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'Modern' Computers Turn 60 Years Old

CowboyNeal posted more than 6 years ago | from the happy-birthday-baby dept.

Upgrades 88

Christian Smith writes "Stored program computers are 60 years old on Saturday. The Small Scale Experimental Machine, or 'Baby,' first ran on the 21st of June, 1948, in Manchester. While not the first computer, nor even programmable computer, it was the first that stored its program in its own memory. Luckily, transistors shrank the one tonne required for this computing power to something more manageable."

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A tonne? (4, Insightful)

Majik Sheff (930627) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885587)

What's that in Volkswagen Beetles?

Re:A tonne? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23885725)

1.21 Old, 0.74 New.

Re:A tonne? (2, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886019)

That's proof it ain't a Japanese car. Else the new one would be at the very least at factor 2. And next gen it would be 5.

Re:A tonne? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23887457)

Why the fuck is this shit modded insightful? I can understand being modded "Funny" -- but it's not even funny. These "units" jokes that don't come with a new twist are just that: old, recycled memes that for whatever reason don't get modded into oblivion. Please stop, so that we can have a rational discussion about something that so obviously merits intellectual celebration.

The sad thing is, there's actually a possibility that this will get modded funny :(

Re:A tonne? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23887955)

I too was shocked to see an insightful mod on this. I was shooting for funny. *SHRUG*

-Sheff

Re:A tonne? (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 6 years ago | (#23889371)

You're right, but with creativity, variations of tired cliches can still be made entertaining. It's not so easy to get away with plain old "...but does it run Linux?" (those lusers are typically modded redundant) but fresh, clever variations on the memes are rightfully modded up.

If you don't like it then start your own meme(good luck with that), if you want to be that guy. You can start by taking a backside picture of yourself stretching open your anus while your flaccid penis dangles between your legs.

Re:A tonne? (1)

OMNIpotusCOM (1230884) | more than 6 years ago | (#23891517)

LOL

"But I pay for teh internets and I want it my way! Developers, Developers, DEVELOPERS!"

Evolution (3, Interesting)

AkaKaryuu (1062882) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885599)

In 60 years we've gone from computers the size of a room to a laptop computers thin enough to fit in an interoffice envelope. Where will we be in another 60 years, or even ten for that matter? It's somewhat scary that we've created a technology that advances much quicker than ourselves. It's just a matter of time before we are the number two species ( if you can call a computer a species ) walking the planet.

Re:Evolution (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23885951)

Lame.

Re:Evolution (4, Funny)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886491)

"In 60 years we've gone from computers the size of a room to a laptop computers thin enough to fit in an interoffice envelope."

Yeah...but, those old tubes used to make the data 'feel' warmer.

:-)

Re:Evolution (1)

jadedoto (1242580) | more than 6 years ago | (#23887023)

Obviously you haven't used a MacBook as a laptop...

Re:Evolution (1)

jadedoto (1242580) | more than 6 years ago | (#23887031)

That was supposed to be nested to a reply to the comment this is replying to. Who kills the humor? I do, I do!

Re:Evolution (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 6 years ago | (#23889519)

Yeah...but, those old tubes used to make the data 'feel' warmer.

So that's what the Pentium's floating-point unit was trying to simulate digitally.

Re:Evolution (3, Funny)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886903)

1. Transistors get far smaller

2. ???

3. We are slaves to robotic overlords

Maybe if you use Will Smith's humor, or a recursive time-travel paradox, to distract us from the "???" it could work as a plot.

Re:Evolution (1)

RorinRune (1116387) | more than 6 years ago | (#23887059)

I jumped the the conclusion that you were refering to the Dolphin as number 1, oh well. I guess I can still make it to the Restaurant at the end of the Universe.

Not so fast... (3, Interesting)

DrYak (748999) | more than 6 years ago | (#23888105)

Luckily, transistors shrank the one tonne required for this computing power to something more manageable
The poster apparently hasn't checked the specs needed to run Vista.

More seriously :

In 60 years we've gone from computers the size of a room to a laptop computers thin enough to fit in an interoffice envelope. Where will we be in another 60 years, or even ten for that matter?
You can bet that the developer will definitely find use for additional power, as machine performance increases.

What has caused the computers to shrink to envelop-size isn't as much the increased performance/size ratio. It's the market.

If Moore's law stated (roughly paraphrasing) that computer performance doubles each 2 years, one should expect the computer to reduce their size by half in that time frame. But that didn't happen. Because most of the time people only one to use the additional performance to have the same box as before but faster.

Only from time to time the users' interest shifts.
Desktop replaced microcomputers and mainframes, not (only) because suddenly the circuits could have been made smaller, but mainly because there was an increased interest in having a computer in each house.

Today's UMPC appeared only because the public is starting to have interest into something that is small and cheap. With the increase of circuit density, building pocketable devices that have the same power as computers from a couple of years before has been possible for quite long time. PDA have been around for a few years and some have quite decent performance. But the demand only started arising now.

So what will happen in 10 years ?
It all depends on the market then.
The technology will be around that could fit the processing power of today's big cluster into a chip as small as a pen.
But then it all depends of buyers choice. If suddenly pen--sized computer are the latest trends, you'll see them around. Probably with geeks claiming that 2018 will finaly be year of the Linux PenComputer, because Windows 8.0 just can't run on them.

But if UMPC are still the trend, you'll only see the same form factor as before, only with 40x processing power than today - three quarter of which will be taken by a combination of the bloated operating system and the DRM lock mechanisms.

Re:Not so fast... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23891617)

With Moores Law can you imagine what Compiz-Fusion will be like in 10 years time? Multiple desktop cubes? Cylinders & Spheres & Dodecahedra? Or an assortment of each? I just got 0.7.6 fired up and it...is...awesome...

Re:Not so fast... (1)

FireFury03 (653718) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892701)

If Moore's law stated (roughly paraphrasing) that computer performance doubles each 2 years

Except it didn't state that at all. Moore observed that the number of transistors that can be inexpensively placed on an integrated circuit doubles every two years. Equating number of transistors == performance is vastly oversimplifying things. For one thing, it doesn't even take into account changes in clock speeds.

Also, increasingly the performance of a single piece of silicon is less important, since we are offloading some processing to specialist processors (e.g. GPUs, which are many many times faster at performing the calculations required for 3D graphics than your CPU). I do wonder if one of the next steps in general purpose computing will be to include a number of FPGAs on the motherboard (or in the CPU package itself) which can be reconfigured to do specialist operations on the fly - this would massively increase the performance of some operations that are normally run on the CPU.

60 Years Old? (1)

Redfeather (1033680) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885601)

That's as many as six tens.
And that's terrible.

Re:60 Years Old? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23885755)

A source: Superdickery.com [superdickery.com]

Re:60 Years Old? (1)

William Robinson (875390) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885931)

60 Years Old

60 years!!! No wonder my PC is so slow.

That Depends (3, Informative)

FurtiveGlancer (1274746) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885607)

US or European? Saftey equipment varies and so do curb weights.

Re:That Depends (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23885689)

I would imagine the weight he wanted was the weight of the beetle filled to the maximum amount possible with live clowns. Sometimes the clowns are considered 'airbags' and so may qualify as safety equipment, but your mileage may vary. I don't think he was asking about how much a curb weighs though. that would probably depend on the height, width, length, and composition of the curb piece in question.

Re:That Depends (1)

Spatial (1235392) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886139)

Whoops, modded informative instead of funny. Posting to undo.

and year . . . (1)

hawk (1151) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886201)

If memory serves, my father's '64 beetle weighed 1200 lbs, while my '74 superbeetle was a time and a half that . . .

hawk

Re:and year . . . (1)

chunkyq (995864) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886381)

my '74 superbeetle was a time and a half that . . .

hawk

I wish I had a clue what you meant by that.

Re:and year . . . (3, Funny)

hawk (1151) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886645)

The schools these days . . .

let's try it this way:

Mommy hippo weighs 1200 pounds.

Daddy hippo weighs a time and a half as much as Mommy.

How much does Mommy hippo weigh? :)

Re:and year . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23887211)

I feel like I'm taking the IQ test from 'Idiocracy' here but... 1200 pounds?

Re:That Depends (0, Redundant)

robogobo (891804) | more than 6 years ago | (#23889639)

Tonne= UK Ton= US

Re:That Depends (2, Informative)

_merlin (160982) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892183)

Tonne= UK Ton= US

No it isn't. A tonne is 1,000kg everywhere. A ton is 2,240lb in the UK and 2,000lb in the US. I can't believe you'd post something as uninformed as that while logged in.

Logging (1)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885627)

Because of the limitations of the display the team tested the machine using prime numbers.

"If you give it a prime number to try then the highest factor of that is one," said Mr Burton.

"If what they saw when they ran the program was a one - in other words a dash when everything else was dots - then bingo they knew it was working."

If only they'd had log4baby they could've tried factoring more interesting numbers.

No, it doesn't run Linux.... (4, Funny)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885673)

not a hope of backporting to this one...

Re:No, it doesn't run Linux.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23885757)

Damn. Beat me to it.

Re:No, it doesn't run Linux.... (3, Funny)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885775)

Yeah, but imagine a beowulf cluster of those. The real estate alone would be staggering.

Re:No, it doesn't run Linux.... (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886057)

And in Soviet Russia, baby runs YOU.

Are we done with the memes now?

Re:No, it doesn't run Linux.... (2, Funny)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886401)

I didn't get to welcome any overlords yet!

Re:No, it doesn't run Linux.... (1)

AdamWill (604569) | more than 6 years ago | (#23887105)

I don't think we have yet determined whether it runs Crysis, either.

Re:No, it doesn't run Linux & done with memes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23886909)

No we are not you insensitive clod!

Re:No, it doesn't run Linux.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23892689)

Nobody puts Baby in a corner

Re:No, it doesn't run Linux.... (1)

CarAnalogy (1191053) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885795)

It ran GNU/Calf.

Re:No, it doesn't run Linux.... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23885983)

that's actually good. because linux is for faggot dick smokers. fucking faggots need to shut their fucking faggot mouths and just forget about their little faggot os. i hope they all get the aids. taking it up the ass for a faggot os.

Re:No, it doesn't run Linux.... (2, Funny)

flnca (1022891) | more than 6 years ago | (#23889571)

Bill, is that you?

Re:No, it doesn't run Linux.... (1)

cp.tar (871488) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886277)

What about Vista, then?

Or DOS at least?

Not entirely true (3, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886897)

It used 24 bit address space, expandable to 32, so although it only physically posessed 32 words of memory, it could easily have supported a modern operating system if the memory had been built for it. And you didn't mind the response times.

Re:Not entirely true (1)

Djatha (848102) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892575)

Euhm, it had a limited operation code. Nevertheless, the software written for it was quite nice, like interpreted floating point operations or a punch tape reader. Hey, they did influence half of Europe with their software and programming practises. But to say it could have run a modern operating system? That's just plain nonsense.

Re:Not entirely true (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892959)

Address space is a lot less important for running a modern operating system than the existence of a memory management unit. Without this, it is impossible to implement protected memory, swapping, or shared memory. You might be able to support a subset of POSIX on it, but you wouldn't have fork() or shared memory, without which a lot of software would not work.

Zuse did it first (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23885761)

Not to nitpick but...What about the machines built by Zuse?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konrad_Zuse

Re:Zuse did it first (3, Informative)

jeiler (1106393) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885781)

Zuse's machine didn't have memory, which is part of how they're defining "modern computer."

Re:Zuse did it first (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23885851)

Well, according to wilkipedia it had memory

"Improving on the basic Z2 machine, he built the Z3 in 1941. It was a binary 64-bit floating point calculator featuring programmability with loops but without conditional jumps, with memory and a calculation unit based on telephone relays. The telephone relays used in his machines were largely collected from discarded stock."

Re:Zuse did it first (3, Informative)

xZgf6xHx2uhoAj9D (1160707) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885869)

More specifically, it didn't store software in memory.

Re:Zuse did it first (2, Informative)

jeiler (1106393) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885901)

The Z3 has a register (the "memory" cited in Wikipedia), but does not have memory for storing a program. (They're using the Von Neuman criteria for defining a computer.)

Re:Zuse did it first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23890137)

If the main program is of a general purpose nature, i.e. an interpreter, the register can contain code.

Re:Zuse did it first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23885909)

If you check the entry on the Z3 on wiki, it states clearly that:

"The Manchester Baby of 1948 and the EDSAC of 1949 were the world's first computers with internally stored programs"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Z3_(computer) [wikipedia.org]

Re:Zuse did it first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23886519)

This is a troll here.

This isn't funny either, because these are cracker jokes.

The crack materializes in memory, but you may have buffer problems.

- Problem Child -

Re:Zuse did it first (1)

Lars T. (470328) | more than 6 years ago | (#23887139)

Zuse's machine didn't have memory, which is part of how they're defining "modern computer."
Who is "they"? If you mean "the authors of the article" - well, the actual quote is:

"It was the earliest machine that was a computer, in the sense of what everyone today understands a computer to be," explained Chris Burton of the Computer Conservation Society (CCS).

"It was a single piece of hardware which could perform any application depending on what program you put in."

The key to this ability was its memory, built from a cathode ray tube (CRT), which could be used to store a program.

And, let's face it, if they hadn't put in that last sentence about memory, the Z3 would fit that description.

Re:Zuse did it first (1)

jeiler (1106393) | more than 6 years ago | (#23887551)

And, let's face it, if they hadn't put in that last sentence about memory, the Z3 would fit that description.

And if your aunt had testicles, she would fit the description of "uncle."

Jeez, people, read the synopsis: the first three words are "Stored program computers." The Z3 was not a stored-program computer.

Re:Zuse did it first (1)

Lars T. (470328) | more than 6 years ago | (#23888053)

And, let's face it, if they hadn't put in that last sentence about memory, the Z3 would fit that description.

And if your aunt had testicles, she would fit the description of "uncle."

Jeez, people, read the synopsis: the first three words are "Stored program computers." The Z3 was not a stored-program computer.

So it made up it's program? The program was stored on punched film. Unlike the Colossus and the ENIAC also mentioned in the article, which needed rewiring to reprogram.

And before you try to nitpick your way out of it, it says "stored", not "memorized". Blame the submitter for not picking conditions to qualify for "modern computer" as well as the article: "the first to contain memory which could store a program"

Re:Zuse did it first (1)

jeiler (1106393) | more than 6 years ago | (#23888177)

Um, Lars, just in case you didn't know--a "Stored-program computer" is a specific term, not a generic string of words.

How much trouble is it to ask people to read the fucking article. *headdesk* Waitaminit--this is Slashdot. My bad.

Re:Zuse did it first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23900521)

Um, Lars, just in case you didn't know

No - he doesn't know. Lars T is incapable of reading an article, critical thought, or in fact anything other than belligerently posting his random stupid thoughts on slashdot.

Re:Zuse did it first (5, Informative)

somethinsfishy (225774) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886409)

The Baby is set apart from other early machines by two major features.

Memory was what we would call dynamic RAM. The storage element was special CRT's called Williams tubes which were the first all-electronic memory device (flip-flops we not economically viable for storing data). Williams tubes were randomly accessible and, used charges to store bits, and were therefore volatile. The volatile characteristic means that bits had to be refreshed by reading, or they would evaporate due to charge leakage. This is the same reason modern RAM chips have a periodic refresh cycle. This isn't a functional parallel, just a historically interesting one. FWIW, mercury delay lines are volatile, too, but not because of charge leakage. Programs were read into RAM from which they were executed.

The other feature of the Baby which was adopted into subsequent designs was conditional jumps - sort of like goto's. The relative jump is a jump to a calculated address. Without the ability to hop around the program space based on whether statements are evaluated as true or false precludes easy implementation of things like for loops and arrays. In 1998, the Z3 was mathematically proved to be capable of conditional jumps, but this was not an intent in its design and didn't lead anywhere.

The Baby had only seven instructions (take that, Microchip PIC!):

Jump (indirect), Jump Relative (indirect), Load Negative, Store Accumulator, Subtract, Skip if Accumulator < 0, Halt

A very good and hard to find page with info on the Mark I <URL:www4.wittenberg.edu/academics/mathcomp/bjsdir/madmmk1.shtml/>

Re:Zuse did it first (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#23887671)

The Baby had only seven instructions (take that, Microchip PIC!):

Jump (indirect), Jump Relative (indirect), Load Negative, Store Accumulator, Subtract, Skip if Accumulator < 0, Halt

Just shows you RISC is not such a bad thing after-all.

Re:RISC (1)

blamanj (253811) | more than 6 years ago | (#23888351)

Actually, it's been proven that you can get by with only a single instruction [wikipedia.org] , a subtract and branch with three operand addresses. However, having three memory references isn't really classic RISC, which tends to also reduce the number of cycles it takes to execute, and rarely includes read-modify-write instructions.

Re:Zuse did it first (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892359)

In 1998, the Z3 was mathematically proved to be capable of conditional jumps, but this was not an intent in its design and didn't lead anywhere.

Let's see if I got this strait: the German Z3 *could* be dynamic enough to qualify, but it wasn't used that way in practice. "Baby" is the first to demonstrate this ability, and thus gets credit.

Babbage designed a machine on paper that was capable of Turing Complete calculations. Thus, it seems there's 3 stages:

1. First conceptualization of a machine capable of being Turing Complete - Babbage's design gets credit.

2. First construction of a machine capable of being Turing Complete - Z3 gets credit.

3. First machine actually used for Turing Complete problems - "Baby" gets credit.
     

Re:Zuse did it first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23886801)

Do they run SuSE?

Way to go (5, Funny)

Iwanowitch (993961) | more than 6 years ago | (#23885891)

"If you give it a prime number to try then the highest factor of that is one," said Mr Burton.
First program EVER and it already had a bug in it.

Re:Way to go (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886035)

At least we won't have to look far for the first computer program with a bug.

Hell, MS didn't even invent that!

Re:Way to go (1)

cp.tar (871488) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886297)

At least we won't have to look far for the first computer program with a bug.

Hell, MS didn't even invent that!

In fact, this gives us a good first point for a proof by induction that all software has bugs.

Re:Way to go (2, Informative)

TheThiefMaster (992038) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886255)

He meant the highest factor except for the number itself. Otherwise it doesn't matter what number you put in, the highest factor is always that number.

Re:Way to go (1)

neumayr (819083) | more than 6 years ago | (#23889345)

Yeah, they should have stopped right there.
Might have done society some good, not to have technology that might be fit for its intended purpose, but very often isn't.

This is a bad article. (1)

Fat Wang (1230914) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886017)

This is just another example of the British trying to take credit for doing something first when they really didn't.

Re:This is a bad article. (1)

dave420 (699308) | more than 6 years ago | (#23891063)

You could at least try to read the article first. If you had, you'd realise how silly you look right now.

I'd sing... (1)

KGIII (973947) | more than 6 years ago | (#23886071)

I'd sing the Happy Birthday song but, well, they prolly first used it to lookup tubgirl.

50th anniversary programming contest in '98 (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23886259)

They had a programming contest 10 years ago. A pot-noodle timer won and was loaded on the rebuilt machine in a big celebration.

Read more:

Manchester Celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the First Stored-Program Computer [computer50.org]

The 1998 Programming Competition [computer50.org]

Simulators [computer50.org] so you can try your hand at programming a 60-year-old computer.

Re:50th anniversary programming contest in '98 (1)

magarity (164372) | more than 6 years ago | (#23888049)

A pot-noodle timer won
 
Great - a ton of vaccuum tubes to time a pot. Was it a count down timer and put the pot on top of the computer?

Re:50th anniversary programming contest in '98 (1)

aproposofwhat (1019098) | more than 6 years ago | (#23894787)

Damn - just used my mod points, but a virtual +1 - Funny to you!

Re:50th anniversary programming contest in '98 (2, Informative)

tobyhoward (56475) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892171)

I'm Lead on the Digital60 celebrations at Manchester this year, and we ran a programming contest again for the 60th, using a Java sim: http://www.cs.manchester.ac.uk/Digital60/Baby/ssem/

Hey, what gives? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23886773)

We invented the computer!!!

ENIAC was the first proper computer. Everyone knows the computer is an American invention, like planes and automobiles and electricity (telephone, radio and electric motors). If it wasn't for America, no one would be able to go faster than a horse's speed, or send messages thousands of miles. We'd all be stuck in the dark ages!

Re:Hey, what gives? - Troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23886911)

We invented the computer!!!

ENIAC was the first proper computer. Everyone knows the computer is an American invention, like planes and automobiles and electricity (telephone, radio and electric motors). If it wasn't for America, no one would be able to go faster than a horse's speed, or send messages thousands of miles. We'd all be stuck in the dark ages!

Troll. Probably Canadian or Brit.

Sorry USA but Soviet Russia beat you to it (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23887541)

In Communist days, the doctrine coming out of the Kremlin ( seems familiar somehow) was that Those Imperialist dogs in the west invented nothing.
  - TV
  - Telephone
  - Radio
  - Internal Combustion Engine
  - etc
were all invented by Russian Patriots.

Back to reality.
Those of you in the USA should just learn to accept some basic facts.
Most things ( apart from the likes of Edison) pre WWII were invented either somewhere else or by an immigrant to the USA.
Who had the worlds first TV service? Certainly not the USA. I have seen some text books in the USA where this was not mentioned.
That is by-the-bye.
Not 5 miles from me is a roundabout that has on it, a large scale replica of the Gloucester Meteor ( Farnborough, UK). It really irks me that Sir Frank Whittle does not get the credit he deserves in the rest of the world for the creation of the first viable jet engine which Britain had to virtually give away during WW2 to the USA.

But hey, thats life isn't it?

modern? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23886785)

I thought the definition of a "modern" computer included being able to display pr0n.

Hmm .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23889157)

It strikes me that the "modern computer" has an annivessary every year - only they change the definition and the computer in question every year too...

Re:Hmm .. (1)

Usquebaugh (230216) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892327)

Ignore the man behind the curtain.

Nobody puts Baby in the corner (1)

proverbialcow (177020) | more than 6 years ago | (#23889191)

I'm surprised no one mentioned yet that this was the same computer that produced the oldest recorded computer music [slashdot.org] (found so far).

Tonne?! (1)

timothy (36799) | more than 6 years ago | (#23891227)

This is truly insensitive.

Please phrase weights in "stone," or "oxenweight."

Thanks!

timothy

X-Rayable RAM (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892431)

Electrical charges on the screen of the CRT were used to represent binary information. A positive charge represented a one and a negative charge a zero...A metal grid attached to the screen read the different charges. A graphical representation - dashes for a one and dots for a zero - was displayed on a second CRT wired in parallel to the memory device... "The operator peered at the monitor tube and he could see the same patterns as in the storage tube," said Mr Burton.

It has something that modern computers don't have: Direct RAM inspection. I'm jealous. If I had that, I might be able to get that damned codec to work.
       

Descendants still in use! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23894241)

I've programmed a direct descendant of this machine (in assembler) : the Ferranti FM1600B. 24 bit words 192KB memory running at about the speed of a calculator. And its water cooled!

When I first started you'd put some instructions in by hand (on a set of 24 switches) to load the bootloader from papertape and then the bootloader would load the program from magtape. All very 1960s tech but this was the late 80s.

These machines are still in service (although they don't use handswitches and papertapes anymore - yay progress) because they work and they virtually never crash.

Re:Descendants still in use! (1)

Locklin (1074657) | more than 6 years ago | (#23903013)

You'd think for the price of the electricity/space for running one of these, they could cobble together a programmable calculator or dedicated modern *nix computer that does the same thing and also "never crashes."

Would be interesting to see running though.

Lyons Leo not Ferranti Mk.I? (1)

frisket (149522) | more than 6 years ago | (#23897535)

> the first commercial general purpose computer, the Ferranti Mark I.

I thought the first commercial general-purpose computer was the Leo [wikipedia.org] .

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