Computers Taking Over World, 1963 Edition


Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.

November 21, 1963, Vol. IX, No. 5

The Little Machine That Couldn’t

By Mary Perot Nichols

…A recent story in the New York Times headlined “Electronics Ends Housing Muddle”…could easily have led the unwary reader to believe that it was all coming up roses in the field of housing code enforcement. It was not until the 20th — penultimate — paragraph that some doubt was raised that the housing muddle had really come to an end. Said the Times of the new IBM miracle the Buildings Department is using:

“Despite this potential, however, it still takes the department about two weeks to acknowledge receipt of a complaint because it lacks the budget money to hire more key punch operators. The Community Service Society and the Women’s City Club have criticized shortages of clerical and inspectional personnel.”

…As for the IBM machine itself…Those who fear the coming of automation can take comfort from their story. Human beings are still necessary, first as key punch operators and programmers to feed the machine; then when the inspection orders pop out at the end, human inspectors are needed to go out to the houses and take a look…

A visit to the Buildings Department by The Voice showed that the WMCA charges were substantially true. Buildings Commissioner Harold Birns said, “I agree there are delays,” and added that the IBM machine, through no fault of its own, “is not functioning at the optimum level we hope for.” He stated flatly, under questioning, that it is a budget problem. Programmers, clerks, and inspectors are needed, he said…

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]