“New” Posters

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Jun 4, 2008

Filed under: Programming 59 comments

I bought several Spider-Man posters around the time I graduated from high school. (1990) These posters graced the walls of my bedroom at my parent’s house, then the walls of what passed for my living room as a bachelor, and finally wound up on the walls of my home office. The posters are now old enough to graduate from high school themselves.

The time finally came to put them to rest. My love for ol’ web-head remains undiminished, but the posters had become wrinkled and torn over the years. (Although, they hadn’t faded, since the light of the sun rarely reaches this place.) My father-in-law provided the perfect replacement: Vintage computer science posters from his early days of teaching. (He’s retiring this year.)


They’re laminated, so they’re in better condition than my Spider-Posters, despite them being over a decade older. I apologize for the low quality of these shots. The lighting in here is ideal for monitors, but hell on photography.

Read on to see the rest:


This is a history of the personal computer, which begins in 3,000 BC and ends in 1977.


The parts of a personal computer: Screen, Keyboard, Printer, Phone, and Tape Recorder.


I threw away the last of my floppies in 1999. People had been predicting the death of the floppy for nigh on a decade by that point. In the end, nothing really killed them, they just died. It wasn’t until USB drives and those flash memory thingdings that we really had reliable portable storage again.

I have a little memory card in my phone that’s smaller than a thumbprint and holds two gig. You would need 5,405 of the above-pictured 5.25″ floppies to hold that much data. And probably a wheelbarrow.


The dead tongues of computer science.


Sorry. Maybe I should have warned you first. Bill here is on the back of the door so I don’t see him very often. I keep him there because the reaction I get from visitors is priceless.


From The Archives:

59 thoughts on ““New” Posters

  1. Oleyo says:

    Awesome, they are so cool, and by cool I mean nerdy…by which I mean cool.

  2. Jeremiah says:

    Pure awesome. Me = Jealous.

  3. xbolt says:

    These are great! I wish I had room on my walls for cool posters…

  4. JungianYoung says:

    Visual Basic lives on in the financial and business world.

    Fortran is still a current language in the mustier corners of science. The Phoenix lander on Mars right now is, in many places, Powered By Fortran.

    APL was still used in business research as of 2000; don’t know if it still is.

    COBOL is still in use in numerous non-IT businesses; there was an article on Computer World that posited that COBOL programmers would run out before COBOL programs do.

  5. Kevin says:

    A friend of mine pointed out the other day that an entirely blank Word document would not even fit on any of the first generation of home computers. It struck me funny considering how much time I invested on mine and friends’ TRS 80, TI 99, C 64, and many, many others… all of which are dwarfed in power today by any cellphone on the market.

    And I am STILL waiting on my jet pack.

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Wow,its like time travel.

    The weirdest thing is that I had to buy a couple of floppy disks few weeks earlier.Stupid college not having cd burners!And a single floppy costs as much as a DVD!Before that,I havent used them for ages.

  7. Ian says:

    I seem to remember seeing the poster one about write protecting 5.25″ floppies when I was in school…could be wrong.

    Man, those were the days. The days where you had to practically roll a saving throw to counter data loss every time you put a disk in the drive (incrementing one to the required roll with every read/write operation).

    Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but that’s how I felt sometimes. :)

    @JungianYoung: Visual Basic lives on, period. Best of all, it’s not a bad joke like it used to be. :P

  8. Craig says:

    This makes me miss some of those really old science class posters. Oh the safety warnings that were unintentionally hilarious…

  9. food4worms says:

    I was struck by the notion that you are a second-generation personal computer professional. That really put the weight of years on me. The PC is more than 30 years old….

  10. Sitte says:

    Is that interface Bill Gates is standing below a Mac interface, or did Windows 3.1 look that way too? I used 3.1 through elementary school, and that looks more like Mac to me. Of course, since I record all of my memories to tape, I could be very wrong.

    If that is Bill under Mac: Priceless.

    1. WJS says:

      3.1 didn’t come out until 92. I think the posters are a bit older than that (although that one can’t be as old as the one from the late 70s; Windows 1.0 and Mac OS didn’t come out until the mid 80s)

  11. kmc says:

    @ Sitte: I had the same question. I think it’s gotta be Mac…

  12. houser2112 says:

    @ Sitte:

    I thought the same thing. Definitely not 3.1, it looks like an old Mac OS. I’m not too familiar with any of them, so I can’t be more specific.

  13. Lee1255 says:

    Oh yeah, that’s Mac OS. I’ll bet he was pissed. :)

  14. Zukhramm says:

    I stille have a floppy or two, or trekommafemtumsdiskett as we call them in Swedish. Doesn’t really matter since I can’t read them from my computer.

  15. Factoid says:

    It’s MacOS…It’s got the black cursor and a solid line separating the “quit” section. Also Quit is mac terminology, Windows uses Close or Exit.

    Also I recognize the font as a Mac font. aparently even back in the day graphic and layout designers used Macs.

  16. Jim says:

    Kevin (#5): Look up Yves Rossy. I believe he is up to 6.5 minutes of flight time.

  17. wintermute says:

    My wife is a COBOL programmer for a major multinational insurance company.

    Me, I write PHP for a (comparatively) tiny engineering shop.

  18. Maddy says:

    It is an old Mac, I think that was the Chicago font. In those days Microsoft was a major player on the Mac scene, so it didn’t seem ironic at all in those days. It’s funny as hell now, though!

  19. Shamus says:

    Remember that Microsoft and Apple were not always foes. They had a working business relationship, and it wasn’t until Windows appeared that the rivalry began. (Although I’m sure it was going on between platform partisans before then.)

  20. Eric J says:

    It occurred to me the other day that data retrieval from obsolete hardware is going to be a potentially lucrative business in the future.

    Right now, out there is someone who’ll pay $1000 to somebody with a working Zip drive.

  21. Cadamar says:

    I love that the History Of Computers ends only 3 years after I was born.
    To me, that’s when the “history” of computers really starts getting good.

    I can’t believe that people are still using COBOL. I wish companies would disclose what software/hardware systems they are using. That way I could avoid the financial/insurance companies that are still using COBOL on mainframes. I mean seriously. Would you really want to do business with a company that is 20 years behind the times with their infrastructure?

  22. Liz says:

    We definitely had the Bill Gates poster in the computer lab of the library in high school- seeing it here gave me quite the jolt until I figured out why I remembered it.

  23. Mari says:

    Those are too awesome! I’m completely jealous and must now search out obsolete computer posters for my office (to hang on the wall opposite obsolete Hollywood stars like Clara Bow and Veronica Lake). I think I remember some of those posters from my own first comp. sci. lab. And COBOL and BASIC aren’t dead until I forget how to program in them.

  24. Joshua says:

    I have a few floppies lying around here.

    One has Rogue on it. Just the executable, not the options file or anything, and I really want that. If anyone knows where the ROGUE.OPT file is up for free download, please tell me.

    The other contains SATA drivers, I think.

  25. theonlymegumegu says:

    Kevin: “And I am STILL waiting on my jet pack.”

    That reminds me of when I told a friend of mine that some of us got together back on New Year’s 2005 and watched Transformers: The Movie because it was set in that year and his response was, “Oh man, we have all this other tech, where’s the transformers!?”

  26. mookers says:

    Having Bill on the back of the door might have the benefit of keeping the kids out of your office.

    “Don’t lock me in there with that scary man, dad!”

  27. Deoxy says:

    Right now, out there is someone who'll pay $1000 to somebody with a working Zip drive.

    I have one! Tell me who, and I’ll totally hook them up!

    The dead tongues of computer science.

    FORTRAN will live on until someone else makes a language where you can define the size of your numbers – physicists and space travelers absolutely MUST have that (not remotely negotiable).

    COBOL will die when at least one of these things happen:
    a) Somebody makes language that is as easy (or easier) for non-technical people to read. Seriously, it’s almost like reading normal English.
    b) Companies start making products that are betterthan what they’ve got written in COBOL instead of worse.

    I work for a software company in a niche market. We finally got our last customer off one of our two remaining COBOL/mainframe systems last month, but that’s because they (and a few other die-hards) simply took their business elsewhere, as our “new” system is not as good. Indeed, I’ve never seen a web-enabled system that was anywhere near as efficient as a text-based, terminal-emulating system for data entry (for power-users, anyway). No graphical overhead, “just the facts, ma’am”. No mouse-usage required (the mouse, for all its other wonders, DESTROYS data entry speed). I could go on.

    But it’s not “shiny”, and that’s all that matters anymore. :-/

    Our remaining COBOL system is likely to remain in use for at least several years, as it’s still the best on the market. Yes, that’s a completely serious statement.

    Edit: Another strong agreement that it is indeed a Mac behind Mr. Gates. Of course, I think they were still mostly called “Apples” back then, eh?

  28. KnottyMan says:


    Maybe this?

    Contents are:
    fruit=slime mold

  29. AstroBoy says:

    I (my dad) still have harpoon on 5.25″ floppies (double density i think) as they just sit in the box with the 3.5″ floppies that came with it also. I also have Doom on floppies, wolfenstein 3d, original where in the world is carmen sandiego, prince of persia, space quest 5 and another spacequest. I may even have more.

    But yes, as a practical temporary storage device. Floppies have been superseded but will live on as the save button in many pieces of software.

  30. Lanthanide says:

    Re Astroboy #29:
    Hah, I’d never thought about the save icon being a floppy. Even Word has it still.

    It’s always made sense to me, since I grew up with them. Many times one of my birthday presents would be a box of 10 3 1/2″ floppies.

    But what about the kids of today, or the older people who’ve never used computers before – what are they to make of this small blue square with a patch of white on it? What is it supposed to be? All of the other frequently used toolbar icons are pretty explanatory – opening a folder, printing, print preview (with a magnifying glass), copy, cut, paste, new. But save? Hard drives don’t actually look like that, neither do CDs or DVDs or USB flash drives.

  31. Daemian Lucifer says:


    “I mean seriously. Would you really want to do business with a company that is 20 years behind the times with their infrastructure?”

    And yet,every day(this I can be certain of)you walk/drive on 20 years old asphalt,you use 20 years old sewers,and sometimes even visit/work(maybe even live in)20 years old buildings.

    Not to mention that you are regulary using who-knows-how-many years old numbers,maths,physics,etc.

    Oh,and dont let me start with wine,vintage 1969 or something like that.

  32. Greg says:

    Yup, fortran lives on.
    I someone currently doing her PhD on detecting hard to detect impurities in Japans water supply using it ;)

  33. Hawkehunt says:

    No! Don’t tell me you wear CLOTHES?!?!?!

    They were invented, like, hundreds of years ago.

  34. Cadamar says:

    So your argument is that since I use all of these things that were deliberately engineered to last for decades and in some cases centuries and that some basic concepts have lasted the test of time (numbers, math, etc.) then I shouldn't be concerned about financial institutions that are still using 20 year old systems that were only designed to last for a couple of years? Y2K is case in point that the original engineers did not expect their software to still be in use in 2000 and that was 8 years ago. You're argument is not convincing.
    I think that I would have every reason to be concerned if I were to find out that my checking account was still being processed on a reel-to-reel tape and a mainframe that still used vacuum tubes.
    Regardless, any company that refuses to invest in its infrastructure by stodgily adhering to antiquated technology because it is “cheaper” or “the new stuff isn't any better” is simply being short-sighted and deliberately ignorant. I for one would choose not to do business with such an organization.

  35. Bryan says:

    5400 floppies? There’s no way that’s right! Now, 1700, maybe, but 5400 is just nuts.

    (Or am I the only one that ever used the 1.2MB (-ish) version of the 5.25-inch floppy? :-P )

  36. Cthulhu says:

    Another vote for it being a Mac.

  37. guy says:

    COBOL runs your credit card. don’t insult it, it would not be wise.

  38. Lanthanide says:

    Cadamar – So you’d prefer that your bank took perfectly good working systems that have served thousands, or even millions of people day in day out for 24/7/365 and replace them with new systems, essentially, just because they’re new?

    You don’t actually care that the systems they have in place DO work, often without flaws?

    Do you realise that migrating to new systems for suchs things more often-than-not end up over-time and over-budget, often by orders of magnitude of both?

    If you want to put up with your checking account not working or losing your money several times a year, or 10x higher bank fees because they have to pay all the programmers and designers to remake perfectly good systems, just so you can feel good that your bank isn’t using “old technology”, then be my guest. Not to mention that no bank is voluntarily going to do these things because they would instantly lose customers who would choose other banks that don’t have problems handling their accounts and don’t charge high fees. Meanwhile I’ll live in the real world where the best technology to do the job is used, no matter how old it is, and especially if replacing that technology is going to be extremely risky and expensive for no real gain.

    Go read http://www.worsethanfailure.com if you think I’m exaggerating.

  39. StereotypeA says:

    Eric J – Who are these people? I have a Zip drive lying around and just lost my job.

  40. Nick says:

    I still have an MS-DOS v1 user manual, a nice vinyl ring binder, still in as-new condition. I wonder if it’s worth anything? I would probably never sell it anyway.

  41. Zaxares says:

    Wow. You know that you’re getting old when you actually remember USING those technologies and languages displayed on those posters. :(

  42. Smileyfax says:

    Don’t copy that floppy!

    Personally, I’m going to try to have a functioning 3.5 drive as long as I can. You never know when those little disks will come in handy again.

  43. guy says:

    it feels like a critical component of a computer to me, too.

  44. Gary says:

    Those are great Shamus, I’m very jealous.

    That reminds me, about two weeks ago I finally removed my 3.5 floppy drive from my ‘Frankenstein’ computer. So, no more floppies for me. :D yay!

  45. Teague says:

    So, are you folks who still use COBOL considered the Lords of COBOL?

  46. Daemian Lucifer says:


    First,who says that programing languages were designed to last for just a couple of years?It wouldve been extremelly inefficient and no one would buy them(like Lanthanide stated).Those were designed to last,and they do that very well.

    Second,Y2K…I seem to remember that…Was that the thing that caused all the panic throught the world,and then was solved,and the year 2000 came and went without any major incident?

    Third,unlike hardware,software is much more durable because it doesnt wear down over time.Software remains just as efficient as it ever was(like the numbers).So,while improvements in some specialised fields can be made(like complex numbers),in some fields there simply is no need for upgrade(you sure wont use complex numbers to do your taxes).

    1. WJS says:

      Re: Y2K: Actually, that was the thing that caused major panic, in 99% of cases no “solving” action was required because computers don’t actually work like that, and 2000 came with no major incidents. Obligatory xkcd. And in case you were thinking that “everything will be 64-bit” by then, remember that even on 64-bit systems, 32-bit times are still used because they’re embedded in networking protocols and you can’t just change the frame length without breaking them.

  47. mockware says:

    The year was 1996 and the company I worked for then bought a brand new financial system – written in COBOL. The problem was that the needs of the company were so particular – government contracts – that no one else’s software did what we needed and it was such a niche market for the software company and the code base was so huge that it made no sense to rewrite the program in another language. In order to generate reports off the data in the COBOL flat files, we extracted the data and inserted it into a relational database. I don’t think you can find a single company that is older than 30 years that doesn’t have some legacy system that still uses some odd forgotten language running on a box held together by bailing wire and duct tape.

  48. Marauder says:

    Sweeeet! Where can I buy a set? Maybe it’s time to replace the Transformers posters that adorn my home office (or soon will be since my new wife and I just moved into our first place together) :-)

  49. roxysteve says:

    Bah, I thought you said these were *old* posters.

    You’re writing at at least one person who has seen real “core” memory and used paper tape to talk to computers.


  50. roxysteve says:

    [Mockware]: There is currently a quiet crisis going on in some financial institutions that let their young college-grad hires rewrite their DP suites in C in the 1980s.

    Apparently, in the rush to get rid of the perceived-to-be rubbish Cobol (“everyone knows” logic at work here) nobody stopped to actually try and understand what the language features were for, and they coded currency calculations in floating point data types.

    To undertand why this is a problem you need to know something not explicitly written in any modern computer science primer I’ve ever had in my hands (which confine themselves to cryptically saying that the data type is an “approximate” one and leave it at that): that floating point numbers have a BINARY point (they keep fractions as reciprocals of powers of 2), and the currency calculations require a DECIMAL point (that keep fractions as reciprocals of powers of 10). Before you roll your eyes, this is NOT the same problem as the fractional-penny rounding nonsense. That is an entirely separate issue.

    A good look at any of the Cobol programs being junked would have revealed the ubiquitous use of the COMPUTATIONAL data type for the currency calculations. A quick read of the manual and a modicum of thought would have saved a lot of time and, as it is turning out, a considerable amount of money.

    There’s a phrase involving babies and bathwater that springs to mind.

    1. WJS says:

      9000000000.0f + 2.0f

  51. roxysteve says:

    [Cadamar] Re: Y2K=Cobol teh sux.

    Well, first off, nothing actually broke because it was relatively easy to fix the real issues (as opposed to the pretend ones everyone was talking about).

    Secondly, the programs were written the way they were partly because of the attitude you cite (I asked my chief programmer back in ’78 what would happen in 2000 and was laughed at for days), but mostly because the underlying system calls didn’t return a century component in any of the dialects of the language I ever was asked to write in (4 or 5 on a variety of manufacturer’s hardware).

    Thirdly, mainframe operating systems are usually stable affairs that do not require complete replacement every 5-7 years. A mainframe program can indeed be a locomotive inasmuch as longevity is concerned. It may surprise you to know that the core needs of a business for it’s big iron generally haven’t changed despite a couple of those darn paradigm shifts.

    When one factors in the actual costs of upgrading to non-steam-powered computing for these core business applications, it often makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to do so.

    Of course, I have been doddering around for 30 years in the various aspects of computer applications, so I cannot possibly appreciate the new problems facing the programmer. “Everyone knows” that the new paradigms brought “new” problems.

    Get off my lawn!

  52. Zaghadka says:

    I think what I love best is the “futuristic” and ORANGE font on many of the posters. Wow.

  53. Deoxy says:


    Um, I had about a dozen points to make, but they’ve all been made reasonably well, so just consider this post me piling on, eh?

    You said something stupid – welcome to the human race. We still love you just the same (and would appreciate the same treatment when it’s our turn to say something stupid).

  54. Joe Cool says:

    I very nearly eliminated the (3.5″) floppy drive from the last computer I built ca. 2004. I was foiled in my attempts, as the Windows XP installer did not recognize my SATA hard drive unless special drivers were loaded during installation… those drivers being on a 3.5″ floppy disk.

    NEXT time, though. Next time.

    What games did I play on 5.25″ floppy? I’m sure somewhere at my parents house are dusty copies of the original Sid Meier’s Pirates and the Ancient Art of War.

  55. Delve says:

    Hah. Speaking of forgotten software, any of you ever work on Reactor code? (No, not the nuclear kind) Think old HP mainframes here, running MPE for an operating system.

    The company I work for finally upgraded that to a more-current HP running HP-UX, with the latest version of their core accounting software. Only because the software vendor absolutely positively dropped all support for anything MPE-related. If that hadn’t happened, they’d probably still be scrabbling for compatible replacement hardware for decades. In fact, if it wasn’t a financial institution that required current accounting software to keep up with financial regulatory codes, they probably still would have skipped the upgrade.

  56. WJS says:

    A lot of people are commenting on the changes – that’s fine, but what struck me was the first poster. Tell me that that one is wrong now. (And scorn upon those who suggest that teaching IT in schools is pointless because “things will have changed before they use it”)

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