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.