How Developers Coded In 1985

How Developers Coded In 1985

Programmer John Graham-Cumming tells a fascinating story about what coding like was back in 1985. Unlike today’s programmers who wear hoodies, down energy drinks and use a paper thin computer, programmers in 1985 had to code by hand… with actual paper.

The story behind the handwritten code is fascinating. Graham-Cumming was tasked with making the software for a machine that put labels on bottles without any fancy futuristic tools. He had to write code for the software by hand because there wasn’t an assembler and the KIM-1 singleboard computer he was using to prototype computer control only had a hex keypad and a small display. It was a time consuming process, to say the least.

John Graham-Cumming writes:

Of course, writing code like this is a pain. You first had to write the code (the blue), then turn it into machine code (the red) and work out memory locations for each instruction and relative jumps. At the time I didn’t own a calculator capable of doing hex so I did most of the calculations needed (such as for relative jumps in my head).

In our world that’s become littered with gadgets, it’s always mind blowing to see how far we’ve come in the past 30 years. It’s like creating technology with nothing! [John Graham-Cumming]