The computers in my life

The first Dutch high school with a computer

In December 1972 my school got it’s first computer. The school was The Huygens Lyceum in Voorburg, The Netherlands. The computer was a Digital PDP 8E. The photo above was published in the local newspaper, with the title “The first Dutch high school with a computer”. Behind the keyboard the 16 years old Tom Haak (long hair was the fashion) getting instructions from Huub (Mr. in those days) Bodelier, the physics teacher who had started the project. You could not do a lot with this computer, I can only remember it took us a long time to punch a program that could add 1+1+1+1 and so on. Great fun, and in another story this could have been the start of my brilliant career in computer sciences. Alas.

Punching cards

After Voorburg my next stop was Groningen University. No computer science, but psychology. Experimental Psychology, and statistics was an important part of the program. No PC’s and initially also no terminals. When you wanted to make calculations, you had to go

to the Data Centre (unfortunately located in a safe place far outside town), and the input was done via punch cards. Drama. We had to spend days at the Data Centre. Punch our cards, give our job to a clerk at a desk and then wait until your job was finished. One typing error and you had to go through the process again. I wrote my Master thesis on a Olympia typewriter, correcting the mistakes with Tippex.

The Philips P-2000C

My first job was at Philips, and in those days Philips produced computers. Their first “portable” computer was the P-2000C (15 kg).

As employee you got a discount, and I was able to buy my first PC, with a daisy wheel printer, for around EUR 1,000. No hard disk, two floppy drives of each 600 Kb, if I remember well. Operating system was CP/M. My wife typed her PhD thesis on this machine. Main irritation factor: when printing (one letter at a time) you would get now and then a random “L” printed; the only way around this was to type a dot on the location where the L appeared, and then later Tippex this away.

At KPMG Netherlands, where I started working in 1994, they had Apples.

The were able to sustain this for a couple of years, but as all the clients moved to Windows KPMG had to switch as well. Great machines, I still have one stored somewhere.

The HP Jornada

At Aon I was allowed to order my first palm top. The choice was a HP Jornada, running on Windows CE.

This was a disaster. Many times on airports, when I opened the Jornada to collect my mail and send some messages, the screen would say “Welcome as a new user of this beautiful HP Jornada”, and all my data and settings were gone. The diary would always go to October 24, 1948. No way to change this. The Jornada did not last long. After the Jornada many PDA’s followed. Palms, other HP’s and today the iPhone.


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