In the mid to late ’70s, campus computing for the most part was already on an IBM 370 mainframe that fed hundreds of dumb terminals, via a time-sharing operating system. However, there was also a legacy computing environment still in use: an IBM 360 mainframe that ran in “batch” mode. You submitted a “job” not at a terminal but instead via a deck of punch cards. The Computer Center included a room full of keypunch machines; a common area with an IBM “line printer” fitted with cheap, large-format paper; and a closed room where the operators could fit a printer for special jobs.
Any student qualified for unlimited time on the 360, and so that’s what I used. As a history major, I didn’t have much need for computer programming, but I was interested in word-processing my thesis, thinking it would give me flexibility to edit up to the last minute. So I have the unique experience of having assembled an entire history thesis from text entered on punch cards in a long-defunct word-processing language.
I transported my “deck” between dorm and Computer Center in a cardboard card box stuffed in my backpack. Then, as now, backups were important, and every few days I instructed the system card punch to generate a complete set of backup cards. When my thesis deadline arrived, and my text was final at last, I ordered a custom print run on white paper, and that’s what I took to the thesis bindery on Witherspoon Street.