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My Earliest Use of Technology

Published on 02 May 14
The first computer I used was a Commodore PET back in high school. This was a very low power 8 bit machine. It had a BASIC compiler for program development. BASIC is now 50 years old. The PET was highly evolved for 1978.

I took a computer programming class in high school that used the Commodore PET and BASIC. This course was organized as a series of introductory sessions and extensive hands-on student exercises. Once you knew how to use the machine, you would start to code assignments. Some were given by the instructor, especially in the beginning. Later, it was all on your own.

Because I was taking physics concurrently, I was able to marry the two courses. I would use simple physics formulas into my computer science work. For example, the equation for acceleration due to gravity could be implemented in a BASIC program.

The Equation: v = 1/2 at^2
In English, velocity equals one half of the acceleration multiplied by the square of the time interval.

This could be programmed in BASIC:

10 Let a = 9.8
20 Input t
30 Let v = 0.5 * a * t * t
Now when the program runs, it asks for the time value. Say 10 seconds is entered. The program calculates that the velocity after 10 seconds for a falling object is 49 meters per second. That is not adjusting for wind resistance.

I started to code quite a few physics formulas like the one above. Each was presented as a printed report. For the velocity, for example, the program might calculate the speed for each of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 seconds of falling time and display the resultant velocity. This was graphed. Pretty simple.

After high school, I didn't work with computers again until 1983 when I took a diploma program at college. That is the topic of several more future blog posts!
This blog is listed under Development & Implementations Community

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