Before college I had no interest in, and no use for computers. When I went to college I was forced to learn the programming language Fortran. Because the location of the school was at a branch more than an hour from the main campus we used the computers at the branch. This was in the days of punch cards. After the instructions were typed onto a stack of cards, the cards would be put into a reader were they would get sucked in and hopefully not eaten. The program would be run and the status would hopefully be printed out. If this were done at the main campus, the process from feeding the cards to response would take from ten minutes to an hour, depending on how busy things were. Running the program at the branch could add an hour or three, depending on how busy things were. When things were busy, there was often no card punch machines available and a long wait at the card feed machine.

The professor who taught the class had no business trying to teach Freshmen and Sophomores. He made even simple tasks seem incredibly difficult.

I developed a strong hatred for programming. When the class was over and I found I could not sell the book back, I ripped it to shreds. Very satisfying. Little did I know that I would later learn to enjoy programming.

My then brother in law bought two Sinclair ZX80 computer kits. This was a very small computer that hooked up to a TV for the display and a cassette recorder for program storage. The computer itself was smaller than today's netbooks. The keypad was touchpad or pressure sensitive surface. Besides the alphabet each key had a function, mostly being commands in the Basic programming language which really saved on typing. Sinclair was a British company. This computer made learning to program fun and easy. When I went back to school I took classes in Pascal and used Fortran extensively. It's amazing how easy it is to learn the hard stuff once you learn the basics.

The following PDF files shows some of the technical details of the computer.

WIKI Article - PDF Article - PDF