I can remember spending time as a kid with my dad at work. He was the “Manager of Information Systems” (what we now call an IT guy) for an industrial construction company. The server room was loud, had a raised floor, a towering multi-head line printer that shook the room, and a massive IBM mainframe. There were dumb terminals built into the tabletops that ran the perimeter of the room and a punch card machine in a small separate room that overlooked the whole thing.
And there were people. Quite a few people doing data entry and managing the system and changing the reel-to-reel tapes. It definitely had the look of a pretty significant operation.
Over time, I saw that mainframe supplemented and then replaced by PC servers. The data entry people were replaced with software and automation. Before you knew it, remote construction sites needed modem-based access into the systems at the headquarters.
But this was a midsize company, and then, budgets were limited – just as they are now. Remote access was provided via programs like PC Anywhere coupled with consumer-type BBS software. Integration and migration of data between systems was done with homespun scripts backed by hours of me watching dad on the couch, debugging source code printed on green-lined paper. Continue reading