Orientation video for Bell Labs programmers, 1973

Here's a 1973 orientation video from Bell Labs' Holmdel Computer Center, to get new, budding Unix hackers acquainted with all the different apparatus available to them, and also to let them know which counter to visit to get a different tape loaded onto one of the IBM mainframes.

The Holmdel Computer Center, Part 1 (Thanks, Dan!)


  1. Couldn’t Charlie have taken the girlie pic off the 370 at 5:39? I guess no one was going to sue back then…

    1. By five years later, when I started working there, that picture would have been long gone; the phone companies had been fairly thoroughly spanked about their treatment of women, and were starting to clean up their act.

    2. I thought that was Raquel Welch. HR would have SUCH issues with this today. I guess it was so common, that even the film maker’s didn’t think to remove it. 

  2. I don’t know what depresses me more; the general atmosphere of that office, or how little basic office architecture has changed in 39 years.

    1. You missed the big architectural change, which was the walk-up windows where you submitted your jobs and the print-out rack where you got your results and punch-card decks back, and the separation between users and computer operators. 

      As a user, you’d use the keypunches out front, bring your deck to the operator who’d put it in the card reader, and some time later, after your job had run, the printer operator would put your print job out for you to pick up. 

  3. That’s exactly the type of batch entry environment I got into in 1975. Wow, we looked like dorks back in the day. :-)

    1. Yep, I was doing this stuff back in 1975 too.  Brings back all kinds of memories.  And yep, we DID look like dorks.  :)

  4. “Any technology sufficiently archaic is indistinguishable from science fiction.”
    Seriously; it’s like watching cavemen punching rocks, but at the same time it has some strange futuristic vibe with all the spinning drive thingys and endless reciting about “millions of bytes” and “thousands of lines per minute”.

  5. Did anyone notice that the AT&T web page caption was all Unix this, Unix that, whereas the actual movie was all IBM this, IBM that?

    1. Unix wasn’t really a production thing back in 1973.  I started working in that building in 1978, and we did have Unix accounts on PDP-11s down in the basement, and some of the IBM mainframes had been replaced by Amdahls.  Most of the keypunches were still there, but over the next five years most of them were gone, replaced by 3270 terminals. 

    1. Actually, I think your smartphone is probably more powerful than that whole office. No, not the one you have now, the one you upgraded from last year.

  6. More than 10 years later, I found the noise level of a single small IBM 5125 dot matrix printer absolutely hideous… and there they had a whole machine shop of massive printers punchers and drives… I wonder how many operators from those days suffered hearing damage.

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