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Computer Chanty, rev. 3.02
lyrics 1990 - 2007 by Dr. H. Paul Shuch
Sung to the tune of "Bell Bottom Trousers" (traditional)
winner of Best Overall at PHILCON '92 Filk Contest
updated for performance at the LACon World Science Fiction Convention, August 1996
revised and expanded with each new system "improvement"

click to hear this song Click on the speaker icon to hear Dr. SETI sing this song in concert at Philcon 2005

When mainframes were the only game and stretched from wall to wall
The computer center took up half of Engineering Hall.
We punched our cards of Hollerith and sometimes had to laugh
That the error statement printout took an hour and a half.


And it was If/Then, Do Loop, Subroutine, Go To,
Let 'em code in Fortran like the science hackers do.

They finally put a terminal in each laborat'ry,
A clunky, clanky KSR, a Model 33.
We timeshared over data lines, so who could ask for more?
We stored our code on paper tape and kept it in a drawer.

The dedicated mini was a most amazing sight,
The boot routine was so obscene it kept you up all night
Initializing toggle switches; pain in all our necks
But at least it made us learn to count in octal and in hex.

Soon I built my own machine. You should have heard me cuss
When I tried to catch a ride on the S-100 Bus.
I was grateful for the storage, but one thing I'll never get
Is attempting random access on an audio cassette.

I remember feeling like the luckiest man alive
When my supervisor brought me my first eight inch floppy drive.
We learned to work in CP/M. It wasn't such a loss
With 2k for the system. And then along came DOS.

The Micropolis Metafloppy really took my breath away,
Single sided, single density, a hundred sixty k.
The old dog microprocessor began to learn new tricks,
PC, XT, AT, RT, RISC, and something eighty-six.

Now floating point arithmetic is something of a scam.,
Thanks to Windows Vista Pro I see how fortunate I am
That memory is cheap and I no longer have to beg:
What used to take 640k now eats a thousand meg.

The operating system for the Macintosh is built
Around a Unix kernel, so the users feel no guilt.
The system never crashes. So what did Apple do?
Abandon the G4, for an Intel CPU!

My latest network server has a Terabyte hard drive.
Along it clips a thousand MIPS, it's practically alive.
It's WiMax to the Internet, but life is not all smiles
For a user I have never met has just erased my files.

And now that there's a PC for every desk and home
I marvel at how rapidly and far it all has grown.
As I think back to systems past, you know it really hurts
That my students pack more power in the pockets of their shirts.

A week ago last Saturday I got a pleasant call,
They just installed the Super Cray in Engineering Hall.
They ran my simulation, and I really had a laugh
'Cause the error statement printout took an hour and a half.

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this page last updated 14 June 2007
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