The Wave of the Future: High School Computer Classes in the 1970s

March 11, 2022

The connection between computer technology and education began early on. In fact, when computers first came on the scene, there were many experts that believed that only universities and the military would ever use the modern invention. 

High school students in the late 1970s. (Photo by Fred Ross/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Yet by the 1970s, computers had found their way into high schools and dedicated computer science cases were added to the curriculum across the country. Leading this push for computer education at the high school level were two main factors … the Cold War and Steve Jobs. Let’s take a look at high school computer science classes of the 1970s in this collection of colorized photos. 

Mainframes and Punch Cards

By the end of the 1970s, computers had come a long way from mainframes and punch cards, as this colorized photo shows. (

If your high school was affluent enough, students may have had a room-sized IBM mainframe computer for rudimentary computer programming classes. Students wrote their own programs which were transferred onto a stack of punch cards that the students rubber-banded together and turned in to the teacher. The teacher would run the punch cards through the IBM mainframe and assign you a grade based on whether the program worked or not. It was a frustrating and cumbersome ordeal, but these students were the lucky ones. The majority of high schools didn’t have computers for their students to use.