I remember: Computers and other technology

Photo by Alessandro Vallainc on Unsplash

Mainframe Computing to Cloud Computing

“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.” — Mark Twain

This is my walk down memory lane for the technologies I’ve touched over last 30-plus years.

Your walk may be different, from the same time, before, or after mine.

Computer Operators

In 1973 I attended a 18 month evening computer programming class in COBAL, PL 1, Basic, RPG, and Fortran with the intent entering to Information Technology field.

Upon graduating with a certificate in Computer Programming, it seemed like the next step was to transfer to the accounting department to further my career.

I transfer into the position of Computer Operator. My job was to change tapes on Vacuum Column Tape Drive, replace boxes of paper for the hungry printers, load punch cards, and change wired program board for the IBM 1401 and IBM 350 computers.

At the time it was difficult to enter the technology field without a full college degree, so I transferred to a business office position.

By the 1980 I was in an operations position and personal computers were all the rage especially in the business world.

Day job with Information Technology Opportunities

I was in a position that allowed me the opportunity to experiment. My first experiment was to replace the manual process of creating a monthly listing of a 600 person organization. They accomplished the original process of updating the original organization chart listing on a typewriter throughout the month. At the beginning of the month they copied the organizational charts and sent them to about 100 people. The current method was to whiteout and retype, or create new pages or sections, labor intensive.

I suggested using a database that could update daily or weekly. Printing and organizational chart was then available upon request. The cost savings was great, and management approved the project. I rented a computer which was a KayPro CPM operating system. I used the database software Rbase, a relational database. The Rbase Software Company is still around 36 years later.

We created a database for each person in the organization. Besides each person‘s name, the database contained their work location, reporting structure, etc. We updated the employee record when changes occurred. New personal add, people who left marked as no longer in the organization, providing a history listing, and moves within the organization.

Anytime on demand listing of employee counts by group was then available besides the monthly organization list which again when out to over 100 recipients.

Dial Up to computers

One of my first automatons was a Basic program that took two lists and compared the list. Printed out two lists of items missing from the other lists. First one was a list of items in the first list but not the second one. And another printout of those in the second list but not the first. This previous process took two people hours one checking each list against the other list.


IBM introduced the IBM PCs as the next generation of business personal computers. My company process to secure one required a short 2 page request that showed a cost saving for having one.

Within several months our department had 12 computers. I was the original support and go-to person for the computers, as there was not a formal support structure. They were setup for each of the admin in each of the department manager’s groups. Word processing and spreadsheet software were the initial used programs with the new PCs.

The new PCs and spreadsheet software afforded managers the ability of calculations and what if’s for their budgeting process before submitting their final budgets to their department. One of the early spreadsheets was Lotus 1–2–3, later we moved to using Excel, which was adopted as our company standard.

Word processing had the same trend, some started with Word Perfect, and later changed to MS Word.

The browser had the similar trends as word processors and spreadsheets. There have been many browser companies over the years and today several of those have survived and are still in use today.

Financial and results Data

Focus and Oracle were the database software of choice used in the mainframe environment I worked in. I purchased books, read and learned how to create code for both Focus and Oracle software. Focus and Oracle were different structured databases. Focus was hierarchical, and Oracle was a relational database. To get and display from Focus required writing FocExecs and for Oracle required SQL commands.

The environment of the IBM 370 used REXX exec as a series of commands necessary to pull the information and create reports from the database. Similar to what a batch or .bat file did for the DOS environment. I also purchased books for REXX exec and learned how to write and change REXX exec.

People communicated with IBM 370 mainframe from TN3270 Terminals. Some early PC had a TN3270 emulation card installed and software which allowed them to access the IBM 370 mainframes without a second terminal installed on their desk

I still today see many business that are running their business on IBM370 mainframe computers. The familiar black background with either green or white lettering can at companies like Costco, many hospitals, Lowes, home depot, and many others.


Interesting that the first PCs were more of a standalone device in the beginning. Later adding network cards allowed connecting to the Internet, connect to other PCs, servers and printers.

A PC running LANMAN software provided the early glue to connect PC and Printers together. Adding additional memory and disk space to hardware, and they called it a Server now, and allowing community file sharing and printer services. The individual PC would attach to the server through networking and have access to files and network printers.

I found this list of the Windows Software versions over the years.

Windows 1.0 1.04

Windows 2.0 2.11

Windows 3.0 3

Windows NT 3.1 3.10.528

X Windows for Workgroups 3.11 3.11

Windows NT Workstation 3.5 3.5.807

X Windows NT Workstation 3.51 3.51.1057

Windows 95 4.0.950

Windows NT Workstation 4.0 4.0.1381

X Windows 98 4.1.1998

Windows 98 Second Edition 4.1.2222

Windows Me 4.90.3000

X Windows 2000 Professional 5.0.2195

X Windows XP 5.1.2600

Windows Vista 6.0.6000

X Windows 7 6.1.7600

Windows 8.1 6.3.9600

X Windows 10 10.0.102

The one’s with an “X” were the ones I recall were the ones widely adopted in the business world for my Information Technology career. We skipped the other versions.

Smartphones, Tablets and Browsers

The next leap in technology were cell phones and then tablets and smartphone. A hand-held device can now accomplish many computers activities that previously required a PC. Add to that device the browser and you can reach any website from anywhere you have access to internet service.

The mainframe computer with wired terminals had evolved into a hand-held device that is wireless connecting to a remote data center of computers called Cloud Computing today.


Apps also have evolved over the years. They originally called Apps Applications. They arrived in a box in the beginning comprised a CD, manual, and license key. The CD soon became a DVD because of the sheer volume of coding. Manuals soon became a PDF and were on your DVD. Distributing Updates were a challenge to get and install. Sometimes updates conflicted with other software, bug fixes, patches, etc. The next evolution of application software was after you purchased and then downloaded. The current business model is reoccurring revenue for software companies, as the old model was not sustainable to provide for the cost of updates and feature improvements.


Now many of the application we’ve used on our desktop are available on websites requiring only a browser. These Web Apps can interact with files on our computer, smartphone, and tablets.

Full Circle

I think we are close to converging back where we started with the Mainframe computer connected to dumb terminals, a.k.a. the browser.

That said, the browser of today has many more capabilities than the original TN3270 features

Mainframe Computing to Cloud Computing

“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.” — Mark Twain

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Originally published at www.rogerskibowski.com.

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