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Old Times in the IT World - An Interview with Brian Pfeiffer

Old Times in the IT World - An Interview with Brian Pfeiffer

The way we use technology has changed hugely in the last 40 to 60 years, and the skills needed to use computers have changed rapidly with it. This was something our Engagement Officers Jake Huggett and Chris Reddy realised when they visited Inspired Friendships community group. While Chris and Jake were there to give a talk on internet safety, 87-year-young Brian Pfeiffer led the group down memory lane to the early days of computing in the 1960s. Brian worked in NatWest’s systems design team from 1966-1991 and was involved in some of the bank’s early computer systems.

Our Project Support Coordinator, Bryony Goble, arranged an interview with Brian to learn more about his experiences. Brian was fantastic to talk to, and was more than happy to share his memories of his time in Natwest. In the very earliest days of computers, the standard method of inputting data was through punched cards (pictured below). The earliest computers would ‘read’ these cards, and run the programme that had been painstakingly typed out by hand. Eventually, punched cards evolved into paper tape but soon this medium gave way to magnetic tapes and disk drives, the first being around the size of a fridge, which could store only 1GB of data. Next came the floppy disks, CD-ROMs and USB Memory Sticks we know today! All of this changed over a period of only a few decades, and it wasn’t until the 1980s that computers became remotely common, let alone affordable.

With how rapidly technology has changed in the past 60 years, many have felt left behind, and with good reason! So much of our world has moved or is moving online, and if your digital skills aren’t sufficient to keep up with these changes, it is easy to feel like you’re missing out. This is why Digital Kent was set up – we want to help everyone grow their digital skills, no matter their skill level or confidence with technology. When Brian was asked his opinions on the importance of technology, he said “digital skills are essential!”. He said that these days, the key is to have a “logical brain” when figuring out technology, rather than be an expert and always know what you’re doing. After Brian left Natwest in 1991, retiring at only 57, he stopped using computers, but he soon found that computers were invaluable and hasn’t stopped since!

We’re so grateful to Brian for telling us all about his life and experiences with technology, and hope that others will find inspiration from him!