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$20,750 for one computer?

December 31, 2013
By ANDREW POTTER - Staff Writer (apotter@timesrepublican.com) , Times-Republican

If you think technology continues to travel at the speed of light, you would be correct.

Which is why it was refreshing when a co-worker alerted me to a story that ran in the Times-Republican on Nov. 14, 1973 while she was going through microfilm of the paper. Yes, that story was 40 years ago.

The story focused on a thing called a "computer" and how it was being received at a local school.

It seems Marshalltown High School had what it called a "digital control computer" on loan from Fisher Controls and staff were amazed at its functions.

The article quoted MHS teachers at the time as they were in awe of this machine at the cutting edge of technology.

"We did a 30-year population study in minutes," said James Hungerford, a science teacher at MHS at the time.

Fisher Controls provided what must have been among the first computers to arrive at the school. Fisher also proposed to sell the computer to MHS at a discounted price - which was $20,750.

Can you imagine that much for one computer 40 years ago?

The assistant school district superintendent, Marl Ramsey, said the $20,750 was a "very good price" but there weren't available funds to make the purchase.

Math teacher Richard Carter said the computer was a welcome addition at MHS and he hoped they could have a computer at the high school with access terminals at each junior high building.

This story fascinated me, especially as I was working on a series of stories this month on technology in schools. It was amazing to see how far things have come.

The article from 40 years ago wasn't accompanied by a photo of the computer, but my guess is it was probably WAY BIGGER than the ones we use today.

Hungerford was right in the story when he said that computers were the direction both today and in the future. Fortunately, the price on them came down so we all can use them.

It was a pretty amazing article to see how something we take for granted today was so foreign to people 40 years ago.

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Reporter Andrew Potter is a Tuesday columnist for the Times-Republican. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don't necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. Contact Andrew Potter at 641-753-6611 or apotter@timesrepublican.com

 
 

 

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