I took my first computer programming classes during my senior year at Temple University. Temple had an IBM 1401 computer with 4K of memory — all of 4,096 characters. Introduced by IBM in 1959, the 1401 was intended to replace “unit record equipment” that processed data stored on punched cards. It’s the Model T Ford of computers because it was mass produced, and because of the number leased or sold; more than 12,000 were built, and many were leased or resold even after they were replaced by newer technology. I did not receive course credits for the classes; they were taught in the evening by an IBM Systems Engineer. In those days, if a college or university offered computer science courses, they were taught in the engineering department.

I went to work for IBM right after college. The IBM facility in Kingston, N.Y., where I worked had been built to hold just four systems for NORAD, the joint U.S.-Canadian North American Air Defense Command. By the time I arrived in 1965, the building was used to assemble the largest IBM System/360 computers, introduced the year before. There were rows of them, each one many times more powerful than NORAD’s computers.

Mark Berg is chairman of the Citizens Advisory Council of the Adams County Office for Aging, and a member of the Pennsylvania Council on Aging. His email address is

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