33 Comments

  1. People get annoyed at people who use cafes to charge their smart phones. People really hate that a lot.

  2. …and according to computerhopeDOTcomSLASHhistorySLASH1962DOThtm, “J.C.R. Licklider became the first Director of IPTO and gave his vision of a galactic network (the Internet)” in 1962, so this seems like the tip of the iceberg woozy mentioned.

    Also, the character in the comic bears a more than passing resemblance to Mr. Licklider, so I think this is what the artist was getting at.

    My guess is that a lot of computer nerds will have this posted on their cubicle walls.

  3. I loved MY job ’til the first Apple IIc was wheeled into my library office, back in 1982, I think it was. Things went downhill from there. (The man who wheeled it in, Director of Library Services for the entire school district, must’ve seen what was coming and retired soon thereafter.)

  4. “I loved MY job ’til the first Apple IIc was wheeled into my library office, back in 1982”

    The Apple IIc was the portable version of the Apple II (The c indicated “compact). It even had a built-in carrying handle. It shouldn’t have been that hard to wheel it right back out.

  5. Perhaps it was the IIe then . . . and no, when the Director (DA BOSS) brings in something, you fake your enthusiasm, then hope it goes away.

    It’s not that I wasn’t thrilled about computers, altho, WHO KNEW that I’d spend HOURS upon HOURS on them? Computers in libraries turned out to be a real PITA for us in the ensuing years.

  6. “when the Director (DA BOSS) brings in something, you fake your enthusiasm, then hope it goes away.”

    I’ve been in IT for a long time. I remember well (though, obviously, from the other side of the room) the… interesting effects, let’s call them… that could arise when a person who’d spent, say, 10, 20, or even 30 years doing their job without the assistance of a computer now being told that it was impossible to do their job without a computer.

    Most of the workforce today has pretty much always had computers around, except in a few occupations, and there’ve been inroads into a lot of career fields that don’t obviously benefit from computerization. Today’s problem isn’t people who are afraid they can’t learn what they need to know about computers like it used to be, now the problem is people who think they know computers and really don’t. They’ll take a small problem, try to fix it and cause 11 new problems, THEN give up and call for IT support.

  7. “It’s simpler than woozy’s version, in my opinion. Everyone wants to plug in laptops at Starbucks, is all.”

    I’m confused how this is different than mine….

  8. James: A major problem with computerization/internetization of library was the effort it took to keep kids from going off to sites they weren’t supposed to be on. The entire computerization was NOT something that was planned, but on a catch-as-catch-can basis; when a problem was discovered, IT had to scramble to find a ‘fix’.

    When the card catalog was computerized, I no longer had to file and discard cards. However, 1) when the system went down, as it often did, we had nothing. No card catalog; only what we knew we had because we shelved the books; and 2) when a class of 30 students came down to do research, there were . . . TWO . . . card catalog computers, rather than the drawers. Usually, many drawers could be used, always, more than TWO.

    No one who actually WORKED in the libraries in our district had ANY input as to how computers could/should/would be used; all directives came from ‘above’ and we were stuck with the implementation thereof.

    It STILL ticks me off, and once my boss and I retired, our library was greatly reduced . . . why use a library when the students could just go on the internet, without having been taught about fake sites and without having any critical thinking skills. To the students who were first in school when computers came in, ‘if it’s on the internet, it must be true’ applied 100%.

  9. We (the school district) had ONE Apple tech and ONE PC tech . . . for 50 schools. THAT’s why we had to try to fix it ourselves . . . oh, and we received NO TRAINING; the A-V people in each school suddenly became the IT for that school . . . presto, chango. Let’s face it, computers were just a leetle bit different from filmstrip projectors, VCRs, TV monitors, movie projectors, etc. That’s what my boss and I received our training in. (And yes, I learned how to run a mimeograph machine, before copy machines, too.)

  10. Andrea: Well, to do a countering “yay for modern technology,” the computerized catalog is much nicer than the physical card catalog for doing complicated or open-ended searches. There were so many searches as a kid where I couldn’t figure out what subject to look under in the catalog. The keyword search is much more robust. And whether or not I know the subject, the ability to narrow down a huge set of results by putting in a bunch of filters (age group, library location, etc. . .) is really wonderful.

  11. And on the third hand, there is no serendipity of seeing something of interest on a catalog card on the way to the one(s) you need.

    As the only card filer and discarder in our library, I appreciated the fact that THAT part of my job no longer existed. Instead, I had to explain how to use the online card catalog to each and every student. Six o’ one, half dozen o’ the other.

  12. Somewhat related to this, charging stations in public places are now common enough that such a request is no longer odd.

    I can’t speak for anywhere else, but I can pinpoint exactly when the concept caught on in the NYC area: in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, a lot of people were out of power and places of business that HAD power would allow people to charge their phones. Soon after that, I noticed places overtly offering the use of power strips, and eventually freestanding power stations.

    It’s possible the timing was complete coincidence, of course.

  13. I can feel Andréa’s pain. I retired from my library job (reference department in a univesity humanities/social sciences library) five years ago, and I can’t even stand to go into that area of the building any more. It’s a hollow shell of open spaces (other than a coffee shop and power stations), with books almost as rare as unicorns, and with minimal staff who have received minimal training and are not expected to answer anything but minimal direcitonal and such questions from students who think the internet is the only source of truth. My favorite scholar told me when I last saw him that he now goes to a much smaller college library in our adjoing city to do most of his research, since they are still offering actual reference service.

    I miss copy editors, too, but that’s another rant.

  14. And obviously I could have *used* a copy editor there — “univesity” and “adjoing”? Sigh. (Weak old eyes. . .)

  15. My boss retired in December 2004; I left soon as I could on my birthday in December 2005. We’d worked together over 30 years, setting up this library from nothing, and seeing it go back to nothing was pushing me out the door.

  16. I recall well the switch from physical library catalogs to computers, and the lovely old wooden cabinets were declared surplus..

    Somehow I think an old wooden card catalog cabinet is a heck of a lot more useful than a computer terminal.once it becomes outdated itself.

    🙂

  17. That computer doesn’t seem to have much in the way of input/output devices. Not even a card reader.

    Although I suppose you could enter the program with the switches and read the result from the sense lights or the monitor at the top. I’ve done that.

  18. Grawlix: Our head custodian took our beautiful oak cabinets and made workbench with drawers for nails, screws, nuts, bolts, etc. out of them.

  19. People with computers just hang around the coffee shop and never leave, especially when they get free electricity. This situation is not ideal for waitresses or shop owners, unless they keep ordering coffee and biscuits all day, which isn’t likely. You can hang out at Starbucks without ordering anything, since their new open door policy.

  20. I remember the card catalogs. While I can appreciate your fond recollection of them, I found them to be a chore when I used them. The modern web catalog is so much better. Beyond the basics of it being able to tell me not only which branches have a book, but whether any copies are available and where, are things like the cross-referencing.

    I can read a book I enjoy, say “The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet” and see that it is listed under the subject “Interplanetary voyages — Fiction”. I can click on that, and get EVERY other book that is also listed. It might not be all the books in the library that should have been but it will get many of them.

    The entries for a book can be much more extensive than would could fit on a card, of course. So when I get that list, I read the synopsis provided and see if that looks to be one I would like.

    I don’t doubt that there were many growing pains during the transition. There always are.

  21. I shouldn’t have to explain that many problems are ascribed to IT because that’s who happens to be standing nearby, when the problems were/are caused by management. This is particularly true when decisions are made without consulting the people who will be affected.

  22. I don’t think this is supposed to be JCR Lickliter. First of all, he was more of theorist/visionary than a hands-on sort of guy. As far as physical appearance, the only thing I see this cartoon guy having in common with Lickliter is that they are both white males who wear glasses. Neither the crew cut nor the bow tie match any picture of Lickliter I could find. Nor does he wear a lab coat– in every picture I found with a google images search, In the photos I found, Lickliter is always dressed in a suit and (long) tie. He also would have been pushing 50 in 1962. And while it is true that Lickliter was named head of the newly formed IPTO within DARPA in 1962, the first “Intergalactic Computer Network” memo wasn’t written until 1963, so I don’t see the 1962 date as particularly significant in reference to Licklier.

    Now the computer itself does have a number of characteristics of an early Digital Equipment Corporation machine. The row of 27 switches in groups of three (by color) is characteristic of a number of PDP-8 and early PDP-11 computers. The twin tape drives at the top are dead ringers for DECtape units common on DEC machines of the 60s. The display is somewhat reminiscent of one on some PDP-6s. These similarities are too strong to be entirely random.
    These computers all came after 1962, though.

    However, 1962, saw the introduction of the LINC computer which is considered by many to be the first minicomputer, and a forerunner of the personal computer. The twin DECtape units were originally developed for the LINC, and early LINCs had a display very much like the one in the cartoon. A later variant called the LINC-8 combined a LINC with a PDP-8. Here’s a photo:

    Alternatively, I suppose it’s possible that this is a reference to the 1962 creation of “Spacewar!”, the first computer-based video game to be installed on multiple computers. Not that the nerd in the cartoon necessarily looks like Steve Russel, but Russel is another white guy with glasses. “Spacewar!” was written for the PDP-1, but perhaps the artist thought later PDP models looked more interesting.

    It is also entirely possible that this is just a generic 1962 computer nerd, and the cartoonist happened across some old (even if post 1962) PDP photos in trying to make something that looked like a computer from the early 60s.

  23. The guy is just drawn as “generic nerd” – I don’t think it’s supposed to be anyone specific.

  24. “It is also entirely possible that this is just a generic 1962 computer nerd, and the cartoonist happened across some old (even if post 1962) PDP photos in trying to make something that looked like a computer from the early 60s.”

    I’d guess this computer is based on one or more portrayals of computers drawn from popular media, where they almost never used, or had any functional understanding of, real computer equipment. Well into the 80’s, if you wanted to show a computer, it had to have big reel-to-reel tapes spinning back and forth, about 3000 blinky lights on it, and beeps and boops. This imagery was used, with some variation, for both real and “futuristic” computers.

    Nowadays, when popular media wants to show scary computers, they’ll be a big row of rackmount servers, like in a datacenter. The tape drives finally retired, and the notion that a big scary computer had a few thousand lights on the front panel finally retired.

  25. If this were the typical computer as depicted in pop culture in the 70s or 80s, it would have the stereotypical 9-track magtape drive with two large reels side by side and the tape heads underneath (or perhaps the reals on top one another). This machine has little reals with the tape heads above, and two decks are mounted side by side. This is an atypical arrangement for a standard 9-track, but it is absolutely (and relatively uniquely) characteristic of the LINC tape or DECtape units– in fact it is such a good rendition (right down to the little arcs above the reels) that I recognized it immediately, and have a hard time believing it is accidental. The display module with the little screen and the two rectangular panels with pushbutton switches is also relatively unusual but reasonably faithful to the display used on the LINC. And the control panel with the bits grouped in threes (each set representing an octal digit) bears a considerable resemblance to the pdp-8 part of a LINC-8.

  26. On “Big Bang Theory” I believe that there are old library card catalog cases in their apartment. (Unless it is in a show and I am confused.)

    The accountant I worked for out of college had everything done by a computer. I would go to a client and make adding machine tapes of the various books – sales, cash receipts, cash disbursements,etc. using the # sign and and account numbers and debit entries as pluses and credit entries as minuses. He would send these out to the computer company we would get printouts back – lots and lots of printed pages.

    He retired. My dad and I took over the practice. Dad did not use a computer. We wrote everything up on spreadsheets and columnar pages. It took up so much less file space than the computer printouts.

    Now, of course I use my computer and have scanned in copies of all the old tax returns for clients to save file space in the house.

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