Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Keypunch Operations, Case Study in Robo Job Elimination

Keypunch Operations came up as a department in all big-time computing outfits due to the trendiest phrase of the time, machine-readable, and punched cards were, at the time, the fastest way to make any content readable to a computer.

Pools of keypunch operators were the front-end of data entry and they typed as secretarial pools had done in previous times but this was the high-tech, this was the future ... it was also going to eat their lunches about 30-40 years later.


Keypunch Operations became a useful facility through the Fifties and Sixties to the point of becoming mission-critical, another phrase which gets computer people orgiastic, in the following years ... but still culminating in technological ghost towns not so many years later and you will be hard-pressed to find any examples of Keypunch Operations anywhere now.

Keypunch was supplanted by many things such as data flow from tapes, network transmissions, and whatnot along with better methods of making the data machine-readable in the first place.


Just as with the "Hidden Figures" in keypunch in NASA, the smart ones learned how to program and pulled themselves out of the keypunch pool.  The others had nowhere to go since the secretarial pool was being murdered as well by online word processors.

This is not specifically a robo replacement but it's generally true to the form.  Even though IT created the need for Keypunch Operations originally, IT is also the mechanism which wiped that department off the face of the earth.

Update: "Hidden Figures" refers to all those in the background for NASA's launches and the focus is on three black women who were rising out of the Fifties.  Ithaka:  More Entranced by "Hidden Figures" After Every Frame


The general model will probably satisfy conservatives insofar as you scramble and you survive.  Those Hidden Figures who learned FORTRAN consequently kicked ass in NASA and devoted their careers to it.

Ed:  what about those who did not?

Evolution is brutal and heartless.  That's been true since the Lord made the first slime mold in the primordial muck.

Ed:  I thought you don't believe he did that?

I don't but it gives perspective to evolution since I doubt anyone believes the Lord was placing bets on which slime molds were going to make it.


Ed:  you don't know what happened to the others, do you?

Nope but I knew keypunch operators who switched to Computer Operations and learned how to 'drive' mainframes rather than punching cards for them and these were the ones who survived.  That survival continued for as long as Computer Operations lasted but that's being automated out of existence as well.

Note:  whether a job is eliminated by software and / or robo automation makes no difference to me when the result is functionally the same; there are just more LEDs with the robo.


There's an article on Robo Job Elimination from earlier tonight.  (Ithaka:  When Robo Fear Becomes a Measurable Phenomenon - Science)

That one reviews the fear people have for robo job elimination and segues to Elon Musk's thoughts about the matter.  The current article is for the point that robo elimination started quite a few years ago and a good measure of it has already happened.


Some made the cut and some didn't.  That's the point in the overall consideration of the matter since the Rockhouse has the adamant belief a society has the obligation to take care of everyone in it or the society isn't worth a shit.

Note:  I refuse to be distracted by charges of 'spoon-feeding' any more than such charges are valid for the Scandinavian countries which routinely clock in as having the happiest people in the world.  I don't know if America ever made that top ten list.


Taking care of everyone in it, at the Rockhouse, means there's no black hole effect in which there are situations in which you can arrive from which there is no possible escape.  Those situations don't just exist in America but they become more common.


The specific interest is what will you do about it since this isn't about us but rather the chill'uns and, strangely enough, I would like it much better if they don't hate us for our poor planning.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

The would already know which slime mold made it. He just be waiting to cash his ticket at the betting window

Peas InOurThyme said...

He was a wily bettor, that rascal