Dyspeptic archaeologists [was RE: Xerox Alto on ebay (not mine!)]

Al Kossow aek at bitsavers.org
Mon Oct 18 20:01:51 CDT 2010


On 10/18/10 4:38 PM, William Donzelli wrote:
> Or better yet, how about all those financial programs
> written in RPG or COBOL? Yes, their may be some super cool thing some
> bored coder did way before it was "invented", but I bet you will have
> to go through a whole lot of...crap...to find that gem.
>

The reason for saving RPG and COBOL isn't to look for clever things, it
is to preserve how day to day business was performed using the computing
equipment of the time. This is the same reason to preserve system design
and procedure manuals for end-user applications.

This stuff is even more difficult to find than manufacturer-supplied software!

I have spent the past few months collecting EAM and EDP books and conference
proceedings from the 50's -> 70's, because CHM had almost nothing on case
studies and descriptions of business processes (payroll, inventory, and
accounts payable/receivable, etc.) from the punched-card era forward.

It's hard to write an overview of software in the 20th century for docents
without basic reference material on how non-scientific computing was done.




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