Chapter 2

Beach boy

At ScrippsScrippsScripps Institution of Oceanography, San Diego, California was established to support marine biological research, but from 1908 onwards pioneered geophysical research in the oceans. Teddy Bullard was a frequent visitor and undertook early ocean floor heat flow measurements with Roger Revelle. In 1962 the University of California established the new Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics alongside Scripps in La Jolla. , while still a graduate student, McKenzie learnt computer programming using Fortran and programmes written on punched cards. At this time there was one computer on the whole university campus, with less power than a mobile phone has today. It cost $300 an hour to use. The machine was not at Scripps itself, but on the main campus and there was one delivery a day of punched cards and computer output. Progress was at first slow. “For someone who was learning to compute, this was amazingly frustrating. It took me three weeks just to get the computer to read in the sequence ‘1 2 3 4’ and print out ‘1 2 3 4’,” said McKenzie. “But by the end of the next three weeks I was doing contour integrals with complex variables.”

Fortran punchcard, dated 27 April 1965.