Home computing, circa 1970

Back in 1970, Life magazine profiled the pioneering Rodman family, who installed a teletype terminal connected to a mainframe in their home, to explore the whacky far-future possibilities of "home computing." We got our teletype in 1977 and by that point, we had Eliza and a few other nice bits of ready-made software, but the main attraction was still doing silly things in BASIC.

When he got the computer for his home, Dr. Rodman had no idea his family would become so involved with it. His original project, which he is still working on, was to write a program for diagnosing lung ailments through test readings. Because a successful program will mean instant written diagnoses and also teach interns, Temple University agreed to pay for it.

Because he was a novice at programming, Dr. Rodman required uninterrupted access to a computer. The service he purchases hooks his terminal, a standard Teletype, through his telephone to a large computer 90 miles away in Teaneck, N.J. When the central unit is dialed, it responds with an audio pitch. An electronic device connected to the Teletype translates the computer’s messages to print.

The computer costs $110 a month terminal rental, plus $7.50 to $11 an hour. Once a program is stored, the cost is negligible. “Eat,” for example, costs the Rodmans about 10c for a weekly run-through. The computer, of course, does the bookkeeping for the bill.