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IBM History

Forgotten Voice

Prue King
Computer Operator
Date Joined:
Date Left:
Punch Card and Printer Woes - and Some Fun

I joined IBM Hursley at 18 in 1965 as an operator. My first machine was a 4K 1401 largely used to load data onto tapes for the enormous 7090. The 7090 was used for the PLI compiler which was being developed at Hursley and for design drawings for the first 360 machine. The 360 had vast amounts of storage (256k). The 7090 worked in Octal.

Data for the 1401 was mainly on punched cards produced by the Keypunch department or as output from the 1401. The PLI compiler was contained in a large box of punched cards. The cards were stacked into the 1401 card reader. I had to clear a card jam one day and managed to shift half the stack over the back of the hopper. I was not popular. Another thing that often went wrong was the 1403 printer carriage control tape. If it was mispunched an entire box of paper could shoot through the printer in a matter of moments.

On the night shift we often ran out of works and ran ‘games’. There were programs (all on punched cards) to produce music on the 1401 printer (the 1403) and on the 4K core storage, mainly stirring American music. The 7090 could also produce music via a program which whirled its bank of 16 tape drives round. Once all the work was finished on night shift they called our Free taxis and sent us home. The canteen was in the Stables and I seem to remember cooking facilities in the basement of Hursley House. The computers were all in the one storey A block which has long since gone.

Another thing we did on the night shift was to operate the Data Link. We used to send tapes to and from Raleigh, San Jose and many more places including Europe. This was our early form of internet.