Bill Ponder

1. When was the first time you touched a computer and what kind of computer was it?
My first encounter with a computer was in an Introduction to Computers class at Kent State University in 1967. I didn’t actually get to touch it. Instead I had to write Fortran programs on a coding sheet; use a keypunch machine to punch Hollerith cards, one per line of code; hand in the cards at the computer room where they were executed on an IBM 360; then picked up my cards and the error report that told me what I’d done wrong the next day; fix the errors and repeat.
The first time I actually touched a computer was when I acquired a Microdata REALITY(r) minicomputer, an innovative demand-paged, multiuser, virtual memory, time-sharing computer operating system based around a unique MultiValue database for a drug treatment and healthcare program I ran in 1976. The system had 24k of virtual memory and a 10 MB hard disk and tape backup and we couldn’t imagine how we would ever use a whole 10 Megabytes of disk space. It was the size of a small refrigerator and supported four user terminals. Languages were databasic, English(r) (an amazing function at the time that let you ask English queries like, “List all male clients younger than 18 who had heroin overdoses after midnight and before 8 am between January 1976 and July 1976.” and Proc that let you create and store complex queries including complex selections, subgroups, subtotals and formations of reports and/or displays. It was however, only monochromatic text. In addition to work I enjoyed playing the text-based Adventure game on the machine in my free time.

2. When was the first time you actually owned a computer and where/how did you get it?
The first computer I owned personally was an Atari(r) 400. It connected to a TV, a matrix printer and used cartridges to perform a variety of tasks including programming in Basic, font creation, word processing and playing a variety of games.
3. What was the first job that you had which required you to use a computer? Executive Director of Terros, a drug crisis intervention and treatment agency and free clinic. That morphed into a business analyst position and eventually a manager of business software development.

4. When was the first time you got online and how did you? -Was it a BBS, AOL, Netscape etc.?
AOL (You’ve got mail!). Can’t say exactly when but as soon as I could find a less restricted environment, using Netscape I think, I moved to it but I don’t really remember much of the blur after that. Things advanced pretty fast.

5. When was the first time that your job required you to have internet access?
Northrop Corporation (now Northrop Grumman) in the ‘80s. We had one of the first PCs with two floppy disk drives, but only one for a while as we figured out what to do with it. As I remember it had 16 or 32k of memory – not sure which. As things progressed we got many more and better ones over time including hard disks and more memory. I remember when Bill Gates said, “I can’t imagine anyone needing more than 640 k!” Expanded into other brands – mostly HPs since we were a mostly Big Blue (IBM) and HP shop with UNIX machines scattered around for the scientific work. I also remember when a couple of engineering labs got Xerox Stars, the first commercial machines that used a GUI desktop approach with a mouse. I thought it was magic and knew I needed one. Unfortunately it was WAY outside my price range but when Steve Jobs demonstrated the Lisa (named after his daughter) it was getting closer. Finally when he demonstrated the Macintosh classic at COMDEX, I think that was in Las Vegas, we got two at the office and I was in love. It never gained acceptance at my office but my wife had an advertising agency and she bought several including one for at home. Since then I was forced to be a PC person a

6. What did you not see coming (in the computer/internet industry)? Facebook and the expansion of social apps was a surprise but the complete interconnection of business, industry, banking, even machine controls and infrastructure. Even if I had imagined all that I never would have expected the Russian government (aka Putin) to use the internet to attack our electoral system using hacked emails strategically released and social media to identify willing dupes and then use that medium to influence their votes with targeted “fake news.” Bank robbery I could imagine, even perhaps infrastructure hacking but election hacking? I guess I just think too small.
**Sorry to be so long but I’m old 

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David Kha

1. Sometime in the early 80’s, my mom brought home an Osborne 1. It ran CP/M and had a tiny-tiny display with a large floppy drive to the left and right of the screen. The main thing I did with it was learn and use WordStar, with friendly commands like to save, control K (as in blocK) D (as in save?). If you were writing a full line of text, the tiny screen really couldn’t display a whole line, so you’d have to hold the control key down and hit an arrow to move the screen so you could see where your cursor was and then continue typing. I don’t think we had a printer for a long time, so everything was trapped on those 5.25″ disks. It also had GWBASIC, so once I learned how to use that, I could write crappy adventure games and then there were games to play.

2. The first computer I ever owned that I could call my own was a Macintosh SE. In 1989 I picked it up at a weird electronics shop in New York and it got me through the end of high school and the beginning of college. I covered it in PEZ wrappers.

3. I used to transcribe for a woman who has a neurological disorder during high school. I would go to her house and she would dictate the story she was writing to me and I would type it up on a word procesor (probably Word Perfect). It paid better than a selling popcorn and peanuts at the football games and was a lot less work.

4. My first exposure to being online was in the mid 80’s calling up local BBS’s from an Apple //e. We started with a 300 baud modem, then upgraded to 1200 baud. At that point one of the local BBS’s was called The Liverpool Express, and the owner had wanted to get rid of it, so my dad decided he would take it over, despite having zero experience with programming or having his phone line tied up forever. We ran that thing in off hours and people would call in and use the BBS. There was a “chat the Sysop” option, and I would often answer them and chat with random people in the city. Over the years we had a dedicated phone line, bought a massave, shoebox-sized 1MB hard drive and loaded the whole system onto a single drive.

5. AOL was the first job where I really the first job where I needed proper internet access. You know the rest.

6. Nearly everything blindsided me about computers. I didn’t think a GUI was a good idea, command line was what I was used to and I saw no reason to make me move a mouse around. I was on Compuserve, GEnie and Apple Link and they seemed like giant BBSes, but I never thought that would go mainstream. I was on Six Degrees of Separation (an old social media site) and loved the idea, but with only two friends on it, I figured social media would never catch on because nobody else was on the internet and why would you just want to message those other two people? I did think the future of music was digital and that instead of buying stereo components, you’d buy software to play your music on. No more buying fancy graphic equalizers, just download that component to your computer and you had a brand new piece of hardware. I was kind of right.

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