Boy Scouts Get a Computer Badge!

Boy Scouts coverComputers
Boy Scouts of America

Submitter: I removed this book from the shelves of my public library when I did a massive overhaul of the collection last year, soon after I was hired.  I saved a few of the most outdated and/or offensive titles under my desk.  This is one of them.  At the time of weeding, this book was nearly 50 years old. A technology book. 50 YEARS OUT OF DATE.  A TECHNOLOGY BOOK.

Holly: Do librarians hold on to things like this because they think, “Oh, it’s cute! People like nostalgia!” or because they think it has some sort of historical value – or are they just lazy and haven’t weeded in decades? It is cute and people do like nostalgia, and it does have historic value (and yes, they are often just lazy)…but those are the reasons why it belongs in a museum or archive, not in the regular shelves at the public library. My favorite line (last page included below) is about how if your “dad” uses his credit card to buy gasoline, a computer makes that payment happen. How does it work when mom pays at the pump? Apparently in 1968, she didn’t.

Computers in your life

key punch operator

computers in education

computers for airline reservations


    1. If you study the captions you’ll find that the women are a keypunch operator–the 1960’s-70’s version of the typing pool–and an airline reservations clerk. I wonder if the book ever breaks it to boys that if they want to work with computers, they will have to learn to type.

  1. Women couldn’t get credit by themselves, of course. If she was married and her husband allowed it, she could use his. Thankfully, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 happened.

    1. I was going to say the same thing. ANF not just credit cards. My library card too…and I worked there.

    2. And nobody paid at the pump in 1968. You went inside the gas station after the attendant filled your tank.

  2. Gosh, I feel old!

    I can remember using a keypunch machine like that to create card decks for loading FORTRAN programs into my high school’s IBM 1130 minicomputer, around 1969. The following picture gives you some idea of the size of a basic 1130 installation:

    From left to right are: a 1442 card read-punch; an 1131 CPU with a 2315 disk cartridge being loaded; and an 1132 line printer. Not shown is the 029 keypunch machine; typically you would have at least one of these around.

    By my rough calculations, the smartphone in my pocket has a processor which runs at least 3000 times faster, has at least 60000 times as much memory, and at least 16000 times as much storage.

    Computers have certainly changed over fifty years!

    1. We had a computer system in our office with 70’s/80’s style “washing machine” disk drives. Two rows of them, about 14 in all IIRC. Each had a stack of platters. The total amount of storage was about 13GB. My smart phone has 32GB. The whole system took up most of a large room. Its descendant today takes up a single server rack.

    2. I taught myself to keypunch in 1968 but the machines there (at my summer job, where I finished my own work by lunchtime and was usually on my own after that; couldn’t leave because I wouldn’t get paid, so I kept busy in other ways) were not spiffy and streamlined like that one! They were much larger and clunkier. …I was a good keypuncher, too — more accurate than most of the young women who had actually learned it in school. Ah well, file that away with all the other useless skills I picked up…

    1. My grand mother had a punch card credit card like that one, also for paying for gas. Interestingly, the number of digits on the card is only 10 instead of the current 16.

    2. Totally real. The credit slip was run through a slide machine with the card, and the thicker piece of paper in the 3 or 4 ply credit slip was the one that went to the company to be read on the keypunch readers.

  3. Well, seeing as how married women couldn’t get credit cards in their own names until 1974 (thank you, Bella Abzug!), your last sentence would be correct. The card would have read “Mrs. Husbandsname,” and the computer would have sent the bill to him, and he would have been responsible to pay it.

    Heck, in 1983, when I found myself suddenly single, I also found myself without credit because our excellent credit rating — excellent due to my faithful payment of my student loans before we married — stayed with my husband.

    But what’s particularly interesting about this book are the pictures. The only people actually using computers are women.

  4. Wow. Just the mention of that game shows how this book is. And when I was a kid, you *weren’t* supposed to step on cracks because you’d break your mother’s back. I didn’t believe that, but it was fun to step or jump over cracks anyway. 🙂

  5. Acording to the wiki, the Computers merit badge first became available in 1967, just a year before this guide was published. It was discontinued at the end of 2014 in favor of a Digital Technology badge.

    1. That’s not a robotic arm. It’s a person with dark skin and dark hair, wearing a headset and a light shirt.

Comments are closed.