Entrepreneur YOU!

My First Tech Job as a Keypunch Card Verifier at 10 years old

Posted in Personal Journey by Robert Lindsay Thompson on January 22, 2011

My mother was a computer programmer and key punch operator back in early days of technology. I was her side kick and first employee of the tech service bureau she opened up in Dallas, Texas back in the early 60’s. I got 5 – 10 cents an hour for verifying punch cards or scanning printed reports for errors. I was 10. It was my very first job in technology. It was also my first experience shadowing an entrepreneur.

Verifying was the procedure, after the keypunch operator completed “punching” out the required data on an 80 column card, that replicated the strokes in another machine. If there was an error, a big red light would blink, requiring further verification of the data. The redundancy was necessary step to insure accuracy. All told a very tedious process. The residue from the punches were called “chits”, which were fun to play with but impossible to get out of the rug. They made great confetti though.

Key punch card

We had 3 key punch machines and 2 verifiers arranged in the living room of our 2 bedroom apartment. She also operated a tech school on the side, training wanna be key punch operators. Interestingly, she trained and placed the very first African American tech woman ever in that city. Although the money flowed freely for a year or two, eventually things imploded and we were forced to move back to Detroit.

Things have a way of working out though. She got a job as a computer programer at Ford Motors working the midnight shift. She pretty much had the place to herself. I accompanied her upon many an occasion to play video games the Ford programers developed during their free moments. Just me in the dark at an ancient keyboard in front of a huge cathode ray tube screen. This was long before the first video game “Pong” hit the streets.

At that time, advanced memory repositories occupied several ice-cold floors where huge disc platters and tape drives crunched the data. Now I can carry all that information on a thumb drive or two. Incredible, astronomical advancements, yet the essential principals remain the same. The human brain is still the most awesome technological and entrepreneurial tool in the universe.

The human brain remains the most amazing technological and entrepreneurial resource in the universe


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