Today I talked with man who used to be a supervisor of programmers at the Pentagon. He looked fit -- but he was 90 years old, born in 1923.
We were in the mall and Nora was eating a pear while I listened to his stories about the first mainframes ("we upgraded from 20,000 tubes to 40,000 tubes"). He had teams working in 3 shifts, to use the machines 24/7. He said with a smile: "I would get calls at 2.00 or 3.00 am. The problems always got resolved but I got an ulcer."
He mentioned that he created a detailed flowchart for a new office in New York, which showed the connection between the various machines: CPUs, card readers, tape units, printer etc. He said: "the diagram was 15 foot long, on thick brown paper. My boss wanted to show it off, to Congress, but when he unrolled it they just said: 'oh sure, that looks fine' and approved it".
It was special to talk with someone who shares my profession -- but who did so 30 years before I was born.
Nora had finished her pear, and the man's wife --just as spry-- came back from shopping and we said goodbye.