For What Its Worth

Computing stories, The Gifts

Gift #1
In the 1950-60s era a private University with a budding computer science department was given a gift of a top of the line computer.   This was the ultimate in tube based computer technology.  The budding computer college fell all over themselves getting approval for a Quonset hut and power lines.   What the University didn't realize was this was not such a great gift.  The latest transistor based computers had just come out.  The business donating the system had sent the new computer to the university without hooking it up.  A great tax break and they installed a less power hungry transistor system.

For a year the University ran and maintained the computer, then the yearly review showed one big problem.  The power and maintenance bill was a significant part of the Universities expense for the year.   The University fathers took no time in literally pulling the plug.   Being the frugal types they were, the machine was torn down for parts.  About a centuries worth of parts for the electronics labs.  I went there in the Mid 1970s and it was obvious where the resisters, capacitors and tubes we used had come from.   When gold took its meteoric climb in the 70's you could see forklifts hauling pallets of connectors out to be melted down to reclaim the gold and silver. 

Did they ever recover the cost?  Probably not, but they gained wisdom. Every gift to the University is still well evaluated for usefulness.

Gift #2
In the budding days of the CAD systems my college was given a CAD system from what we will call Company A   I think it had a serial #3 or similar.   It was wonderful, but kind of slow and you spent most of your lab time waiting for the commands to finish.   One day a new regional sales rep for the CAD company came in to see how we were doing.  She left foaming at the mouth.  Not because of us, but because of what her company had done. 

You see as people graduated and went to work for new companies what do you think there reaction was when they saw new CAD system B and remembered their experience with CAD system A in school. That's right wow CAD B is great!!!!

A couple of weeks later we received a shipment from CAD company A, a complete brand new, up to date system with 5 seats.  WOW.  It was great.  It wasn't long before CAD company B and C and D etc. were pounding on the colleges door also. 

Happy Computing, VHubbard.  Transcribe June 2009

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