Roland Kjellander's nostalgia


Welcome to Roland Kjellander's Computer Nostalgia page.


Looking back at the use of some old computer


Sometimes it is worthwhile to get a perspective on at the development of computers. My personal starting point is 1968 when I was a student and used a computer for the first time. It was called TRASK and filled a whole room. The input and output took place with punched tapes (paper ribbons with punched holes). One produced the tapes on a teleprinter and fed them into a reader connected to the computer. Such tapes were also used as output medium; one had to take the tapes to the teleprinter to get the results printed on paper.


The computer's electronic circuits - with individual transistors etc. clearly visible - could be seen through the glass doors of the cabinets that housed them. Someone had put an electric wire among the circuits and connected it to a radio. When the computer was operating, electric currents were induced in the wire and one could listen to the efforts of the working computer in the radio. The rythmical noise of do-loops were fascinating and quite nice to hear! Evidently, the calculational speed was slow but it was fast enough for making Fourier transforms of X-ray scattering data for crystal structure determination - the task I participated in.


From the early 1970s I used and constructed scientific computer programs for IBM mainframe computers. The input medium was punched cards and the output was printed on paper by a huge line printer or punched on cards. There were quite large rooms where people were sitting punching cards on big mechanical punching machines, which made a fairly loud noise. I remember that when I walked to the computer room I was anxious not to drop my boxes filled with the punched cards that I had produced, since it would take a long time to sort them again in the correct order. The removable storage media of the computers were magnetic tapes and mountable disks; the latter were large physically but had quite limited capacity.


During the 1980s I used VAX computers. Both input and output could be done via dumb terminals, but the main output device was a line printer. I really miss its operating system called VMS, which I like much better than UNIX. The commands in VMS were in plain English, which means that if one forgot a command one could often guess it (something one can only dream for in UNIX). Only the first few letters in each command word was needed - only enough letters to make the word unique. The same applied to the various qualifiers (flags).


In the late 1980s I and my coworkers turned to Fujitsu vector supercomputers for our heavy scientific calculations - a welcome improvement in speed but perhaps not for any other reasons. The manual was based on a translation into Japanese of an American IBM manual. This Japanese version was then retranslated into English by some German firm - one could now and then get a good laugh when one realized what the original IBM manual actually had said.


In 1986 I met Macintosh Plus. My first impression of it was not very positive. I turned it on and nothing happened except that the screen turned bright. After a while I realized that I had to insert a floppy disk with the system on to boot the computer. I actually thought it was a toy computer until one day when I sat down to try it out. Then I realized that I was completely wrong. The graphical interface made me understand how backwards a command line interface is when it comes to many of the common everyday tasks.


Since then I am a devoted Macintosh user and programmer, but I have continued to use various other kinds computers for heavy scientific calculations. Now, even this can be done on Macs, but the my demands for computer power always increase so I cannot do without even more powerful machines.


The links below reflect a few aspects of my Mac usage:


Curvz Builder

... is a Mac program for scientific plotting of x,y curves that I have made.

... is a graphically oriented plotting program with drawing facilities.

... features immediate plotting of imported data.

... produces high quality graphs.

... provides data-sheets with calculator for easy data manipulation.

... is a shareware program available for you (click on the link below).



I use Mac for most purposes in my teaching and research duties at University of Gothenburg, Sweden.



Visit my other links:

Curvz Builder    Work