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Old 13.03.2011, 19:32
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Re: Switzerland in the olden days

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OK, maybe it's not that long ago, but when I moved here in 1987 there were no automatic teller machines, you waited in line at the bank if you wanted cash. The Zurich Hauptbahnhof was a pretty seedy place on only one level with dark, smokey run-down restaurants, and an xxx theatre in front. I may have brought the first mountain bike with me, based on the stares I would get biking through Zurich. Credit cards were taboo accepted nowhere. All shops shut promptly at 18.00, and Saturdays at 16.00, no exceptions, and on Sunday you couldn't buy anything, anywhere, to save your life. There was no Internet, no mobile phones, no English anything except the Int'l Herald Tribune. Extremely limited TV channels. I think the first one was CNN.
Strange to look at that documentation. You realize that you get older when you look through such documents and feel reminded to your childhood

At Zürich HB, there already in the late 1950ies was a fairly expensive noble restaurant on the first floor overlooking the Bahnhofplatz, but those places inside the compound were rather rundown indeed.

Shop closing time however was 18.30, and on Saturdays it had changed from 17.00 to 16.00 in about 1980

In the mid 60ies you only had 2 TV channels, SRG and ARD, but in about 1969 came ZDF, in the early 70ies colour TV (before it was black+white), and then over the years gradually more and more.

English newspapers ? Already in 1972 you could purchase right here in Zurich TheTimes, Financial Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph and the Herald Tribune, as well as TheEconomist plus Newsweek & TimeMagazine. So that you in this respect missed out a bit
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  #122  
Old 13.03.2011, 20:05
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Re: Switzerland in the olden days

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OK, maybe it's not that long ago, but when I moved here in 1987 there were no automatic teller machines, you waited in line at the bank if you wanted cash. The Zurich Hauptbahnhof was a pretty seedy place on only one level with dark, smokey run-down restaurants, and an xxx theatre in front. I may have brought the first mountain bike with me, based on the stares I would get biking through Zurich. Credit cards were taboo accepted nowhere. All shops shut promptly at 18.00, and Saturdays at 16.00, no exceptions, and on Sunday you couldn't buy anything, anywhere, to save your life. There was no Internet, no mobile phones, no English anything except the Int'l Herald Tribune. Extremely limited TV channels. I think the first one was CNN.
The first ATM in Switzerland went into operation in 1968, Zurich ZKB. By 87 they were definitely everywhere. I don't remember a XXX theatre. There used to be a "normal" movie theatre where there is now only an open space in the big hall. I've seen only one movie in it, "Ninja III The Domination" I can confirm riding a mountain bike in the mid 80s for the first time. It was a Kettler Alu, super expensive and weighing 20kg. I was used to my Peugeot racing bike and the whole thing seemed kind of ridiculous to me (I love my MTB now). Aerial TV was limited and we only received 6 channels (SF DRS, TSR, TSI, SWR3, ARD, ZDF). This is why Switzerland had a more extensive cable network than almost anywhere in Europe, only Bruxelles had a larger cable network than Zurich.

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  #123  
Old 13.03.2011, 20:34
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Re: Switzerland in the olden days

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In the mid 60ies you only had 2 TV channels, SRG and ARD, but in about 1969 came ZDF, in the early 70ies colour TV (before it was black+white), and then over the years gradually more and more.

English newspapers ? Already in 1972 you could purchase right here in Zurich TheTimes, Financial Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph and the Herald Tribune, as well as TheEconomist plus Newsweek & TimeMagazine. So that you in this respect missed out a bit
In the St. Gallen Area we had Austrian TV too, and ZDF came before 1965. Color TV was available in 1967 (both ARD and ZDF); I built my own areal to catch color ZDF from Freiburg im Breisgau across the Black Forest, because all the specialists said it's impossible over that distance of about 120 km.

I moved to Zurich in 1967, and, just as in St. Gallen, many English newspapers and magazines were available there. Yes, the original American Playboy too, plus Wireless World (UK), Popular Electronics (USA), Classic Boat (UK), Practical Boat Owner (ditto), and many more. Around Zurich Main Station there were at least ten news stands within easy walking distance where you could get all that stuff.
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  #124  
Old 13.03.2011, 20:40
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Re: Switzerland in the olden days

Was born here in 1951 and left for UK in 1970, returned 2 years ago. My mum and dad passed away recently, born 1915 and 1912. So much to tell, but don't know where to start ...

Last edited by Odile; 13.03.2011 at 21:18.
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  #125  
Old 13.03.2011, 20:52
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Re: Switzerland in the olden days

I remember a Switzerland where people always greeted each other in the street, where shopkeepers couldn't do enough to help their customers, where bar staff smiled and remembered what you were drinking last time. I remember a Switzerland where young lads, congregated outside the supermarket, stood aside and wished you good day as you walked amongst them. I remember a Switzerland where young ladies were not ashamed to walk down the street covered in bright make-up, spangly clothes and feathers, on their way to a Fasnacht party. I remember a Switzerland where cars slowed down as they approached people walking on a pavementless road, where dogs sprang to heel on the command of their masters, where cattle grazed quietly, save for the clang of their bells. I remember a Switzerland where farmers trained their horses in the warm spring sunshine, where snowdrops danced in the morning breeze, where a clear, cold spring emerged from the rock to begin a journey that would end in the North Sea.

I wish I could say that I remembered Switzerland in the olden days, but I'd be lying. This was the Switzerland to which I woke up yesterday morning.

21st century? You can keep it, thank you very much...
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  #126  
Old 13.03.2011, 21:51
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Re: Switzerland in the olden days

Wow DB, that sounds like moving to the Sapsago Slot has turned you into a poet.
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  #127  
Old 14.03.2011, 12:21
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Re: Switzerland in the olden days

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I stumbled across this book, Switzerland, by John L Stoddard from 1901 online. There are 17 separate sections available. I have only had a brief look at it but will be looking in more detail some time.
I found one really amusing extract here:

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I never shall forget the baths of Leuk. Shades of the Mermaids! what a sight they presented. In a somewhat shabby hall, containing great compartments of hot water, I saw a multitude of heads - long-haired and short-haired, light and dark, male and female - bobbing about like buoys adorned with sea-weed. A fine chance this to study physiognomy, pure and simple. In front of these amphibious creatures were floating tables, upon which they could eat, drink, knit, read, and even play cards to pass away the time. As these waters are chiefly used for skin diseases, one might suppose that each bather would prefer a separate room; but no, in this case "misery loves company." The length of time which one must remain soaking in these tanks of hot water makes solitary bathing unendurable.
It all sounds so appealing, doesn't it!

The picture is captioned 'Parboiled-Patients'

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  #128  
Old 14.03.2011, 13:21
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Re: Switzerland in the olden days

I am definitely NOT making this stuff up. It is what bugged me the most when I moved here in '87.
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The first ATM in Switzerland went into operation in 1968, Zurich ZKB. By 87 they weIre definitely everywhere. I don't remember a XXX theatre. There used to be a "normal" movie theatre where there is now only an open space in the big hall. I've seen only one movie in it, "Ninja III The Domination" I can confirm riding a mountain bike in the mid 80s for the first time. It was a Kettler Alu, super expensive and weighing 20kg. I was used to my Peugeot racing bike and the whole thing seemed kind of ridiculous to me (I love my MTB now). Aerial TV was limited and we only received 6 channels (SF DRS, TSR, TSI, SWR3, ARD, ZDF). This is why Switzerland had a more extensive cable network than almost anywhere in Europe, only Bruxelles had a larger cable network than Zurich.
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  #129  
Old 14.03.2011, 15:14
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Re: Switzerland in the olden days

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How was the expat community composed before the influx from Germany (me incl.)
I believe that in the 1980s a lot of the British expats were in technical jobs, many of them in or around the nuclear industry. The focus has since shifted away from engineering and more towards financial services and the like.
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  #130  
Old 14.03.2011, 15:21
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Re: Switzerland in the olden days

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OK, maybe it's not that long ago, but when I moved here in 1987 there were no automatic teller machines, you waited in line at the bank if you wanted cash. The Zurich Hauptbahnhof was a pretty seedy place on only one level with dark, smokey run-down restaurants, and an xxx theatre in front. I may have brought the first mountain bike with me, based on the stares I would get biking through Zurich. Credit cards were taboo accepted nowhere. All shops shut promptly at 18.00, and Saturdays at 16.00, no exceptions, and on Sunday you couldn't buy anything, anywhere, to save your life. There was no Internet, no mobile phones, no English anything except the Int'l Herald Tribune. Extremely limited TV channels. I think the first one was CNN.
Sounds like a way cool laid back place ...
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  #131  
Old 15.03.2011, 02:15
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Re: Switzerland in the olden days

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I am definitely NOT making this stuff up. It is what bugged me the most when I moved here in '87.
I cannot tell about the ATMs as I long after they had started up in places was used to go to the counter. But i really CAN tell you that there was no "XXX-theatre" in HB, as it was the modest "Cinebref" which in the mid 60ies had to move out of its traditional base at Schützengasse. Cinebref of course heavily depended on the Wochenschau, as up into the late 60ies, most people did not yet have TV but only radio and so quite liked the "Wochenschau". But that came to an end in the late 60ies. In the late 80ies, people had between 5 and 12 TV channels available. In principle at least, because the TV-sets of the 70ies were limited to about 8 channels. But the TV-sets of the mid-80ies were having space for 20 channels. But back to the newspapers, the newspapers and magazines I mentioned DEFINTELY were available here already in the 1960ies.
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  #132  
Old 15.03.2011, 04:54
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Re: Switzerland in the olden days

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I am definitely NOT making this stuff up. It is what bugged me the most when I moved here in '87.
There were certainly fewer ATMs but they were part of my life well before 87. In 86 UBS (then SBG) opened a branch with only ATMs at Bahnhofstrasse. In 85 I knew a software engineer working on ATMs and me being a teenager I knew perfectly well what he was working on.

http://www.presseportal.ch/de/pm/100...card_solutions

1968 23 ATMs
1978 118 ATMs
1985 494 ATMs
1990 1'904 ATMs
1997 4'290 ATMs
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  #133  
Old 15.03.2011, 07:50
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Re: Switzerland in the olden days

What a great thread...
Arriving here as a child in 1976, I didn't really have many contacts with "real Switzerland"... as an expat kid in expat schools, one doesn't have that much exposure.

I remember mostly the rudeness of people toward a child who didn't speak french (common assumption was back then "oh, no, another uneducated urchin") and being pushed around because of that.

All the rest was really a matter of fact that I didn't compare. Looking back, it was quiet (oh soooo quiet, as a teen ...), safe.. but no memory such as "ahhh the good old days".

But while going around in the wonderful site provided by Sky, I found this gem... http://www.notrehistoire.ch/video/view/216/ It's the TSR presenting the changes in the city of Lausanne, done for the exposition of 1964.. the Pont Chaudron... the highway exchange of Ecublens and Maladière... la "Ficelle"...
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  #134  
Old 15.03.2011, 09:01
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Re: Switzerland in the olden days

I first came to Switzerland in 1995 as a summer intern in electrical engineering for a power distribution plant in St. Gallen. So I can say what Switzerland was like 15 years ago.

When the rest of the world had joined the information superhighway and was surfing the internet every day to check their emails, my corporation employed 3 people to painstakingly fill forms that had just moved from paper to an xcel spreadsheet. It took each person one full day to fill something like 5 forms. They hated computers because they made everything slower and "too complicated". They had never heard of power point until I used it (as one routinely does) to present the results of my work at summer's end. The people who saw the presentation were impressed by the fact that my slides were animated and the text walked in from the left and from the right sometimes at the touch of a button.

Powerpoint had been around in the rest of the world for 8 years (it first came out in 1987), but in my "modern, efficient" electrical power distribution conglomerate they had just heard of it when I used it as a matter of course to give a presentation. Unbelievable.

I mentioned the internet. No internet connection in the company and in order to get to an internet machine I had to take the train for 1 hour to get to the computers at the library of ETH in Zurich. I tried to convince the company that they should get an internet connection for the company. They couldn't see the utility. I went back to the US after that summer, back to the modern world, to DSL lines with Megabit downloads and connectivity with friends and family, online shops, instant information at your fingertips with the touch of a "search" button. What a relief!

Fast forward to today. I came to Switzerland again in 2006. In 2010 (last year!), I worked at a company that still used EEPROMS to store the programs that controlled power supplies of 100s of KV to power sophisticated medical and industrial x-ray machines. EEPROMS are old chips that haven't been seen in industry since the early 90's and this company was still shipping them out to customers (clunky, awkward pieces of hardware with the software stored inside that must be inserted into your device with a screwdriver!), when the rest of the world simply upgrades customer's software by asking them to download the new version off a website. I wondered where they got them, since no one makes them anymore and they're incredibly expensive to get (because no one makes them anymore so you have to buy old ones that still happen to be in the warehouse of a dinosaur company somewhere). The answer: they had bought a huge stock back in the 80's, and they still kept stacks of these chips around in THEIR warehouse. That confirmed I was working for a dinosaur (you know, the kind who stores old EEPROMS that no one uses in a warehouse somewhere ) and I left a few months afterwards.

To me, Switzerland has always been at least 20 years behind the rest of the world, progresswise, but most especially in technology. As an engineer who's worked in industry for quite a while, both here and abroad, I have seen it first hand. It always amazes me how the swiss can ever manage to manufacture anything, given how primitive and slow their industrial process is. I guess they coast on their much hyped and, from my perspective, completely fictitious "swiss quality". Perhaps they're good watchmakers (but even there I have my doubts), but from what I've seend in the industries and companies I've worked at in the past 4 years or so (there have been several), they are in reality quite woefully behind the times. Good luck competing with China, Switzerland!
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  #135  
Old 15.03.2011, 10:31
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Re: Switzerland in the olden days

I completed my studies at the ETH in 1996. At the ETH we were very spolit in terms of computer infrastructure as everybody had email and all computers were on the Internet and the ETH was updating its infrastructure quite regularly so we were used to the most modern stuff that was going.

Already back in 1991 when I began my studies, and the Internet was very much in its infancy, I remember on my first day being shown how to set up an email address and how to order library books online. The internet of then wasn't really comparable to that of later years as it was all text based and as some computers didn't yet have a mouse you could alternatively naviagte with cursor keys. Hardly anybody had a proper website back then so most of the stuff you could look at was internal to the ETH. There was a chat however, and it was actually pretty functional. I had previously lived in Germany for three years and finished my schooling there so cannot make a direct comparison to technology in the UK at the time, but definitely compared to the computers we had at school in Germany this was lightyears ahead. The computers at school could be programmed in BASIC and that was all you could do with them. So I don't really follow the idea that anything was backward.

Later I became involved in the student organisation. My job for a while was to organise field trips and one of the first webistes I made was to announce these and make an interface for participants to register. At the time there was no dedicated software for webistes so I taught myself HTML by looking at other people's source code. Besides the fun trips, such as touring breweries, many of these trips were to visit installations, factories etc of potential employers and the companies concerned were always very keen on these trips happening so I spent a lot of time on the phone talking to various managers. Anybody who was interested in working for ABB at the time (this was mid 1990s) will know that the recruitment officer of the day was a certain vile character whose initials were U.S. U loved to show how powerful he was and how insignificant students were and sometimes arguing with himw as like talking to a brick wall. Well, anyway, he wasked me how I was going to advertise this trip. I said, I'm putting it on the web page. He asked, I only want ETH students to come on this trip, how can I prevent others from registering? I said, I will screen registrations personally (we weren't expecting more than 20 or so participants, and I knew most of the department personally so this was no problem). He said, no, that's not good enough. I must set up the web page so only people inside the ETH can see it. I said, no, I can't do that as I'd have to have administrator access to the server which I don't have. To set that up, so I'd have to track down the administartor and the administartor has enough work on his plate and at the end of the day its more fficient on my time to do it my way. I also said, some of the ETH computers are publically accessible so such a filter would be useless anyway. He insisted so just to make him shut up I pretended to go along with him while doing it may way.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, 2 years later I actually joined ABB. When I started there, I was somehow expecting the computer systems there to be perfect, seeing Mr U.S. had made such high demands of mine. At the ETH I was at the time used to working with Macs and UNIX systems, with every computer having internet access, a mouse, a colour monitor and such things, and now in my new company we were still using DOS and Windows 3 and nobody had email and there wasn't even a proper network and some people didn't even have a mouse. So it felt like stepping backing at least 5 if not 10 years. Stuff that I had previously done in MATLAB we were now doing in Excel (I kid you not) and we didn't even have a manual for Excel and when we borrowed one it mostly didn't answer our questions. But because some Nazi in the IT department decided that he couldn't see the point of a software that can do semi-proper maths, we couldn't have it.

I asked our boss why we couldn't have email and he said, there was no point. He was laready having to answer his phone and check his snail mail so why a third channel? He also once told me the computer mouse would never catch on. This was schocking for a technoogy company. To defend the Swiss, I must point out that this guy was German. Later email was rolled out but only for managers. It took several more years till we got it and when we did it was Lotus Notes which even then was so backwards as to be a joke.
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  #136  
Old 15.03.2011, 12:06
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Re: Switzerland in the olden days

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I completed my studies at the ETH in 1996. At the ETH we were very spolit in terms of computer infrastructure as everybody had email and all computers were on the Internet and the ETH was updating its infrastructure quite regularly so we were used to the most modern stuff that was going.

Already back in 1991 when I began my studies, and the Internet was very much in its infancy, I remember on my first day being shown how to set up an email address and how to order library books online. The internet of then wasn't really comparable to that of later years as it was all text based and as some computers didn't yet have a mouse you could alternatively naviagte with cursor keys. Hardly anybody had a proper website back then so most of the stuff you could look at was internal to the ETH. There was a chat however, and it was actually pretty functional. I had previously lived in Germany for three years and finished my schooling there so cannot make a direct comparison to technology in the UK at the time, but definitely compared to the computers we had at school in Germany this was lightyears ahead. The computers at school could be programmed in BASIC and that was all you could do with them. So I don't really follow the idea that anything was backward.
You yourself said it was backward as soon as you moved out of the walls of ETH and into the corporate world.

When in Switzerland you could only get decent internet at Einstein's alma mater and topmost university, the rest of the world, including 3rd world countries like Mexico, had people with internet at home, let alone at corporations, let alone in no-name universities, let alone in their top universities. That was my point: Switzerland, relatively to the rest of the world, IS (not WAS, IS!!) more backwards by at least 20 years.

And something else: when you were programming in BASIC at your top country's university "because the computers couldn't handle anything else", the rest of the world was programming in C++, LISP, and Java. Heck. I stopped programming in BASIC in elementary school, back in 1987. In 3rd world country Mexico. (That's where I grew up, btw).

Oh, and while in Switzerland you were only accessing ETH pages because "there was hardly anyone on the internet", the rest of the world was accessing servers in South America, Asia, Europe, and of course, the most densely populated internet haven at the time: the USA, courtesy of its thousands of nodes including MIT, Stanford, and NASA/Ames. While in Switzerland you were using your university's computers to organize student events with no password-protected access, in the rest of the world, Pizza Hut was offering web-based ordering and delivery service back in 1994 (see for instance here: http://www.thocp.net/reference/internet/internet3.htm).

You furthermore state that in 1991 some of your nationally-renowned university's computers didn't have a mouse?? You mean that ubiquitous pointing device invented back in 1963?

Now read your post again and tell me Switzerland isn't/wasn't backwards.
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Old 15.03.2011, 12:08
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Re: Switzerland in the olden days

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Now read your post again and tell me Switzerland isn't/wasn't backwards.
Cautious, perhaps. Unimpressed with novelty, for sure.

But backwards? I don't think so.
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Old 15.03.2011, 12:13
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Re: Switzerland in the olden days

I am a computer user- and not much more. But my Swiss brother was in the first wave of the IT PhD at Grenoble Unitversity in 1966 - and worked on the formulation of several IT languages in Switzerland afterwards - can't give details, but Pascal was one- at Neuchatel Uni and others.

When he told us about his decision and what he was going to study - we were sure he was going to the moon or something - as none of us (mountain peasants..) had any idea of what 'informatique' was.
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  #139  
Old 15.03.2011, 12:30
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Re: Switzerland in the olden days

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You yourself said it was backward as soon as you moved out of the walls of ETH and into the corporate world.
Yes, it was an international company. The CEO was a Swede, the chief engineer was an American with many years of experience in top-notch American companies (including a stint in Mexico). The best they could come up with was creaking 386 running DOS and if you were lucky Windows 3.11 - because it was cheap. This wasn't a Swiss problem, it was the corporate world being slow to pick up the pace and recognise the value of progress. It is also the difference between academia and the real world.

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And something else: when you were programming in BASIC at your top country's university "because the computers couldn't handle anything else", the rest of the world was programming in C++, LISP, and Java.
I never programmed BASIC at ETH. I programmed some very strange languages admittedly around 1991-2 but that's because Niklas Wirth was the silverback of ETH computing back then and he was into inventing large numbers of strange languages as a hobby. But what does it matter? If you've learnt Oberon then you can teach yourself Java in a day (I did, almost literally). It's the concepts that count, not the details. I actually think benefitted from learning a more eclectic language as it taught to understand what I'm doing to a greater extent than many programmers I've worked with who learnt the easy way.

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in the rest of the world, Pizza Hut was offering web-based ordering and delivery service back in 1994 (see for instance here: http://www.thocp.net/reference/internet/internet3.htm).
In case you've forgotten, Pizza Hut was in Switzerland back then. There was even one outside HB. Obviously they weren't that good, otherwise they wouldn't have pulled out.

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You furthermore state that in 1991 some of your nationally-renowned university's computers didn't have a mouse?? You mean that ubiquitous pointing device invented back in 1963?
I do know about the history of the mouse. 1991 was a different world though and you considered yourself lucky to have access to a powerful computer that could actually do something. Other folks were still working with DOS, and continued to think DOS was cool for many years after that.
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Old 15.03.2011, 12:45
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Re: Switzerland in the olden days

And concerning being behind the times, it's all a question of perspective. When I go to Germany, I cannot use my credit card in many stores, including Media Markt. Does that make Germany backwards, or is it just that they haven't caught the credit card thing? Go to the USA and many cities still have their power and phone cables on wooden poles rather than underground which makes such places look so 3rd worldish. And then look at the technology behind it and they use pole mounted transformrs and reclosers designed in the 1920s and still in production today. Does that make the USA backwards, or again is it a question of priority.
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