My First Program

Normally I don’t call scribbles on paper a program until it has been transcribed to machine form and debugged. In 1950, however, as a teenager I found a sketchy description of the commands of the SWAC in the publication MTAC. (MTAC was then the closest thing to a computer magazine.) I scribbled down on paper a sequence of commands to compute the logarithm base 2 of a number by observing overflows upon squaring. I lived in Pasadena at the time and a bus ride took me to UCLA where the SWAC was under development. I told them that I had a log program for their machine. They did not seem at all surprised. The machine was not running that day and they already had a faster log routine. They did, however, give me a first class tour of the machine and answered many of my questions. I think I met Professor Huskey that day, but I am not sure. I took classes from Huskey 4 years later at Berkeley. I never did learn the steps to get my program into the SWAC.

I debugged my first real program on the IBM 650 when I arrived at Livermore Labs in 1955.

About 1995 I was talking to Laroy Tymes who was renting a house in Santa Cruz. He told me that he had found an old computer in the barn and it said “G-15” on a metal label. I asked him who his landlord was. He said “Harry Huskey”. Laroy, a significant contributor to computer science, did not know of the fame of his landlord.