Circa the 60’s and 70’s, in the U.S. there were certain facts a young man had to face.
One of these was the U.S. Military draft, whose purpose was to take a young man, enlist him into one of the Military Services, and prepare him to fight a war in Vietnam.
A Draft had been enacted, in 1940, to put social security numbers into a government-run hopper to play a form of Russian Roulette.
This draft was ending in ’73 but my number was 33. Since the draft was a drawdown, not an off switch, I reasoned at the next call-up, I was gone to one Boot Camp or another, later to serve in Vietnam. It was a crap shoot to hope Vietnam and my draft number would expire before I was called.
The military would be in charge of which branch I would end up in, as to Air Force, Marines, Army, or Navy based on a variety of things.
Since I have never been a fan of someone else controlling me, I had internal struggles with the Draft process.
While I was frozen inside, I watched an airing of CBS news on something called a “computoor”. During that time frame (the early 70s), there were few people that knew was a computoor was, and I was certainly not one.
The newscaster was Harry Reasoner for CBS.
He had a small team to take a TV camera out to something called a computoor room.
This was no little task, as the early TV cameras were quite large and heavy, requiring trucks and 3-4 people to offload and move it.
And, computer rooms back then were pretty utilitarian, with few amenities. Sparse, one could easily say.
And, finally, there were still more vacuum tube styled computoors than transistorized series. (Transistorized preceded Microprocessors) Computoors were said to cost a few million dollars.
what I got out of this CBS broadcast included:
Computers were finicky requiring Air Conditioning and cold air.
Computer rooms were practical and had concrete walls.
The idea struck me that Vietnam was quite hot, and the bullets were hotter, therefore I had a plan.
I went down to see my local Army recruiter a few days later.
Our conversation was something like this:
“Well, young man. Are you here to enlist in the Army?” a fine specimen of an Army Sgt. engaged me, with lots of hash marks on his sleeves and ribbons on his chest, proudly standing legs apart.
“Well, maybe. One of my friends told me that if I enlisted rather than wait for the draft, that I could pick my job specialty?” I asked quietly.
Inside me, fear awaited his answer.
“That can be true. I cannot make you a promise. It depends on what the Army is needing at your enlistment time. The military calls those Military Occupational Specialities or MOS. But sometimes, an Enlistee can get close to their MOS.” He answered in a proper Military manner.
So, I took a big ragged breath and said,
“OK, then. I want Computoors! If I can sign up for that, I will join today.”
He looked puzzled, “Computoors? What is that? Oh, no matter. If that particular Military Occupational Speciality exists, we will find it for you.”
We sat down at a large folding table like you might use on a picnic by the lake, with your relatives with birds overhead, flies in your food, and the lake in behind.
He brought down 3 large and impressive looking binders.
The first one bore no fruit of a “computoor”, but in the second one, he found a M.O.S. with the word “computer” in it.
“Well, here we go!” he smiled at me.
“But it is spelled c o m p u t e r. So, computer!”
He seemed quite proud to have landed this one.
“Let me make a few calls, to see if there are openings, and if so, you will have to take a block of tests to make sure you can handle these computer thingies.”
Obviously, that was a long time ago for a young man that joined in an era when many fewer did.
I did join, and I was assigned to learn about computers.
My first was vacuum tube, but later I trained for a transistorized version, and later yet on the earliest Integrated circuits, inside of my concrete walls and air conditioning.
Harry Reasoner not only put me on a path for cold air but caused me to have a career that served me well.
I should have written him a thank you letter, all those years ago.