IT Employment

What tech do you miss most?

Talk to an older person long enough and you're sure to hear how good the old days were. Even in technology, there are days when you miss the old days.

It seems almost like sacrilege for IT pros to speculate fondly on old technology. After all, it's your natural instinct to explore new frontiers. But if you're really honest, aren't there some old aspects of tech that you miss? That made life a little easier?

For example, some people miss wired communications. There were faster, cheaper, and you didn't sometimes have to dangle your head out a window to avoid interference when you made a phone call. But we gave up clarity for convenience.

Convenience also forced us to give us some of the speed of networking we had with Ethernet.

Some people miss the days of simpler coding and debugging. Others miss the broad usage and commonality of Cobol.

So what technology do you miss most?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

111 comments
TobiF
TobiF

This was back in 1981. The first computer I did programming on was a Swedish computer based on Zilog Z80. It had a fashionable label stuck on the top: The memory was expanded from the standard 40 kb to 52 kb! I even compiled some machine code for that computer manually.

Ken.Mackenzie
Ken.Mackenzie

Valves (aka vacuum tubes). In the days before transistors and chips, valves used to both warm the room and (in the case of my homemade hi-fi amplifier with twin 807 valves for push-pull output) they provided useful light in the evenings as well.

lburt
lburt

When patches and updates where hard to come by and you had to download an updated driver over a modem connection and it might take a half-hour before it completed you could really think out your problem. It wasn't expected that we would have the exact answer a customer needed at the moment a question was asked. We had the time to think, to plan and to take a breath. I miss the luxury of time and contemplation over a problem. The immediacy of the internet is a wonderful thing but I wonder if the next generation of technology professionals will be different because of it.

howard_davis
howard_davis

10 PRINT "HELLO" 20 GOTO 10 RUN Writing BASIC on my TRS-80 that plugged into my TV.

yattwood
yattwood

I miss watching the lights on the IBM 360/370 - after a while, you could tell what it was doing... I miss being able to empty the bins of the keypunch machines and taking the chards to weddings to throw instead of rice.... I miss seeing the 'washing machine' type DASD, where you could build up your arm muscles lifting the platters out! I miss my old green plastic IBM Programming Template, the one with the symbols for Terminals, Communications, etc, and the IBM Yellow Card (definitely showing my age, here!)

mdtallon
mdtallon

Mostly I miss my abacus and my slide rule...

gerbilio
gerbilio

I thought the old G3 PowerBook (Lombard) and the clamshell iBook were the epitome of style. Each a real work of industrial art. Both way long in the tooth now, but everything since seems rather pedestrian by comparison as far as aesthetics goes.

seanferd
seanferd

VAX and the VAX VMS. Lotus 1-2-3. Harvard Graphics. True open-architecture IBM-PC clones without stupid proprietary junk and requirements. Let me expand how I want to, not how you want me to. Driver models that were valid for at least ten years.

Michael Jay
Michael Jay

Very cool, now all the components that were once spread across several large PCB's are now a single chip. Also aligning tape and disk drives, alas, those gone too, just replace and move on.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

If you knew what you were doing, you could configure these files to load drivers, TSRs, and everything else you needed to run the PC and peripherals, and still have 590kB free RAM, more than enough to fire up MS Flight Simulator.

Robert_Troyer
Robert_Troyer

I miss being able to double my storage capacity with a hole punch.

karlg
karlg

Comprehensive documentation. Well written examples. Printed manuals.

smithsh1138
smithsh1138

Wow, lots of nostalgia here... I think the most satisfying early moments were getting all the 1600 and 6250 bpi tape drives humming in the computer room, after feeding 3 massive stacks of cards into the always finicky card reader - as well as several smaller stacks, of course. Then it was time to go out for pizza, or play bump-'em chairs while the reels spun away. After that, the emormous greenbar paper printer ("JAWS") would break a carriage control tape and there would be a paper run, as the entire box of greenbar would fly out the back, all over the room. It was a riot! We even out big fangs on that printer... it would open automatically when it ran out of paper, and make this odious, huge roaring. Most amusing....!!

Slayer_
Slayer_

It was a very smart piece of technology, easily expandable. It itself had very low performance, but had a processor that could be expanded by each game as needed. To me this is closer to the future of computing, the tablet on its own has little power or capabilities, but plug it into a dock and CPU gets offloaded to the box, the video gets offloaded to a upgradable video system, storage gets combined with box storage, etc. The SNES made use of this, the system started in the 8 bit arena and survived well into the 3D 32bit arena. I miss the tech. I also miss the games, but that's another story.

Cerebral*Origami
Cerebral*Origami

I miss being able to simply copy one hard drive to another. Xcopy pull the drive plug it into your new machine, load drivers and you were done. Want to move that app and all its files to a different machine? Just copy the folder.

lburt
lburt

It isn't necessarily the old tech I miss the most. It is the simplicity of the times. Things were so much simpler before complex malware. Viruses were so easy to contain by comparison. DRM has ruined my relationship with software. It used to be as an IT person I could easily move a person and all their software from PC to PC without having to jump through stupid hoops at every turn. Can't find the original install software? Copy the program folder, maybe some INI files, a registry export and a few drivers and you were golden. Now everyone is being treated like a software pirate and license management is just a constant source of frustration.

russellwsmithii
russellwsmithii

Novell - bulletproof system and excellent drilldown capabilities and controls. Had a 486 board in an AS400 and never had to think about it...

Ed.Pilling
Ed.Pilling

I started in 78 and miss companies having open house and you could be hired right then. If you were laid off for any reason you could get a job in days.

denvertechpro
denvertechpro

Remember all tech's baby steps in coding efficiency, when steps were easy to predict. Like when storage management replaced poring over green-bar VTOC listings to find space for your DLBL assignment and calculated blocking factors. Now tech is growin' up and the leaps are unimaginable in complexity.

dukethepcdr
dukethepcdr

When I was in High School, I had a Brother Word Processor. It was like a souped up electric typewriter with a little built-in screen, 3.5 floppy disc drive, fold-down keyboard and best of all, a built-in printer/typewriter. The best part was being able to stick any document (especially job applications and scholarship forms) into it and type them up, then being able to save what you typed on a disk. That way, you could stick in another form later, bring up the saved info, change a few margins to fit the new form (if the blanks were in different spots) and print out another one. It was a bit big and clunky to be truly 'portable' (though it did have a handle), but in the days before laptops were affordable, it was really handy. Even in this day and age of the Internet, I still get job apps and scholarships and other forms that people want me to fill out on their form rather than printing it off from a website or just filling out and sending totally online. In those cases, I really miss my word processor. It could spit out typed up envelopes like no ones business too! Just type in and save the to and from addresses on the disk and you were typing up multiple copies of envelopes just as fast as you could stick the envelopes in the machine. The ink ribbon didn't cost an arm and a leg either (though it only did black printing).

AngloThai Solutions
AngloThai Solutions

I'm goiung to show my age now. I miss most is the lacvk of amazement now. Everything is just a rehash of the old with better bells and whistles - everything is expected and little is amazing. I miss the simplisity of the 16MB Armdale and 24MB IBM mainframes I started on. Playing omennemo on a green screen with the computer and being amazed the com puter could beat me (omennemo was a hidden game - very simple but unlike tic-tac-toe could be won and needed thinking about). Crashes probably meant you needed to pick up your lint free cloth and alcohol and clean the brown crap off the tape machine tracks. I also miss how unrelient on compilers we were then - with a trip to the punch girl, and one compile a day, your code had to be pretty much error free from the off - code walk throughs was a must back then. I miss the internet before joe public discovered Netscape. When email was via IBMMAIL and you needed to apply for an ID from IBM - I was amazed that I could send a nd receive mails in different companies. The internet was just a set of BBS linked together - and accessed through things like Prestel. Programmers were seen as scientists rather than nerds. Rare and mystical. We didn't fit in the old pyramid hierarchy (as we often were paid more than our bosses who understood zip of what we were doing and too scared to pee us off to try bullying). When programs were compiling or running overnight - we would sit and play silly games (magnetic tape bowling with the write ring as the jack ball etc) - real comraderie. I miss the fact that programmers were just that, system analysts, business analysts, project managers, testers, punch operators (always girls for some reason), data prep, VDU Ops, operators etc all were separate jobs. Programmers were the most mystical and never without a job. Most of all I miss the fact that quality was more important than price - cheap labour in IT was as illogical as cheap labour in an operating theatre. Now it seems cheapest off-shore bid get it no matter how substandard the output is. That's not really a tech though.

dkidd23
dkidd23

I miss the good old BBS days before the internet took off. I made a lot of friends through them. One of my friends had one called BBS on The Wall. He had taken a 286 apart, mounted it on a piece of plywood and hung it on the wall. When I was working at Microsoft Product Support in 94/95 I was on break and heard the strangest acronyms and geek language I had ever heard. I inquired and found out that they were using shortwave radio modems to run a BBS. My first intro to BBS was with an old Big Blue IBM dumb terminal and a Wildcat 1200 baud modem. I had to type in the command string for the modem by hand and be very careful not type certain key combinations in when on the BBS. Like +++ which would hang up the line. BBSing was lot of fun for me.

barrynovak5
barrynovak5

Microsoft Sidewinder game controller and Force Feedback Steering Wheel. Microsoft took both of those away from me when I upgraded from Windows 98 to XP, to discover there were NO Win XP drivers for them. Also, IBM CICS. I didn't realize til much later that it was good practice for learning web programming: dealing with statelessness, how to pass data between 'gets' and 'posts', a separate markup language for creating the UI.

baghtal
baghtal

I loved my HP 5540 PDA (http://www.compuvest.com/Desc.jsp?iid=1216519). The wireless on it was sketchy at best, but USB worked great, battery would last me a week. and it had a built-in Infrared light & receiver. I programmed it with all of my other remotes and turned it into my universal remote. They sell similar products that do this now but they are just as expensive as the PDA and don't have as many other goodies built in. (Note on this as well. A few months after I got it i did update the firmware... no more remote application from HP. Had to find a 3rd party to continue using it)

IT_Stargazer
IT_Stargazer

showing my age here... RDOS & DTOS on DG Nova mini's; Pascal *not* C/C++/C# & Java (although I love VB & don't miss spaghetti code); "Real men use DOS"; NetBEUI on my home network....

yattwood
yattwood

Ah...I miss the satisfaction of hearing the "thunk" of the Styrofoam as I lifted a brand new UNIX workstation out of its box, that "new workstation smell"...I miss taking apart ancient HP-UX 715 workstations, putting on my grounding strap, and blasting the motherboard with 'canned air' to remove the dust _elephants_ (there was some _major_ dust in them) before inserting the memory or some such thing. I miss the UNIX SysAdmins yelling at me, "Don't sit on the Cray!" "Well, then, why does it look like a seat???" I may be nuts - I miss coding BMS maps for CICS (IBMers: does CICS still say "CICS/VS Under Stress" on the console? - it's been 20 years since I've worked with CICS) I miss SQL*DBA in Oracle Version 6 (gasp!) Because I still support a system running Oracle 8.1.7.4, I still can use SVRMGRL (which has come in useful more than once when a sqlplus '/ as sysdba' hangs, and you need to get a database shutdown NOW)

Freetime000
Freetime000

Ok so kind of related. Computers and digital music have ruined the symbiosis between man and music. Hear a piano solo lately? Maybe some good acoustic guitar on the radio?

mdtallon
mdtallon

My buddies had 16k units, I sprung for the newer model, with a kickass 32k. Cload, csave and CGA graphics!

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

I know where you can get some 5081s, as well as coding sheets and print layout sheets.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

WordPerfect 5.1, DosShell database, all those little specialized apps for programming radios...

mdtallon
mdtallon

There was way to reorder loading to optimize memory usage, I don't remember if it was a command (maybe a switch?), a third party utility, or a technique... Anyone remember what I half remember?

seanferd
seanferd

"emulator"? Sure, I knew you could. ;)

dave
dave

You missed out setting the computer date with the switches on the master(only)console (IBM 1130). Programs had to run in a 4Mb address space.

gmichaels
gmichaels

I agree with you ... the days before the Internet took off and mainframes (and minicomputers) ruled was exciting -- it was a journey of discovery for me as I went from a TI-99/4A computer with a cassette storage device, on to CP/M computers, then to IBM OS/VS Mainframes, DEC/VAX minicomputers, and finally PCs -- from the original "PC" right up to the Pentium III running Windows 98/Me/2000. After that era, when the Internet took off in the late 90s, PCs became more complex to maintain, and mainframes were being supplanted by other technology, the fun, excitement and discovery of the older era turned in to a battle to keep up with ever-changing technology. One could take the time to master the older technology because it didn't evolve at the insane pace that is happening today. Every time I get certified in a technology, it's time to go back and relearn it. What's used today is discarded tomorrow. There isn't the continuity that there used to be. I don't care about all of the latest gadgets and software features; just make it intuitive and easy to use. That doesn't fit many software packages today. One irony is that people are needed again to program COBOL and use mainframes -- IBM was hiring people with those skills. And of course, overseas in India they are learning it because "no one here is available to do the job." (what a joke!)

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

could play 1200 baud on his guitar...

IT_Stargazer
IT_Stargazer

oh, yeah -- how could I forget the Hayes command set -- another test of Techness...

howard_davis
howard_davis

I loved BBS, but I remember learning it from my best friends brother on the good old monochrome monitors that he would just leave on all night and day. I remember when he got rid of it and it was so ghost like it kind of creeped me out.

robo_dev
robo_dev

And talk about engineering, you could use a Hayes modem as a wheel chock, makeshift hammer....

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

Actual LIVE variety show, Saturday nights on National Public Radio (nee Media) from 5-7 pm central. Lots of great music from top musicians, comedy. NPR will probably be found on the lower end of your FM band, major campus stations usually carry it.

mdtallon
mdtallon

Off topic perhaps, but a response... I'm a big fan of ambient and electronica and I disagree with the observation that computers have "ruined" music... they really have done nothing but added another option. For me, Pop is mostly about the current fashion and attitude; it exists for the purpose of marketability. People want to make a bunch of money with it and they'll use whatever tools are available to them. Disco (is that still a term?) is for people who like to dance, New Age is for relaxing, Jazz (good jazz)takes a little thought, Opera has its perfectionism, and, of course a live acoustic set is good for a nice social night out... These, of course, are just my personal impressions; there are so many types of music that serve so many purposes, that it often seems odd that a single word can encompass them all, but don't despair - there's someone out there making a sound that you'll love. With all today's options, sometimes it hard to find... BTW, what's a radio?

doiler
doiler

I miss the days/nights spent troubleshooting systems bigger than a shoe box but smaller than a building. You could actually get it down to a componet with time. But who has time today if it does not work correctly it's cheaper to THROW it AWAY.

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

Worked pretty well. I sometimes would run that on friends PCs because it was quicker than editing by hand. On my old 486DX4, I just hand-edited everything, and typically had 624 kb free conventional memory! Enough to handle dialing up my ISP in DOS, and to run Arachne, a DOS web browser. I miss those...never worry about popups, unders, clickjack, XSS in JavaScript...

gmichaels
gmichaels

Many users might have been pirates, but good software wasn't always copied; people that liked a product would go out and buy the complete product just to have the complete package with documentation. And things are still being pirated today, such as music from YouTube links, pictures and designs off the Web, ideas that someone else created, etc. Of course, when it is copied and forwarded, now it's called "viral."

dukethepcdr
dukethepcdr

I'm a big Star Wars fan, and I always thought the sound of the old modems doing their handshakes was cool. Reminded me of R2D2 or something. Talk to a high school kid today and they'd have no idea what we're talking about :)

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

in many states. Surprisingly, many of those in the more rural (and politically conservative) states are government supported. You won't find that kind of government interference in those liberal hotbeds in the northeast or on the west coast. :p

Freetime000
Freetime000

I said it ruined the symbiosis between human and instrument. There is a harmony and balance that is going the way of the dodo and it makes me sad. That said, I also feel it has made people lazy and and yes music has suffered for it. No learning intruments no learning music compositions rules. Big bands that played real music are gone! Larger than life stars are few and far. Justin Beiber? Lady Gaga? Blah.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

I won't down techno, house, trance etc. A good friend is a trance DJ at a local radio station and, while it's not my bag at all, I can accept it as a modern form of music. (Though Kraftwerk has yet to be duplicated) What digital 'compression' has done is completely destroyed music quality and reduced the listener to a near tone deaf conformist. Take i-Pods for example, the absolute worst quality music player, the most limited file formats, the insanely compressed music machine. 128kbps, PUH-LEEEEEASE!?!?!? Even 320 is a joke! How anyone can actually listen to music, other than electronica, that has been compressed to a measly 128kbps is beyond me. If you put a compressed track in an MP3 player, car stereo or half decent home stereo the sound is SO noticeably flat, muddy and vague I simply cannot listen to more than a few seconds of it. Meanwhile, the kid that threw it on thinks it sounds great! People have lost their sense of hearing, they are all but tone deaf these days due to listening to such substandard quality music. NO dynamics at all, NO presence, everything is over reserved. Then you go to a decent recording, Telarc, Chesky or analogue formats and all of a sudden it is forward, has presentation and dynamics. It's like night and day, but people are so dumbed down these days they just can't tell the difference anymore, even when half the music is monotone. I've seen studio's release absolute junk, engineered by kids hat are still in moxing classes, and it still sells. They don't even bother spending money on quality engineering anymore, it's all about the mix, the sample licensing and the hooks. So while you may find that digital music production has actually helped teh techno world, as now ANYONE with two fingers can be a trance master, as for music quality, production, engineering and finished product dynamics, digital content has literally destroyed music. It is nice to see that many REAL artists, the ones who tour, play live, actually play music on instruments, are now releasing on vinyl too. Back catalogues are being remastered with very high quality again too because the people that still have ears are just fed up with downloading absolute crap quality and prefer to actually buy a good quality product instead.

dcawley
dcawley

I had so much fun playing/working with that program. It was powerful, yet so simple.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

that the government is doing it to brainwash them with the radio waves. Puts tin foil in great demand.

IT_Stargazer
IT_Stargazer

still spin my LP's -- nothing beats the sound of clean vinyl on a quality turntable, receiver & speakers. The Who, Doors, Beatles, Hendrix, etc., etc., etc....

mdtallon
mdtallon

Oo! Sorry, missed the mark, I thought you were referring to Autotune and other wizardry. My turntable is still frequently used, even if I'm listening to a campfire overlay. I do lament the loss of a quality analog source; accent on the quality. I still get a chuckle when someone tells me they've discovered FLAC and "IT'S LIKE CD QUALITY"! The good news is that someday we'll get up to some sampling rates that are indistinguishable from analog and we can start using our speakers again.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

You know very well that it will only set me off on some tirade about the airwaves and how AM radio is FAR superior quality. :D Just love poking the hive, don't ya? Couldn't leave well enough alone!

Slayer_
Slayer_

Don't forget Satellite radio quality {nt}