My Very Own Shop of Computers

I worked in accounting. My task was to keep track of leased equipment. Each day I would write on paper the transactions that occurred, go to a punch card machine to make the cards, then run them through the card reader, and generate my reports with the IBM 370 computer.

I went to college to learn Pascal. I ended up with a job at another firm. They were operating an IBM 5100 model computer. They stored their programs and other information on cassette tapes. I learned the BASIC language and figuring out how I can change things to make it run faster and to create new reports that the company was needing. This was difficult because of the 16 kb memory and has a 5 inch screen that displayed 64 characters, not to mention the slow tape drive.

In 1979 the company purchased the IBM’s newest model, the 5110 which had dual 8 inch diskette drives, a tape drive, and a printer. The computer came with 32 kb memory and has a 5 inch screen that displayed 64 characters.

IBM 5100
Used with permission

Naturally, the 5100 programs didn’t run very well on the 5110, so I re-programmed the software to make it work on the 5110. In the process of programming I found new things that I could use and this did enhance the programs. I found I could do more processing with the diskette drives. The processing was faster than the tape drive, so that helped.

A few years later in 1982, new technology came out where you could outfit a mainframe with modems and use CRT’s to talk to it. Our next purchase was a DEC 11/44 mainframe system with 512 kb memory and 4 Hard Disks that held 512 MB of data for a total of 2,048 MB. As you can see, we really hit the jackpot with lots of memory and huge storage available.

Again, I could not just move the software from the IBM system to the DEC system. Even though it had a BASIC compiler, syntax was different.

We decided to just put the jobs on the DEC system so that other organizations could call into the mainframe to obtain job data. This involved purchasing a bank of 12/1200 baud modems for the DEC system and individual modems for the CRT’s.

We finished with the program conversion. The organizations were able to search and display job information. There was a printer for each CRT so they could print information. This lasted a few years. It didn’t take us long to outgrow what we had. There were 12 modem connections into the mainframe and 23 users. We ran out of connections.

IBM 5110

In the late 80’s and early 90’s lots were happening with the computer industry. PC’s were introduced that had small diskettes, hard drives, and companies were building programs for the PC. File Servers were coming on the scene that enabled you to share information within a company. The Internet! Where you could call up and just play around with the browser and chat programs. There were not many web sites yet.

Commodore 64

experiment. I bought a copy of PC Anywhere. This allowed me to connect up to the Mainframe. I was able to run the programs that I built. The problem was the PC was limited to 80 characters. I changed the coding where the mainframe would recognize and computer with an 80 character screen. I had to re-format some of the displays so they would fit to the PC. So, now I could use the PC at 1200 Baud. The result was slow in going back and forth. I went a step further and took my C-64 and accessed the mainframe. Again I changed the software to accept a 40 character screen. It all worked (to my amazement).

We finally got a real network installed using the Novell Network. A few years later we got the Windows NT server. The Internet advanced to where we could have our own IP address and web site. Maybe the Internet is finally catching up to my dreams.

We decided to go with MS Access as our database software. We programmed the system where the package could be downloaded to other PC’s. This system stayed in place until 1997. The Internet advanced enough where you could program in ASP and almost duplicate the MS Access screens. Today, the Access software no longer exists because it was taken over by the Internet.

Technology is always changing in the Internet world. Web sites are coming up now where you can have a database without hiring a professional to program it. You still have to step back and see which is better, a computer hosted database, or the Internet hosted database. Both do offer different features. The only item I haven’t seen yet is a program to plan the database for you. For this, you do need a professional.

James Clark has a background in designing databases, job and client tracking systems, inventory and sales management, and accounting. As a Worship Minister for a local church, he puts music together, based on the message to be read. His flight simulation hobby takes him to different places that he’s never been before. His goal is to contribute to his area of Minnesota, and the world.