|Early days||Maritime Life||Sperry Univac|
|NS Credit Union League||Xerox, COS||Scotiatech|
I came of age at a time of social upheaval in Quebec. For four centuries, the Catholic Church imposed its conservative, rigid perspective on Quebec society. The Church had a negative effect on Quebec's development. In the 1960's, the Révolution Tranquille changed things, secularising society and demoting the Church's influence. My mother was modern and liberated, but her origins were reflected in her choice of my education. The professions with traditional prestige were doctor, lawyer or notary. That required latin, which was taught at the collèges classiques, where grades 8 through 15 were called Elements Latins, Syntaxe, Méthode, Versification, Belles-Lettres, Rhétorique, Philosophie I and II.
It was a privilege to have been accepted at Sainte-Marie. Pierre Trudeau (former Canadian Prime Minister) studied at its sister institution, Collège Bréboeuf. However, my heart was in science, not the humanities. I regret the six years I spent learning latin, which I loathed, not to mention two years of classical greek. All I remember is ta dzoa trekhei, "the animals are running", and oukh elabon polin, elpis ephe kaka ("they did not attack the city, the omens were bad"). The latter is a hilarious if scatological pun in french.
I am grateful to some excellent teachers for the work habits they instilled in me: Father Arcade Gingras (Humanities), Gilles Marsolais (Litterature), Claude Dubé (Math), Michel Farley (French), Father Pierre Ringuet. I remember Mr. Thomas (Math) pounding so hard on the blackboard that little flecks of chalk would flutter down.
Most of all, I am indebted to a charming lady, Mme Suzanne Urech-Vallet, who recommended me for enrollment in the summer math camp organized by the Association Canadienne-Française pour l'Avancement des Sciences (ACFAS). I have tried in vain to find her so I can express my deepest gratitude, but I have not been able to track her down.
I was always interested in technology. One of my favourite toys was the school physics lab's oscilloscope. I studied how each vowel, when spoken into a microphone, displayed a different waveform. I photographed the patterns in an early attempt at voice recognition.
In 1966 I participated in a science fair with Michel Bouchard. We built a computer with electric relays called ODEM (Ordinateur Digital Electro-Mecanique). We salvaged sealed mercury relays, and aircraft switches from a scrap yard. A mentor gave me the 24 volt power supply from a pinball machine. We had enough relays for a dozen memory words of five bits each. ODEM could add and subtract in two's-complement notation. We got an honorable mention.
The Montreal Metro subway went into operation in 1967, the year of Expo. Bus tickets were coated with a magnetic strip, but the transfers were punched with holes like computer paper tape. The holes represented the date and time the transfer had been issued. I gathered discarded transfers, studying the pattern of holes. Within a week, I had identified the coding scheme. To test my theory one day after school, I took a transfer that had been issued in the morning, taped some holes shut to represent the current time, and marched up to a turnstyle. With my heart pounding, I shoved the doctored transfer into the slot. Clunk! went the machine as it accepted the transfer and released the gate. What a thrill! I was a hit with my classmates as I issued them with counterfeit tickets. The amount saved was minor. It was the fun of outwitting the system that gave me satisfaction.
I prepared a template from a folded strip of tin can. I pre-drilled all the positions, then used a 5/32" bit to punch out daily transfers. The grinding soon enlarged the holes to the point where they were out of registration, so I ordered a custom punch from the U.S.
first experience with computers was a FORTRAN course, on a CDC
3100, at the University of Montreal (July 1965). I used to love the interactive
switches on the console, which enabled the operator or programmer to dynamically
modify the behaviour of the program. I had great fun drawing optical illusions
on the CalComp drum plotter.
I was one of group of teenagers that haunted the halls of the computer centre at all hours (a phenomenom well documented by Sherry Turkle in The Second Self). In those days, computers could only run a single job at a time. I ran so many programs and took up so much computer time that they kicked us out because we interefered with the Ph.Ds getting their work done.
God bless Dr. Jacques St Pierre, the Dean of the Math Dept., for giving us the opportunity to learn programming.
|Math Camp, Séminaire de Joliette, July 1965 (Click to enlarge 1.1MB)|
|1 Huguette Desrochers ||11 Monique Gonthier ||21||31 Barry Narod, B.C. [1,2]|
|2 Gabriel Garneau [1,2]||12||22||32 Ruth Côté |
|3 Claude Boucher [1,2]||13 David Bullen, N.S. [1,2]||23 André Joubert ||33 Jim Kavanagh, ON [1,2]|
|4 Jean-Guy Camirand [1,2]||14 Gilles Fournier [1,2]||24 Claire St-Cyr ||34 Danièle Bernier |
|5 Marie Lapalme ||15 Germaine Gatien, N.B. ||25 Claude Pichet ||35 Pierre Clouthier |
|6 Diane Charbonneau ||16||26 Marcel Nobert ||36 Jacques Allard |
|7 Diane Landry ||17 Denis Martel ||27 Pierre Reid ||37 Serge Hamelin ?|
|8 Solange Groulx ||18 Linda Contré ||28 Robert Benoit |
|9 Jean-Michel Collinge[1,2]||19 Louise Hallé ||29 Avrum Rosner, MB |
|10 Louise Chrétien [1,2]||20 Reine Gagnon ||30|
|To be identified: Michel Boyer, Jacques Désilets, Louise Gaudreau, André Ouimet, Ginette Simard.|
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