Almy’s Dept. Store

Almy’s Department Store on Soldiers Field Road in Boston was where I landed my very first job as a computer operator, 2nd shift, on an NCR Century 200 with a whopping 16K of memory, two wasing-machine-sized disk drives (used ONLY for sorting purposes), and two tape drives. A key to disk department of 6 data entry operators would key in customer charges, which would in turn be downloaded from tape to disk and sorted. Then an old master tape would be the input, and the new master would be the output with the key-to-disk entries MERGED into the master tape. The department had 2 programmers and a supervisor, one day shift operator, and me as night operator from 4pm to midnight. I worked there about one year.

I stumbled on to the job quite by accident. I walked into personnel as a cold-call off the street. As it turned out, they had just fired the night computer operator, and were willing to train me.

Occasionally, an NCR repair technician would come at night. One fellow was quite friendly and gave me some books on RPG II programming, which was how I began to teach myself to program.

The NCR (National Cash Register) Century series was the last in the line of computers that were repaired on the component level. In the early days of computers, the repair technician had to be very sharp to diagnose which component on a circuit board had failed, and repair it in the field. But newer computers were designed with boards which swap out, so that a much less skilled technician could run some diagnostic software to learn which board had failed, and swap it out with a replacement board from the truck. Then the failed board would be sent to a shop where more highly skilled (and highly paid) technicians would repair the board on the component level.

One Response to “Almy’s Dept. Store”

  1. Glenn Says:

    I worked at Almy’s in the late 1970s as a kid….in Danvers Mass.
    Fun place to work…wish there was a website for the old photos…

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