What did computers without screens do?

Dave G4UGM dave.g4ugm at gmail.com
Mon Dec 14 16:48:01 CST 2015

> -----Original Message-----
> From: cctalk [mailto:cctalk-bounces at classiccmp.org] On Behalf Of Paul
> Koning
> Sent: 14 December 2015 17:55
> To: General Discussion: On-Topic and Off-Topic Posts
> <cctalk at classiccmp.org>
> Subject: Re: What did computers without screens do?
> On Sat, Dec 12, 2015, Mike wrote:
> > The one question I do have for the older gentlemen on here is what in
> world did the computers without a screen to look at do? Now I know about
> the tape, cassette tape's and even the paper with the hole punches in them
> but what kind of applications were they use for? Mathematics or? ? ?
Computers without screens were used for almost everything that you use
computers with screens for. 
They are still that "Universal Machine" envisaged by Turing...

Almost all had some kind of console that could be used for playing games,
when not used for operating the computer.
The experimental MU5 machine at Manchester University used to play tunes
when not doing other work. The console switches selected the tune. 
When it was changed MU5 would compose a suitable short piece of music to
provide a graceful change...

A lot of the real work was accounting. My first computing job was at an
insurance company. At least in the UK most Insurance Companies had converted
to Punch Card systems in the 1940's so moving their systems to computers was
easy. At first they just used card files to record the basic policy details,
and last premium paid. Then they moved to tape files.

The tapes contained details of each policy, for a "Life" policy it would
record the Name, Date of Birth, Premium, Payment Frequency, Policy Type, Sum
Assured etc. The main update program would have as inputs the current file
and a file of updates. The updates might be "premium paid", "add new policy"
, "Lapse a policy", "Pay the sum assured" etc. The outputs would be a new
updated master file, a journal of changes and perhaps letters or checks.

This basic three file update was used for insurance policies, stock control,
financial account of other types (e.g. stock and shares trading), pensions
mortgages, payroll.

There were other programs that ran to work out what funds we needed to pay
the policies, these were called "valuations"....

... then I went to work at a Scientific establishment. Here we ran tidal
prediction programs, ocean models, and did media conversion to convert data
from under-sea data loggers to normal 9-track tape. Here we also had a
Calcomp plotter that was driven from tape and used to print graphs of the
height of the tide.

.;.. and of course the most important job of all, printing line printer
pictures. So Christmas Trees, Father Christmas, Sleighs and Reindeer, Best
wishes for Birthdays, Weddings and retirements....

P.S. I noted one Christmas at Newcastle University after the file space had
been cleaned up and the Christmas Prints deleted there was a note in the
data prep area which read:-

"Due to a lack of Reindeer Santa will not be directing an output stream down
Roger's (The ops manager) chimney"

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