Ye Olde Computer Book

Computers their history and how they work

Computers: Their History and How They Work

This super current title was recently weeded from a public library youth nonfiction collection. How recently? How about autumn, 2013? I kept thinking certainly no other public or school libraries still have this in the collection. Well, I was wrong. WorldCat shows a bunch of libraries with holdings.

Please don’t give me the “but it’s historical” speech. An elementary school library is not the place for this little gem from the 1960s. I am not sure where this one would go, but I know its is not a current technology collection in a public library or school library.


Punch Cards

an advanced computer

magnetic tape


  1. There’s a part of me that sees value in keeping it in an elementary school library. Of course, that’s the part of me that reads fanfic and gets tired of seeing iPods show up in pre-2001 settings.

  2. Ah, memories! In the summer of 1973, I worked as a “tape librarian” for AT&T. There was a giant room full of refrigerator-sized computers, kept at a chilly 65 degrees. I had to file or retrieve requested tape reels. Must have been phone call data–eat your heart out, Edward Snowden! The reels got stashed on the shelves in a jumbleā€¦until I couldn’t stand it and labelled the shelves. Sometimes I was pulled out for high-tech tasks, like keypunching data cards (whoooo!). What I really loved was fixing the punch-card sorter. The machine would pack the cards tight so they wouldn’t jam in the computers. They did tend to jam in the sorter! Pulling the accordioned cards out of the hot core of the machine was a man’s job. But after watching the man a couple of times, I could do it. Little did I know I was on the road to library karma.

  3. I remember this book! I’m such an old engineer. Should I be weeded? I remembered being geeked (although that wasn’t a word back then) that they showed women working on the computers.

  4. I’ve always wondered what happened to all the key punch operators. I never, ever talk to anyone who says, “Oh yes, I used to be a key punch operator.” But back in the day, nearly everybody I knew was a key punch operator!

    1. Well, I can’t say that everyone I knew was one, but I did have a summer job in 1968 as a keypunch operator. Actually, my job was to split, separate, fold, stuff and file the invoices, but it only took me till lunchtime, so I taught myself to keypunch just to have something to do in the afternoons (because they wouldn’t have let me read…). I was actually pretty good at it — perhaps slower than some of the operators who did it for a living, but more accurate, so that after our respective batches were verified by someone else, my stack would be the same size as theirs. Then at the end of the day I would take the box of verified cards over to where the computer was, with its refrigerator-sized tape things.

  5. What strikes me about the earliest computers, the ENIAC and UNIVAC, is the fact that they don’t even remotely resemble modern laptops and computers.

    1. And I am REALLY a dinosaur, I guess — when I was in high school, we went to see The Computer in Worcester. It was at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and it was a big room full of boring drab file-cabinet-looking things — nowhere near as glamorous as the illustration here LOL. I guess the ones shown here are more modern.

  6. My mother in another life was an industrial chemist who used both paper tape and card punch computing. Some years ago at a science fiction convention I found at an art auction computer punch cards with dinosaurs painted on them. They hang in her house today.

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