Introduction to information technology (IT)

26 01 2014

It was March 1970 when I reported to Marine Corps Base – Kaneohe, Hawaii. My orders were to report to Data Processing Platoon 10 (DPP10) and work in the computer operations section of Headquarters Company. I had recently completed Computer Sciences School in Quantico, Virginia and stationed a few months in San Diego, California while waiting for permanent orders. When they asked, “Would you like to go to Hawaii?”, , , it was an easy decision.

USMC_KaneoheDPP10 – MCB Kaneohe, Hawaii – 1971
That’s me standing underneath the DPP10 sign

We are standing in front of a mobile data processing vehicle which houses the necessary equipment to run an IT shop in the field at that era. Today, you can do everything in the field from a laptop, tablet or SmartPhone.

After a couple of weeks training they assigned me to the 3rd shift to run the 3M applications for the air wing section of the base. 3M stood for Machines, Materials and Manpower. Anything that took place within the air wing of Kaneohe was reported through the systems I ran.

This was still early in the days of computers. We used an 80-column card computing system and machines related to the IBM 1401 Computer Systems. It was a very manual process to sort, collate and prepare the cards so we could run them through the 1402 Card Read/Punch machine to print a report. For example, in one of my end-of-month jobs it took me over 8 hours to sort over 50,000 cards and print a single report, , , I spent all weekend at the end of each month producing a few monthly reports.

storage_IBM 1401 computer systemstorage_IBM punch card technology

The good part was that 3 weeks out of each month I only needed to run the daily reports for my area of responsibility. This took about 3 hours to do, , , when finished I could leave the office. This is how my golf game improved tremendously my first year in Hawaii.

I would go into the office early and 2nd shift usually finished their jobs by 9:00pm, , , so I got started early and finished my work by midnight to 1:00am. On many occasions I would go sleep on the beach just off the 15th hole of KBAY Golf Club and get up at daylight, , , take a shower in the clubhouse locker room and then play 36 holes of golf every day.

Walked and carried my golf clubs the whole time, , , no carts because we couldn’t afford it nor want to use them, , , a great time. It was a tough living but someone had to do it. 🙂

There were some real characters in DPP10. Joe Rock and Frank Bonomi from Boston, Don “Gibby” Gibson from Salt Lake City, Bruce Fagrie, Mike Northway, Gunny Crawford, Dave Sistek and others.

usmc_DPP10 MarinesGunny Bill Crawford, Bruce Fagrie, Don “Gibby” Gibson, Dave Sistek

Working in a “card shop” gave me basic understanding of data early in my career because you could physically see what it is on an 80-column card.

storage_80 column card

An 80-column card represented a record of something, , , it might be the details of a helicopter or possibly transaction details of a flight taken with the helicopter, , , it could be information about a piece of equipment or a part,  or it might be information about a Marine assigned a post within the air wing of the base such as a pilot, crash crew member, or mechanic.

I remember thinking it was really strange when a certain Staff Sergeant would walk in, ask for the 3M aircraft master card deck, , , thumb through it until he found the card he was looking for, , , pull it out and then tear it up before handing the card deck back to me. It was how he physically deleted an aircraft or piece of equipment from inventory.

Life was simple in those days, , , but processing data was much harder and more time consuming. I like having the computing power we have in our laptops today.

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