Back in 1973 I was a long-haired college student at U/Wisconsin Stevens Point. I liked science, so I was a chemistry student. The chemistry never went anywhere but I did discover computers. Of course computers were not very advanced at that time, but that was part of the appeal. This was cutting edge technology! A few friends told me that the college had computer programming courses. I was shocked and excited -- I couldn't believe that they would let mere students touch computers! As I took the first class I discovered that I was pretty good at it, not necessarily because I had any natural aptitude, but because something about programming powerfully drew me in. The whole thing was fascinating, the fact that I could make a computer do things automatically. It was an adrenaline rush to see the new features I put into programs appear. It was as I had produced life out of nothing, out of thin air, just by conceiving of something and then writing the computer code that implemented it. I would work on a program for hours. It was an addiction. I didn't have to force myself to work on this stuff like I did for the rest of my classes. This was pulling me in!
The college had a single IBM 1130 series computer for the students. As near as I can remember, it had 8K of internal memory and a single hard disk platter. That's something like enough computing power to enable an ant to move his left pinky. One day the teacher opened the door of the computer and showed us the little iron cores that were its internal memory, wires were woven through each one.
We wrote our programs by typing up a deck of punched cards. We put the cards into a card reader, the computer compiled the program, ran the program and finally printed the results on a line printer. The computer could only handle one program at a time. It had to go through the whole cycle from beginning to read the punched cards for a program to finishing the printing for that program before it could start another. So while one persons program was being processed, everyone else had to wait in line, watching their decks of punched cards slowly inch down the card reader.
I had an epiphany during the second class I took. A computer program could handle text as well as numbers. So I should be able to write software that would look at text sentences, parse out the words, and save the sentences. Then with more programming I could accept questions, parse out the words in the questions, figure out what it wanted, and find the answers to those questions among the saved text sentences. The computer would be able to understand English! Wow! Artificial Intelligence! The quest begins.