Are You an IT Old Timer?

Posted On 2017-10-24 by dwirch
Tags: Blog Humor 
Views: 194

I've been called graybeard. Old timer. Fossil. Dad. Grandpa. Geezer. I've been working in the technology field for over thirty years, so all these descriptors are probably fitting. If you're not sure you're an IT old timer, here is a description, and a few definitions for you young people.

Description of an old timer

An IT old timer is someone who has been doing computers for a long time, usually in excess of 20-25 years. For example, if you have ever used PunchCards, worried about TurnAroundTime, read mail with MailX (or /usr/bin/mail), edited files with ED or EX, or used an honest-to-goodness TTY, you are probably an OldTimer.

If you have ever had to explain one of the following terms or concepts, you are probably an OldTimer:

  • Broken record
  • Clockwise
  • Cassette tape
  • Black and white television
  • FTP
  • Regular v. Ethyl (Gasoline, my children)
  • Reel-to-reel tape
  • Acoustic coupler
  • Line printer
  • QIC20



Old 80 column cards that were punched by keypunch machines, and served as computer input for both program text and data. In the days when TurnAroundTime was measured in hours, it was common to punch your job deck, run it through the lister, then submit your job to be run. Meanwhile, you checked over your listing from the lister, found the error that was likely to abort your program, or cause it produce incorrect results, and punch a new card, so that as soon as your job came back, you could update your deck and resubmit it. Providing of course, that you didn't happen to trip whilst carrying your card deck down to the basement.


Time it took from when you submitted a job (i.e. program, with data) to be run, until you got your output back. This term has fallen somewhat out of fashion now that TurnAroundTimes are usually measured in seconds, but in the old days of batch jobs on mainframes, it was not uncommon to have a TurnAroundTime in excess of 30 minutes, or even longer. Worrying about TurnAroundTime is like knowledge of PunchCards in that it surely brands one as an OldTimer.


Short for "mail experimental". It was an early CLI mail client on the UNIX operating system. It succeeded the original mail, which was the first mail client included on UNIX. Mailx is now somewhat of an historical curiosity, and having used it gains one a rep as an OldTimer (as does knowing about PunchCard's).


The original UNIX text editor. It was succeeded by VI (which incorporated an ED compatibility piece, called EX) as well as by EMACS. Knowledge of ED probably marks one as an OldTimer.


Teletype. Name of an old brand of terminal used to connect to UNIX-based computers, TTY became a generic name for any kind of terminal connected to a UNIX-based computer.

File Transfer Protocol

A standard network protocol used to copy a file from one host to another over a TCP/IP-based network. FTP is an overly complicated and inherently insecure TCP based file transfer protocol. It is slowly being replaced with better-designed and more secure systems. Despite that, clients and servers remain ubiquitously wide-spread, and FTP often continues to be the lowest common denominator.

More information on FTP can be found here.

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