"POET" is another acronym I made up, like "COBOL", "CODASYL", and some
others not suitable for family reading. I had to have some way of
explaining several scenarios where people refused to use new and better
technology. It covers laziness, mental blocks, resistance to newness,
I have given elsewhere the example of the genesis of the
More will be accumulated here, and readers with other good examples are
invited to submit them. To begin:
Persistence of the IBM 604 Electronic Calculator
I had used mechanical calculators as early as 1941, during World War II.
but my first introduction to computers programmed by other than your
head and hands was at the RAND Corporation in the Spring of 1949.
We progressed greatly from the 5-additions-per-second mechanical IBM 601
when they brought us the first IBM 604 (electronic) to be delivered to a
customer. I'll never forget it, for it was with the aid of this machine
that I discovered the binary system (NO - of course they didn't teach it
in school in those days).
I was working on the graveyard shift, without a supervisor, which gave
me a little latitude. I opened up the side racks, and saw some lights.
I punched a card in the 1-position, fed it in, and noticed another little
light come on. A 2-punch lit the one below that. A 3-punch lit
both of them! You can't imagine the effect this had on me, all alone.
Of course a 4-punch turned them both off, and lit the light below.
That first 604 had only 20 program steps, in a wireable plugboard. The
next 604 came with 60 steps, and that's the one I was fixing to take an
8-digit square root of an 8-digit number when a visitor came in about
8 A.M. and asked what I was doing. And a famous asker he was -- Dr.
John von Neumann, credited pretty much with the invention of stored
programming, until we discovered after the war that Germany's Konrad
Zuse had beaten him to it! Note that this was in 1950.
Then in 1968 my new boss Logan Cowles moved to the General Electric
plant at Bridgeport, CT. I was forced to go along to teach him the
computer business. Facilities were scarce, and I had occasion to use
punch card lists again. Inquiries led me to the tab room of the Wire
and Cable Department. While there I noted with astonishment an old IBM
604 chunking away. I said to the manager "My God, man, that machine is
18 years old!" But he replied "No it isn't, we just got it last year"!
Send me your experiences with the POET Effect. We'll publish,
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