Computers were in the first generation then as I found out and there was no magic involved in how they worked. I learned that they were read by machines that detected empty slots on the cards and translated as 0 or 1! I completed a 6 month long key punch course, then completed a 6 month long verifier course. (Every punched card had to be re-done for accuracy by the verifier.)
I was very irritated to learn that the numbers 0, 1, 2 ,3 4, 5,6,7 8, 9, on the IBM machines were reversed, from how they were arranged on adding machines and the comptometers that I was proficient in using. The exact opposite from the 10-key adding machine I'd become proficient using, after they replaced comptometers, which as a bookkeeper I'd used as a payroll clerk for 5 years in my first job at Sears. (10-key adding machines were an improvement to me and I'd become very fast and more accurate.) That reversal of numbers didn't make sense but I learned the new reversed order. This was just the first time I noticed 'reversals from what had been normal to me.
My first job was with an air freight company, making IBM cards for each order, and there were piles of paperwork every day. I found out soon that my co-workers were foreign females on welfare which wasn't enough money to live on. Except for one young woman that was like me, Caucasian. She was the fastest and most accurate person in the group, she made no mistakes for days at a time. When I sat next to her, the machine gun-like noise of her key strokes disoriented me...... for some months. Then one day she stopped punching and grinned at me as she asked: "You're trying to keep up with me, aren't you? You want to be faster than I am, don't you?" I had begun to want to match her accuracy. It seemed impossible that someone could 'type' so fast and rarely make an error but I felt challenged to try to match her speed and if possible improve my accuracy. I did progress but never came close to her accuracy.
When my husband was recalled to work, I quit that job until the next time he was laid off or on strike, I found a job so we would have insurance coverage. I was hired by an large insurance company that was just at that point converting from hand posted journalled bookkeeping to computers. It was a very great change.
A handsome (I really thought he was movie star good-looking ) young programmer was in charge, helping the 3 well into middle aged women I was hired to work with because I had some computer education. He had to link their knowledge of the hand posted reports to the many abstracted reports produced by the computer. At the end of the month the top level supervisors hovered around us waiting for their 'figures' which had to balance exactly to the penny, with one all encompassing report. They needed those 'figures' and quickly so they hovered around in a bothersome way, pacing, looking over our shoulders.
As time passed I became aware that the woman I worked most closely with had a genius kind of understanding that helped to link the hand posted material to the machine generated output so that it balanced, but that she did that almost magically, not from understanding how she did it. She was eager to learn more and we got along well until one month, the reports that were abstracted from the main journal didn't balance, by a few dollars and cents. The hovering 'suits' (that's what we called the supervisors bosses) were frustrated and outraged when the error delayed their monthly 'figures'.
The programmer was the only person that understood enough to trace the many reports to the final report and he was as frustrated as they were. One day I overheard him trying to explain what he was doing to an assembly of top level supervisors and I heard myself interrupt: "The only explanation is the computer isn't adding accurately." It was a statement that I had not thought about, the words came from my mouth thought-less-ly.
That made everyone laugh but as days passed and the error wasn't located, I began to think the only way to prove it was to use a 10-key adding machine, produce a tape and match the items on it to the items on the final report, which was a big pile, not a few pages. Against my bosses wishes I began to use my 10-key to enter the items on the final report and that took a few hours to do, the tape filled a wastebasket when I finished. My final figure was only a few dollars different so I had to find that difference.
The task of matching the items on the tape to the numbers on the report was left to me to do, and the atmosphere was hostile so I felt pressured but determined. Within only a few minutes I'd located an error and corrected it, after which my tape differed from the main journal by the exact difference we needed to locate. That changed the atmosphere from hostility to a more tolerable distrust of the idea that the computer had not added correctly. The programmer and I worked to compare my tape to the journal and at the end the only difference was again the exact difference we needed. The computer had for some reason produced the wrong amount. The same problem occurred the next month and the next month, but nobody ever figured out why it happened. That was barely enough to restore me to some semblance of reasonable but I left that job in a stressful mindset.
My next job was in a county government office, and by then the second generation of computers were entering the workplace. A situation developed that caused me to be assigned to the medical billing office, just when a new manager was appointed and then dismissed so that we didn't have a boss. The group I worked with had no management and I was the only person that had bookkeeping and computer experience so we decided to keep going with what knowledge we had. It was in this job that I witnessed how a few people who have authority can operate as though they are kings, with unlimited power to make decisions that affect others drastically, to a life changing degree.
Computers were so different then but 0,1, was still the basis of how information was input, used and stored. Now the computer is being developed that can 'think' like we humans think. Can that be accomplished? I remember when I heard my self say, "The computer must not be adding correctly." and nobody believed me.