I was looking for a comic I remembered from my childhood – in fifth or sixth grade I bought a rubber stamp I was so inspired by it, so that bound the search a little. I searched the internet for possible publication dates, and it is widely reported that Mark Slackmeyer got a job programming (or operating, depending on which version you find) a DEC PDP 11/70 in May of 1971.

I looked at every single Doonesbury comic from the start of publication until I found the actual set of strips:

  • 28-JUNE-1972 (mention of the matchbook cover text)
  • job starts 01-JULY-1972
  • 03-JULY-1972 (where he’s dealing with a PDP-112),
  • 04-JULY-1972
  • 05-JULY-1972 (mention of the matchbook and salary of $7300 a year as an operator, $41k inflation adjusted to 2015 dollars; he’s actually paid $1 an hour, or $2080 annually)
  • 06-JULY-1972
  • 07-JULY-1972 (in which Slackmeyer uses the still-common debugging technique of screaming)
  • 08-JULY-1972 when Mark fights a threading problem with a tape drive.

I’ll point out there was no PDP-112, but PDP 7 serial #112 is famous for being preserved. I don’t know the source of the widely (PDP 11, 1998) repeated (page 15) (11/70, 1990 Usenet post) error, but I hope this post starts showing up higher in results than the wrong claim.

The strip for 02-JULY-1972 does mention a now-common technology. I’ll note Slackmeyer did have an undisclosed job at his dad’s brokerage in 1971 for a single day, and he does mention IBM in that story arc, but only as an equity, not a product he’s using.

I found a book review:

Throughout the book, the famous comic strip character Doonesbury and his friend, Mark, marvel at the many wonders of the computer. A newspaper ad for computer operators convinces them that they have found their true vocation in life. “Earn $7,000, impress your friends. MEET GIRLS

from September, 1976. repeated verbatim in the February, 1977 issue of BYTE.

I think

“Earn $7,000, impress your friends. MEET GIRLS

is my new motto.