Gemini project

It occurred to me that I've probably never talked about my early computer efforts. And SOME were interesting.. My 1st taste of the '60s "real world" was as a IBM co-op from RPI at Owego NY where IBM had their Federal systems division. In Sept '61 I wrote a memory test program for the onboard computer for the Gemini spacecraft. It was the 1st time I was finger printed.. so I could work on a "Top Secret" project. So, for the 1st time, I was checked out by the FBI. (Would it be it were the last!!; but that's a story in another category and another day) Neighbors at home were use to FBI visits because my Dad would periodically get checked for Summer work as a Customs agent.. (Treasury Dept..). Well, the clearance finally came about 3 weeks before the end of my assignment. Most people in the group were working on Titan rocket program stuff and would disappear occasionally to travel for an on-site blastoff. I never had that pleasure..

I think the source code was 7090 assembly code. Although, I had taken a Fortran course, I think it was unuseful for what was essentially a sensor testing project. The weirdest thing was patching binary punched cards, so that you could bypass the 3-4 hour turnaround time of a batch assembly run on the 7090. You'd figure out, at most a 3 instruction change, say changing a tix to txi. Convert the binary representation to octal; find it's card in the deck; and it's column on the binary card; dupe the card up to that column, make the change and continue duping. And if you forgot to turn off the card checksum at the end of the card; it was all for nought.. This was the only IBM location where I used a small, handheld machine which would let you manually punch a few holes in a card. Binary cards were still used into the late 60s in Poughkeepsie. I still have punch-ed card Christmas Wreath made of old punch cards; Liz would spraypaint them silver or gold…

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Retired recovering IBMer

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