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Once upon a time, flowcharts and coding sheets were the prime tools of a programmer. They formed (and still probably are) one of the primary usages of visualization. I recently stumbled on an old IBM manual from 1969 (yes that is 40 years ago) which describes in detail how to create such flowcharts. The accompanying plastic X20-8020 flowcharts templates really do provoke some childhood memories, when I liked their springiness, but often wondered what they were good for.

What is your personal early childhood visualization memory?

For more computing nostalgia, visit the Historic Documents in Computer Science webpage, which includes PDF versions of old manuals spanning computer languages (e.g. Fortran, Algol60, Pascal, ...), the Ethernet patent, John von Neumann's First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC, and much more.




My first childhood visualization memory was definitely the big box of Crayola's with the sharpener on the box. But my first memory of a visualization tool (not counting the sharpener, of course) was Spirograph.

Ooh! Pretty swirls. o_O

Sat 16 May 2009 at 2:39 AM


Thanks for the nostalgic post. I had one of these, though it was green, and I only used part of it for its straight edge.

I once had a circular hexadecimal slide rule. It was large enought that I could set the base address with the cursor, and then convert the absolute addresses found in core dumps into the relative addresses given in assembler/compiler output.

Sigh, those were the days. For some of my recent writing about them, see my recent post "On Programming: Moore's Law and Software."

PS: I spent most of 1969 working part-time at IBM's NYSC office on East 62nd, near York Avenue.

Tue 19 May 2009 at 11:54 AM

I also only saw green ones. And I think they were all Pickett. Rotring is german and makes pens in my experience.

I had (still have, actually) lots of templates, and used them with the tech pens I spent my hard earned money on when I was 14, and haven't touched in 15 years.

My earliest specific recollection of charting and viz was when I had a neighbor come in and present to the class in grade school. He had been a lead engineer on the KCI (MCI) airport project (which was brilliant before security schemes made it tragic) and shared a lot of the design philosophy; I wish I had snagged his presentation.

He gave everyone in the class templates this size, I think flow charting ones, presumably because they were useless to him. Or maybe because they were dropped in a sewer. I let mine air out for a week and still ended up throwing it away. Not sure how that happened.

Wed 20 May 2009 at 6:03 AM
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