Author Topic: items of yore  (Read 17476 times)

ian

  • camera nazi
items of yore
« on: 05 August, 2021, 07:34:03 pm »
Now, as an elder statesman and authoritarian Thought Leader, I am often asked by the precipitously young to cast my expansive wisdom and explain the world of old. Which is fucking rude, but anyway. You know the drill, the lore of cassette tapes and floppy disk, the epic ancient battles of VHS versus Betamax, the time when you could see the roof of your car, but today I had to explain microfiche. The young woman I was explaining it to just didn't get the why of it. To make it smaller, said I. But why?

Because we didn't have the fucking internet that's why. Book and paper are heavy, they age, and they're difficult to store. She didn't seem convinced by this.

How did you search it? With your eyes and a rotating knob. I'm not sure if it was the concept of a rotating knob or the fact that there was no search box that threw her.

It did make me think about what humanity did back in the time before computers and the internet? Was that why they had wars, too much spare time and no inbox to fill it? Even I've spent my entire working life as a slave to the computer, though in the early years we had to book time – thirty-minute slots – in the university 'computer lab'. It wasn't until my PhD when I found an IBM PS/2 in a skip outside the department that I had my own computer. Now I have three computers on my desk.
Authoritarian Thought Leader, the Pol Pot of Powerpoint, the Stalin of Spreadsheets

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: items of yore
« Reply #1 on: 05 August, 2021, 07:38:55 pm »
Endless.  Paper.  Journals.

By way of comparison, I'm imagining the world before photocopiers...

Re: items of yore
« Reply #2 on: 05 August, 2021, 07:41:07 pm »
I'm old enough to have used microfiche.

How did I search it? Why on a computer of course.

(possibly on a dumb terminal or more likely a PC pretending to be a dumb terminal)

Re: items of yore
« Reply #3 on: 05 August, 2021, 07:41:31 pm »
I've five here at home.
And two on three screens at work.

Jaded

  • The Codfather
  • Formerly known as Jaded
Re: items of yore
« Reply #4 on: 05 August, 2021, 07:42:47 pm »
Before computers came along to simplify everything, I spent far less time on admin...
If you don't like your democracy, vote against it.

robgul

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Re: items of yore
« Reply #5 on: 05 August, 2021, 07:46:07 pm »
When I worked for a (then) building society (two names - a town and city in Gloucestershire) back in the '80s we used to have listing paper delivered on pallets, about 6 at a time - God knows what it was used for?

ian

  • camera nazi
Re: items of yore
« Reply #6 on: 05 August, 2021, 07:54:51 pm »
The irony was that this came about through a slide I did of a product's evolution from its early days of hyperdense text on paper (you had to read it with a magnifying glass and ruler) to, splendour of splendours, it moved to microfiche in 1990 and – drum roll – CD-ROM in 1995 and finally had a crappy internet portal in 1997.

Because a digitization project never really started, if you want any of the data included in this product before 1997, you literally have to go back to paper or microfiche.
Authoritarian Thought Leader, the Pol Pot of Powerpoint, the Stalin of Spreadsheets

Re: items of yore
« Reply #7 on: 05 August, 2021, 07:55:35 pm »
Listing paper?  At one time I was a graduate student and used the IBM mainframe at Rutherford Lab (Harwell)
My program crashed and 'dumped core'. The core listing was posted out to me - a six inch thick stack of listing paper.
I had no need of scrap paper for many a moon.

Re: items of yore
« Reply #8 on: 05 August, 2021, 08:07:47 pm »
In the early eighties my first "big" project was to update the libraries catalogue on fiche for Coventry City libraries.  It was my gig end-to-end with a very hands off but really helpful project manager.  He made sure that my name was all over it so I genuinely got the credit and thus my IT career was launched.

Within a decade it was gone of course replaced by green screens. 

ian

  • camera nazi
Re: items of yore
« Reply #9 on: 05 August, 2021, 08:17:11 pm »
The library at the university I worked at had an issue – the architects not accounted for the weight of the books when they designed it (or for that matter, the weight of the building itself). This meant that the completed building had a habit of randomly shedding bricks and other bits of facade. Hence a lot of scaffolding and plastic and decades of lawsuits.
Authoritarian Thought Leader, the Pol Pot of Powerpoint, the Stalin of Spreadsheets

Cudzoziemiec

  • Моя планета голубая, я люблю тебя и обнимаю
Re: items of yore
« Reply #10 on: 05 August, 2021, 08:27:40 pm »
I remember using a special microfiche viewer. In shape very like a desktop computer with CRT monitor attached, but it was really an ergonomc illuminated magnifier.
Riding a bike through a city is like navigating the collective neural pathways of a vast global mind.

Re: items of yore
« Reply #11 on: 05 August, 2021, 08:28:27 pm »




Posted with no comment

TheLurker

  • Goes well with magnolia.
Re: items of yore
« Reply #12 on: 05 August, 2021, 08:34:24 pm »
Oh heavens. I'd forgotten all about faffing around with 'fiche readers.
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Re: items of yore
« Reply #13 on: 05 August, 2021, 08:36:51 pm »
Felt a bit Bond like though, didn't it...

Beardy

  • What’s this do?
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Re: items of yore
« Reply #14 on: 05 August, 2021, 08:44:05 pm »
I once resolved an inter-supplier political issue with listing paper. 10 copies of the handshake and error logs over 48 hours, a (big) room full of ‘interested’ parties, no agenda and a line by line examination said logs reading challenge and response of the handshakes and signalling protocols. I was very unpopular with all concerned with the exception of the customers tech director and CEO and my manager.   ;D
Sorting my life out, one shed at a time.

Re: items of yore
« Reply #15 on: 05 August, 2021, 09:00:03 pm »
Phone books.

Commercial directories like Kelly's

Tyre pressure charts at garages.

Radios with "Home Service" and "Luxembourg" etc. showing where the physical tuning indicator had to go for those stations.

A handle on the side of a phone, which needed winding to generate the power to ring the bell to alert the operator.

Plugs that fit where a bayonet lightbulb goes, to power appliances in rooms / houses where there is electric light but no sockets.

Selector plugs on appliances to change between 200 V, 220 V, 240 V and 250 V.
Quote from: Kim
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Beardy

  • What’s this do?
  • I’ve always wondered where this was
Re: items of yore
« Reply #16 on: 05 August, 2021, 09:05:00 pm »
The BT Museum ah as a copy of every phonebook BT and the GPO ever printed. I spent a memorable 5 minutes looking up my parents and my maternal grandparents entries. I then went and had a play with some of the old phones they have.
Sorting my life out, one shed at a time.

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: items of yore
« Reply #17 on: 05 August, 2021, 09:21:01 pm »
The library at the university I worked at had an issue – the architects not accounted for the weight of the books when they designed it (or for that matter, the weight of the building itself).

Doesn't every university have one of those?  Along with the student accommodation that fails to meet the minimum space requirements for a prison cell / was designed by the architext responsible for $famous_prison, and optionally the sports centre where they forgot to account for the weight of the water in the pool?

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: items of yore
« Reply #18 on: 05 August, 2021, 09:23:27 pm »
Radios with "Home Service" and "Luxembourg" etc. showing where the physical tuning indicator had to go for those stations.

I was discussing tuning knobs with barakta last night.  None of this shaft encoder rubbish, a proper variable capacitor linked to the knob by an elaborate arrangement of string and pulleys, with the afore-mentioned indicator attached somewhere in the middle.

She pointed out that kids today probably haven't even got a 'radio'.

ian

  • camera nazi
Re: items of yore
« Reply #19 on: 05 August, 2021, 09:49:09 pm »
The library at the university I worked at had an issue – the architects not accounted for the weight of the books when they designed it (or for that matter, the weight of the building itself).

Doesn't every university have one of those?  Along with the student accommodation that fails to meet the minimum space requirements for a prison cell / was designed by the architext responsible for $famous_prison, and optionally the sports centre where they forgot to account for the weight of the water in the pool?

Quite possibly, but this was the US and so involved bigger and longer lawsuits. I think it was finally settled around 2012 with legal bills well in excess of the costs of building an entirely new library.
Authoritarian Thought Leader, the Pol Pot of Powerpoint, the Stalin of Spreadsheets

Mrs Pingu

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Re: items of yore
« Reply #20 on: 05 August, 2021, 10:03:49 pm »
Felt a bit Bond like though, didn't it...

Oh yes. I loved microfiche.
Do not clench. It only makes it worse.

Re: items of yore
« Reply #21 on: 05 August, 2021, 10:13:05 pm »
The library at the university I worked at had an issue – the architects not accounted for the weight of the books when they designed it (or for that matter, the weight of the building itself).

Doesn't every university have one of those? 

I think so. There's even a Snopes page about it.

Re: items of yore
« Reply #22 on: 05 August, 2021, 10:13:34 pm »
My first proper encounter with computers was in a maths lesson in the bit of summer term left after O levels. There was some lesson time to fill with no real purpose to doing Proper Stuff. So the teacher borrowed a massive terminal and acoustic coupler from Manchester University, brought them in, and dumped them on the desk to demonstrate to us. He set out to make a dial-up connection. Absolutely Nothing Happened ::-)

After university, my first job involved abstracting and indexing technical papers, including those that were developing the seven-layer OSI model that was to underpin the Internet. Then I moved on to demonstrating the resulting database, initially over packet-switched dial-up networks such as Telenet and Tymnet. Typically we used a Texas Instruments teletype terminal with thermal printing. Although on one occasion I was using a large monitor, which caught fire in mid-demonstration. We were already using email on various suppliers' closed networks at this point, to communicate with customers who bought our services through those suppliers.

We could send messages externally to the system to a few places that could accept X.400 address formats, but basically we had two or three closed email systems that allowed us to message users of those systems only. Oh, and then we got CompuServe, which was another closed system that, I think, also did some X.400.

So when, in 1994, the Internet became available to us non-academics, it truly was an Inter-net, interconnecting the email and other services that we were already using. Initially, we launched a gopher, although that was quickly supplanted by our first Web site.

At which point, we start getting into terms that people now might start recognising, so I'll stop...

Re: items of yore
« Reply #23 on: 05 August, 2021, 10:16:59 pm »
Last week my daughter came back from a 4th birthday party with a Pop-a-point pencil. I don't think I've seen one since the 1980s.

Essentially someone in the '70s decided that the biggest problem with pencils, was the wood and the sharpening, so they decided it could all be fixed with more single use plastic, and little sharp stabby bits of lead (if you lost a piece of the plastic eg you dropped it changing the lead and it rolled away and fell down a hole etc, they then became useless). I was actually shocked that they are still available, and that a parent would put one in a party gift bag.

ian

  • camera nazi
Re: items of yore
« Reply #24 on: 05 August, 2021, 10:23:57 pm »
The library at the university I worked at had an issue – the architects not accounted for the weight of the books when they designed it (or for that matter, the weight of the building itself).

Doesn't every university have one of those? 

I think so. There's even a Snopes page about it.

Oh that's disappointing (it is indeed the Homer J Babbage library mentioned in that article) – thought there were also lots of rumours about the mafia and dodgy deals with contractors.

Of course, I lived there back in the day when you still had to go to that library to do stuff (though we did have several computers in the lab, just not one each).
Authoritarian Thought Leader, the Pol Pot of Powerpoint, the Stalin of Spreadsheets