Front panel switches - what did they do?

Swift Griggs swiftgriggs at
Tue May 24 10:38:24 CDT 2016

Since I'm an igmo about most machines before the mid-eighties (and still 
fuzzy even on most of those), I'm curious about all these older machines 
with front panel buttons and switches. What all did they do? You could 
actually program them using the front panel right? Some of them 
bootstrapped this way, too? What kind of "language" was used for that 
(ie.. what were the basic mechanics)? Did the buttons ever change color? 
Were you considered a badass if you had switch flipping all memorized down 
to an art? Were they mainly multi-position toggle switches or on/off 

They just seem to be a lot more important on older mainframes and minis. 
Also, what was the main reason for the blinkenlights? Was it to show 
system load or specific system states?

Just curious. I'm learning a ton from reading these threads on older 
machines, but there is so much I don't know. 


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