Many people I know can not remember a time without computers. Even me, and I'm in my 60's. But, in my youth, I saw computers only during the reporting of national elections (it was a big deal), but there were also the mysterious "do not bend, spindle or mutilate" punch cards that were enclosed with our phone bills.
Computers were huge, incredibly expensive, and owned only by universities, the military, and corporations, as far as I know. Unlike, say, typewriters. Remember them?
There is still a typewriter (another moment of nostalgia, shall we?) in a room near where our department at work is located. I wonder if it is the last one the company I work for owns. Back in 2011, finding it lead to a discussion with other baby boomers (in the presence of a co-worker in his 20's) about manual typewriters, carbon paper, those erasers with a brush on the end we used to erase errors on carbon paper, and Liquid Paper (which still exists). Then, we got on the subject of long distance phone service and how expensive it was. (I think he was a little puzzled by the concept of "long distance".)
I got to thinking about my son, who is just slightly younger than this former co-worker. An innocent question my son asked in his teens led to this post, which I've modified slightly. Sometimes I think his generation and mine were born on different planets.
I remember other computer things, too: mainframe computers, keypunch machines (I used them in college, imagine that!), writing simple programs (I took a semester of both Fortran and Cobol, didn't pursue programming, but I enjoyed what I did do in college courses), monitors with a green and white screen. I was even on CompuServe for a while in the late 90's. Strangely, I never participated in the pre-Internet online world, and sometimes I wonder why.
Who ever would have thought....
Now, my post from 2009:
So How Did The Baby Boomers Get online in 1958?
My son knows about what the computers of the 1950's looked like. People of my generation remember the UNIVAC. My son has studied it.
Do you remember the famous "hoax" picture of the 1954 RAND prototype of the first home computer? Maybe that was what son was thinking about when he asked his question.
One evening he asked me "how did you get online when you were growing up? Did you have one of those huge computers in your bedroom?" I thought he was kidding me.
Although he intellectually knew there was no "internet" as he knows it back in the 1950's or 1960's, he had to believe that there was something out there that I used, something very clunky, using technology full of vacuum tubes.
He couldn't believe I grew up in an era without home computers.
Interestingly, son is also interested in "old technology". For example, he is looking for a good Betamax player (and has several Betamax tapes). He just couldn't make that intellectual leap of "no computer, no Internet".
Let's think about this a minute. I bought my first home computer (a bit later than other people, I admit) in late 1996 and went online in January of 1997. So my son was in kindergarten at the time. That computer connected through a 14,400 baud modem, and used Mosaic as its browser. (How dated can you be?)
From his viewpoint, there was a computer in his life "forever".
This leads to another question. When did the Internet start? The answer is complicated. This link has quite the discussion and the answer is..."it depends".
But no, we didn't have either the Internet or home computers in 1958. Just typewriters, carbon paper and long distance.