My interest in computers goes back to the mid 60’s when I was stationed at NATTC GLYNCO, GA. A USQ20A was installed as the heart of the NTDS for shipboard tactical operations that were being taught. Later when I attended TRADEVMAN B School (Advanced Electronics) at NATTC Millington, (Memphis) TN computers were beung taught as they were being incorporated into all of the avionics control systems, weapons control and even aircraft (fly-by-wire) control.
My first COMPUTER school was at Mare Island, Vallejo, CA. The Navy had established the Data Systems (DS) school. As a member of a very special group of TDs we attended the DS(A) school and learned basic programming, using machine language, with punch cards and paper tape input. The session was 8-10 weeks in duration. What a experience!! (Another story for later)
From Vallejo I was transferred to NAAS Whiting Field, Milton, FL to instruct Navy pilots in Basic Air Navigation and Radio Procedures. Whiting was transitioning from the LINK (Blue Box) Simulator to a digital trainer, the 2B21.
The heart of the 2B21 was a 8-bit computer with 128K of magnetic core memory, paper tape and keyboard input (IBM SelectWriter)
Approximately 2 years later I returned to Mare Island, Vallejo, CA to attend the maintenance section of the DS(B) school. The core of the school was based around the USQ20(A,B) a UNIVAC, the heart and brain of the Navy’s NTDS (Navy Tactical Data System). NTDS provides a linkup with all forces when conducting exercises or when in combat.
The USQ20 was an 16-bit machine with extended addressing that allowed more memory. Again memory was temporary, stored in magnetic cores. Input was by paper or mylar tape and a keyboard. The cabinet was as large as a double side freezer and built like a battleship to withstand the beating the equipment took at sea.
The circuit cards in the USQ20 were about 2" x 3" and contained one or two binary flipflops. There were trays of these circuit cards, each card being dedicated to a certain function.
The next computer I worked on was the 8088. It started to appear in every system upgrade installed.
Now I have a PC with a Pentium III, 450meghertz chip that can do more calculations and operations than the USQ20 could.
The first external storage devices after cards and tape was a 64K floppy disc about the size of the 45's used for music. It was enclosed in a thick paper cover. Later it went to a 128K format before being replaced with the smaller 3 1/2 " 256K floppy which really is a hard plastic cover with a thin film disc inside that spins like a hard disc.
This evolved into the hi-density 1.44M floppy, then the CD and now the "Flash" memory or jump drive. and the SD memory cards that have capacities of 8G and better.
What will be next?
Enough history and story telling. The sites listed below are some of my favorites: