Photo (Page updated: 2015-Jul-26)

John Harris

John Harris


IEEE London Section

IEEE Hamilton Section

Telephone Set Development:
Beginning of Caller ID Video My boss didn't follow the script so I look like an idiot trying to follow his lead, but it gives an idea of what life was like in the 1980's when Ma Bell ruled.
Telephone Set Development Presentation to Hamilton Section 2015-Jun-10

First year Engineering at university was general and I had still been deciding between Mechanical and Electrical Engineering. My first memory of the IEEE was joining the Student Branch as a second year student. Back in the late 60's, we put a man on the moon using slide rules and a computer was still a strange and expensive device kept in a locked air-conditined room. Although we weren't supposed to learn anything about them until third year, the third year students were holding lessons for the class behind them. Then came the power and prestige available through a professional organization: it was arranged for we second year IEEE members to get 10 seconds of computer time per month for the rest of the academic year.

It may not sound like much in today's terms, but students registered in a computer course only got 30 seconds of CPU time on the IBM 7040 mainframe computer to do all their assignments. Things were much more efficient in those days. Programmes were flow charted and checked for logic before the first line of code was written in longhand and Hollerith punch cards were typed. Then the cards were run through a machine, called an interpreter, which gave a printout of what was on the cards so they could be checked for formatting and other errors. Only when you were sure that the programme was right did you place your deck of cards in the job submission box to be run overnight. In the morning you came back to review the mail slots and find your output. Hopefully, you had used a few milliseconds of CPU time and got some useful results. All too often, your submission had a tiny syntax error and been kicked out by the compiler even before it got to the computer's CPU. The other disaster was to blow a 2 second maximum run time time allotment on an endless loop, one learned to be real careful checking branch conditions in the flowchart next time.

Computer's were often thought of as being smart in those days. I learned and have told students over the years that they just do what they are told. I often use a personal anecdote to drive home the point. I had been visiting my mother-in-law and heard her speak to my son, "Would you please go to the family room and ask your father if he would like a cup of coffe?" He comes into the room where I was watching TV and asked, "Dad, gramma wants to know if you would like a cup of coffee." My response, "Yes, please". At that point, he sat down and started to watch TV. He had done what was asked... nobody said he had to take the answer back!