Who has been programming longest?

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A few years ago, we asked: who is the longest serving programmer? We had several claims and another this week from Richard Ansorge, Emeritus Senior Lecturer, Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge.

You can read the other claims here.

Richard Ansorge also had another goodie for us. Two pictures of "my bit of Titan" (pictured above and right). At Cambridge there was a tradition of disposing of obsolete machines by letting people have bits of them as potential collectors' items

Here is Richard's programming history:

Born 1944, I saw my first computer in 1960 on a school visit to the Dollis Hill Post Office research labs in 1960. I still remember the excitement of the scene - with paper tape and line printer output flying everywhere.

I came up to Cambridge in October 1963 where I was taught EDSAC 2 Autocode by Maurice Wilkes in my first term. We lowly undergraduates were not allowed to run our programs. Instead they were marked as likely to work. I wrote my first program in Fortran II in the summer of 1966 at an astronomy summer school at Herstmonceux Castle. This involved writing each line of code on special coding sheets, which were then taken away to by punched onto cards by typists. The cards came back the next day and were carefully inspected for corrections, which took another day to happen. Finally, the program was sent to the machine to be run. This three-day turn round time encouraged one to think really hard about what one was doing and remarkably my 200-line effort worked first time.

In the summer of 1967, I embarked on a PhD in high-energy physics and spent time at the Rutherford Laboratory studying several 2000-line Fortran programs written to process bubble chamber data. These programs ran on the Rutherford’s IBM 360 model 75. My task was to transfer the code to an IBM 360 model 44 at Fred Hoyle’s brand new Institute of Astronomy. This was accomplished rather easily because the machines were entirely compatible.

Since then I never looked back and have coded ever since. Using IBM mainframes and Titan for batch processing and mini computers (PDP7, PDP8 PDP16 etc) for machine control. In 1979 I was responsible for getting the first Vax 780 in the university for the high-energy physics group. The Fortran 77 and virtual memory on that system were a revelation. A lot of network development took place on the back of those VAX machines. In the 1980s I served on infrastructure committees at Rutherford Lab and watched the growth of email and other inter computer networking. More recently, I have been involved in parallel computing for medical imaging applications such as PET and MRI in C++and CUDA. Although not officially retired, I am still actively writing code and see no reason to stop.

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