David Farrar is at the New Zealand Computer Society’s 50th anniversary conference.
When mentioning this on The Panel on Afternoons on Monday the question of when the first computers came to New Zealand was raised.
While preparing the daily history posts I’ve noticed references to computer technology years earlier than I was aware of them.
The first memory I have of computers was in my last year at school, 1974, when one was introduced to the maths department. But I didn’t actually get my hands on one until I started work on the Oamaru Mail in 1979.
Reporters still used typewriters, but after our work was subbed it was typed onto word processors for printing. An agreement with the printers’ union prevented the journalists from typing straight onto the word processors but we were permitted to use them for proof-reading.
The following year I used a word processor again when I was office temping in London.
Six years later my farmer bought me an electronic typewriter for Christmas – it held a line in it’s memory before printing and it could keep a whole page in it’s memory for editing.
Soon after that I went to a course at Lincoln where I was introduced to spread sheets and word processing. When I came home I bought a computer. At first it was used mostly by me for writing but gradually it was used for farm accounting and record keeping.
We connected to the internet in 1996. Initially it was used more for communication with friends but as programmes and connection speeds improved we used it more and more for the farm.
I posted last week on economist Ha-Joon Chang’s theory that the washing machine did more for productivity than the internet.
When I look at just how much the internet does for us, I’m not so sure. We get killing sheets via email, and check the quality and quantity of each day’s milk collection on-line. We also do most of our banking, including wages and account payments, communicate with staff and the people who support and supply us, research markets and products and get advice and technical support via the internet.
In the last four years computers have become as essential to our operation as tractors and the internet has definitely helped our productivity.
When the washing machine breaks down it makes domestic life more trying. When the internet connection goes our whole operation slows down.