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IBM 360

In this photo I think I just mastered the art of changing a disk pack and putting a magnetic tape on. They said never to touch the red emergency shut off button, even in an emergency.

I found no interest in reading the blinking lights, but oh, the thrill of using a keypunch!

My favorite key, I think, was REL – releasing the punched card and causing it to move to the stack.

Smart people drew an arrow on the edge of the deck with a felt tip pen to help in case they dropped the stack on the floor. Which happened surprisingly often.

Some people spent hours drawing Jesus on punched cards to print his image in EBCDIC characters and the printer had trouble turning its wheels fast enough so it looked like the mileage on a car when you have not yet reached an integer. Some people who didn’t draw Jesus printed hundreds of blank pages.

I taught students SNOBOL that summer, they were thrilled. That’s when the brakes failed in my old VW bug.

An Engineering software package I installed on that IBM 360 crashed, and I walked away, quietly, until the Geography professor noticed. Why would a Geography professor need to use Engineering software? In exchange for his silence, I fixed his SPSS program, even though the regression analysis eluded me.

The real guru in the room spent his time on the phone with IBM, talking about Charlie Sevens, who was not a person but the result of a failure in the system. Charlie Sevens were dramatically wasting everyone’s time, and on a bad day really threatened to delay the printing of paychecks. That was when Jesus couldn’t print, Engineering couldn’t crash, infinite loops couldn’t start their vicious circle. It felt good not to be the one who met Charlie Seven, the ghost of the IBM 360.



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