Back In The Day: Computing in 1959, 1971

I was just cleaning up some old papers and came across the following.

Here are a few pages from the manual for a Bendix G-15 computer, dated June, 1959. I recall writing a few programs on this machine some time in 1960 while a member of an Explorer Troop at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The machine had 2000 words and used punched cards for input. The *entire* manual, with instruction set, list of terms, operating instructions, and summary table, fit into less than 30 pages of text. Those were the days!

Bendix G-15 Table of Contents

Bendix G-15 pp 1-3

There was some progress by 1971. This is part of of the first SETL implementation, BALM-SETL. I wrote most of it. It was implemented in MBALM, a LISP-like language created by Prof. Malcolm Harrison of NYU/CIMS.

11971 MBALM output on teletype paper

I haven’t a clue what this particular computation was about, but seeing the yellowed paper after decades sure does bring back the memories. This was probably run on a CDC 6600, then the world’s faster computer, with a speed of about 3 MIPS. It had 1MB of main memory, and jobs over512KB were run overnight!

A few months back my daughter Alison bought a $400 e-machine with 512MB running Vista. It took 20-30 seconds to load a single web page. The performance improved when I bought another 1GB of memory for about $100, increasing the cost of the machine to $500.

The entire manual for the Bendix G-15, hardware AND software, came to less than 30 pages of double-spaced text. Microsoft’s OOXML spec is over 6000 pages in length.

Thank God we have open-source. Otherwise there wouldn’t be any fun left in programming.

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  1. [...] computer, and I still have the computer manual to show it, as I have described in an earlier post, Back In The Day: Computing in 1959, 1971. One of the scoutmasters worked at the personel office in the base, and with his help I was able to [...]

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