that time I was well and truly into computers and had kept my calculator in much the same way as a child keeps a teddy bear into adulthood. In case you are wondering, my teddy bears (I had two) were lost to me many, many years earlier.
From Module 1 of Get Connected, Get Business
 Around 125 x 100 x 12.5 millimetres which, since it was German made, is probably closer to the true measurement