Many of the founders of Australia ’s computer software industry learned their programming skills on CSIRAC.
Clients could not just start operating CSIRAC. In Sydney, they sat down with the programmers and worked out the most effective way to squeeze the problem into the computer’s small memory.
In Melbourne, the Computation Laboratory offered courses in programming, where users were taught exactly how the arithmetic worked in the machine. In 1960 Geoff Hill finally made CSIRAC easier to use, when he developed a programming language called INTERPROGRAM.
Throughout its life, CSIRAC programmers wrote early computer games that used the small screens on the console and the lights on the cabinet. Although simple, they foreshadowed the versatility of later generations of computers.
Dick Jenssen wrote a game called ‘The way the ball bounces,’ in which the user flicked a switch either up or down. CSIRAC tried to predict the user’s next move, based on their past choices. Kay Thorne was so adept at beating CSIRAC that a more difficult game had to be written.
Like all other first-generation computers, CSIRAC had its own unique design. Its programs had to be developed from scratch. To do so, users needed to know the workings of the machine, as well as how to convert instructions into software it could understand.