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Big, Beautiful Boxes From Computer History

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the know-your-past dept.

Hardware 238

Slatterz writes "We might sometimes complain about the limitations of today's technology, but there's nothing like seeing photos of a 27Kg hard drive with a capacity of 5MB to put things into perspective. PC Authority has toured the Computer History Museum in California, and has posted these fascinating photos, including monster 27Kg and 60Kg drives, and a SAGE air-defense system. Each SAGE housed an A/N FSQ-7 computer, which had around 60,000 vacuum tubes. IBM constructed the hardware, and each computer occupied a huge amount of space. From its completion in 1954 it analyzed radar data in real-time, to provide a complete picture of US Airspace during the cold war. Other interesting photos and trivia include some giant early IBM disc platters, and pics of a curvaceous Cray-1 supercomputer, built in 1972. It was the fastest machine in the world until 1977 and an icon for decades. It cost a mere $6 million, and could perform at 160MFLOPS — which your phone can now comfortably manage."

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238 comments

This stuff is so cool (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29227397)

This stuff is so cool!!

Re:This stuff is so cool (4, Funny)

Mr. Roadkill (731328) | more than 4 years ago | (#29227535)

...until you plug it in, at which point you'd better pray you've got adequate cooling.

Re:This stuff is so cool (4, Funny)

El Lobo (994537) | more than 4 years ago | (#29227717)

I can imagine, 15 years from now, an article showing "Big beautiful boxes from the 2000s" a big "portable" Acer Aspire 5536G which a weight of 1,2 Kg inclusive batteries (wow, would some users from the future scream in awe) (Oh, I remember THAT one, comments another). Oh, look at that iPhone: you needed A POCKET to carry that thing!...

Oh well...

Re:This stuff is so cool (3, Interesting)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#29227973)

15 years is not that much. We already had Pentiums in 1994. The article is about a time when CPU cycles were more expensive than programmer time and text data took a lot of space.

The UI itself hasn't got significantly better since Windows 95. (Hands up if you would actually consider using a graphical interface without a task bar.)

Re:This stuff is so cool (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29228067)

The article is about a time when CPU cycles were more expensive than programmer time and text data took a lot of space.

That's about when I started -- punch cards and all. Maybe two or three turnarounds a day. Before sending a program in to run through the assembler, we were expected to sit there and "play computer", going through all the operations of all paths through the programs before "wasting time" on the big iron.

Mind you, this was in the afternoon. The mornings were spent cutting down redwood trees, tapping rubber trees and mining graphite, copper and zinc so we could fabricate our own pencils for the afternoon's work. The real hotshots didn't make programming mistakes, so they could skip tapping the rubber trees for use in making pencil erasers.

Re:This stuff is so cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29228123)

Hands up if you would actually consider using a graphical interface without a task bar.

You mean a wm/desktop environment?

The application menu in System 7 was the evolution of the System 6 switcher [folklore.org] and the OSX dock is an improvement the concept. Openbox and other lightweight WM's install without a taskbar. I have one machine where I've removed the xfce tasklist, relying on minimised application icons instead (Minimised apps icons are the only use I have for the desktop).

Re:This stuff is so cool (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29228219)

The UI itself hasn't got significantly better since Windows 95

Windows 95 == Mac 85!

Re:This stuff is so cool (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228475)

Windows 95 == Mac 85!

You seem to think I'm talking about the graphical interface as a whole, but that's not the case. I'm talking about the task bar (as in, a convenient way to always see all your running programs and switch back and forth between them with a single click of the mouse). I've never used a Mac, and I'm not planning to start anytime soon, but from what I found [newlayer.hu] , they didn't have anything like that before Win95, and afterwards they focused on starting new programs with a single click, not switch to running ones or even show them.

Could you please tell me from each of the screenshots, if there is a text editor somewhere in the background with a file I want to edit? I wouldn't want to open the same file twice.

Re:This stuff is so cool (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29228575)

you can't open the same file twice on a mac.

Re:This stuff is so cool (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29227893)

I wonder how many of these magnificent machines were built by AFRICANS?

Oh, wait...

I forget - "We're all the same", and it's "racist" to even question the intelligence of blacks, isn't it.

Let's just sit back and watch our countries turn into crime ridden, third world hellholes. Wouldn't want to be called a "racist", would we... How 'courageous' of you all. Aren't you just so "caring" and "kind", that you'll leave your own children to fight the war YOU caused - the civil war that is coming to YOUR country because of the liberal elite, who have flooded your once safe, happy and beautiful countries with all the dregs of the third world.

Re:This stuff is so cool (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#29227713)

Very cool indeed. Back in 3rd grade, I really wanted a Cray. I remember thinking when I grew up I could have a garage out back and fill it with the worlds MOST POWERFUL COMPUTER! I saw one up close and personal in a museum in france, had to tease it with my cell phone.

Some of those machine calculators are pretty awesome, but I really like the fact that we have now come some type of odd circle, and now we have games where we can virtually build something similar. [1up.com]

Also, I've seen this picture [cpsc.net] before. Two questions: one, is it real. Two: please tell me the steering wheel is to avoid computer crashes.

Re:This stuff is so cool (3, Informative)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228059)

Also, I've seen this picture [cpsc.net] before. Two questions: one, is it real. Two: please tell me the steering wheel is to avoid computer crashes.

http://www.snopes.com/inboxer/hoaxes/computer.asp [snopes.com]

Although the photograph displayed could represent what some people in the early 1950s contemplated a "home computer" might look like (based on the technology of the day), it isn't, as the accompanying text claims, a RAND Corporation illustration from 1954 of a prototype "home computer." The picture is actually an entry submitted to a Fark.com image modification competition [fark.com] , taken from an original photo of a submarine maneuvering room console found on the U.S. Navy [archive.org] web site, converted to grayscale, and modified to replace a modern display panel and TV screen with pictures of a decades-old teletype/printer [columbia.edu] and television (as well as to add the gray-suited man to the left-hand side of the photo)

Re:This stuff is so cool (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228509)

Ah! Something was just bugging me about that display - it didn't 'fit' along the scene's perspective lines.

Re:This stuff is so cool (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29228321)

Very cool indeed. Back in 3rd grade, I really wanted a Cray.

The one at the CHM is neat. they let you look into the center of the circle. Pretty amazing -- the thing is a rat's nest of cables draped from one segment of the machine to the other segments. They're draped that way so that the electrical path from one place to the other is the same, to keep the signal timings right. If a signal went from one segment to an adjacent one, it draped in a loop that went nearly to the floor. But if a signal were going to a segment 180 degrees away, directly across the core, the ends were farther apart and the sagging part did not get as close to the floor. Kinda like holding a jump rope with your hands together, then moving them apart while keeping the same distance above the floor.

Nice photos... (5, Informative)

Archaemic (1546639) | more than 4 years ago | (#29227413)

Although these photos don't include the functional replica of Babbage's Difference Engine #2 that's currently at the museum, and leaves in a few months. I was just at the museum two weeks ago. It was pretty interesting. There's also an exhibit about the history of chess computation. Apart from those two things though, most of the museum is a big room full of old computers. I wish there were more to see there, but what is there is pretty interesting. I recommend going before the Babbage Engine leaves in a few months if one gets a chance.

Re:Nice photos... (2, Informative)

Archaemic (1546639) | more than 4 years ago | (#29227427)

Er, sorry, scratch that. There are a few photos of it. There was a repeat photo in the gallery and thought I had gone through all of the photos.

Re:Nice photos... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29227457)

Seems to be /.ed - I can't see anything past the difference engine.

ahh (4, Informative)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 4 years ago | (#29227449)

I love BBW errr I mean BBB.

Panties STINK! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29227667)

Panties Stink!
They really, really stink!
Sometimes they're red, sometimes they're green,
Sometimes they're white or black or pink
Sometimes they're satin, sometimes they're lace
Sometimes they're cotton and soak up stains
But at the end of the day, it really makes you think
Wooooooo-wheeeee! Panties stink!

Sometimes they're on the bathroom floor
Your girlfriend- what a whore!
Sometimes they're warm and wet and raw
From beneath the skirt of your mother-in-law
Brownish stains from daily wear
A gusset full of pubic hair
Just make sure your nose is ready
For the tang of a sweat-soaked wedgie
In your hand a pair of drawers
With a funky feminine discharge
Give your nose a rest, fix yourself a drink
cause wooooooo-wheeeeeee! panties stink!

These photos... (2, Insightful)

Sawopox (18730) | more than 4 years ago | (#29227455)

are pretty impressive. It is amazing how much smaller and faster the equipment has become. What is alarming is the rate at which the raw materials are being pulled from the Earth then discarded, usually right after the two year contract expires.

But imagine how much more raw material... (2, Insightful)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228629)

... would be used if all computers were still that big!

What kind of dumbass captions are these? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29227499)

" The Enigma machine was used during world War Two - it gives more than a trillion possible combinations for a single number, making it impossible to decrypt letters encoded with the Enigma. The big silver piece next to it is a part of the Colossus - a British code-breaking computer."

The writer obviously doesn't know what he's talking about and didn't bother to read any text associated with that display, if he thinks Enigma was unbreakable. Especially since the parts of Colossus were specifically for breaking Enigma. Further, "more than a trillion" is a ludicrously imprecise figure, why couldn't he at least look up a more accurate figure (10^23 according to Wikipedia)?

Re:What kind of dumbass captions are these? (4, Insightful)

gregben (844056) | more than 4 years ago | (#29227571)

Most of the captions are chock full of
factual, grammatical, and spelling errors.
Sad, because this sort of codswallop is
propagated to the unknowing public and
difficult to correct once "out of the bag".

Re:What kind of dumbass captions are these? (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228095)

this is why the National Corpse of Pendants needs new recruits.

If only there was a good way to attract the attention of pendants so that they could be recruited.

Re:What kind of dumbass captions are these? (3, Funny)

Plunky (929104) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228177)

Just dangle a caret in front of them what have you got to loose?

Re:What kind of dumbass captions are these? (3, Informative)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228093)

As I understand it, a big reason why Enigma was succesfully broken is because some of it's users kept using the same "keys" for it.
Had the germans used the Enigma how it was meant to be used, it might not have been broken at the time.

Re:What kind of dumbass captions are these? (4, Informative)

tomrud (471930) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228259)

As I understand it, a big reason why Enigma was succesfully broken is because some of it's users kept using the same "keys" for it.
Had the germans used the Enigma how it was meant to be used, it might not have been broken at the time.

They (the code breakers) could also use "known plain text" attacks quite a lot. Many operators tended to use the same greeting phrase over and over again. In addition, the Germans sent their weather reports encrypted. The British Navy could easily check the weather and get even more "known plain text".

Re:What kind of dumbass captions are these? (1)

Anti_Climax (447121) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228303)

Better still, they could rule out known plain texts if the message was created on an enigma with a reflector rotor as a letter could never be encoded as itself.

Re:What kind of dumbass captions are these? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29228157)

The writer obviously doesn't know what he's talking about and didn't bother to read any text associated with that display, if he thinks Enigma was unbreakable.

IIRC, it was essentially unbreakable. The only way they doped it out was by capturing one, reverse engineering it. Only then, with that knowledge in hand, could they decode the messages.

That's substantially different from "breaking" the raw code.

OTOH, maybe that was the Japanese code machine I'm thinking of.

Re:What kind of dumbass captions are these? (5, Interesting)

Ciggy (692030) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228305)

A lot of work was done on breaking Enigma BEFORE WWII - by the Polish.

The wheel wirings had been discovered (whether by fair means or foul - ie capturing the actual wheels - I can't remember). Enigma was basically hacked^Wcracked by using the fact that a lot of the German messages had key, crib phrases at the start or end of the messages, and that no letter could encrypt to itself. It was Bombes which were the set the task of finding the starting position of the wheels given a possible crib match.

The German Navy used an enhanced enigma machine which used 4 instead of the normal 3 rotating wheels and so was harder to crack. That was helped by the capture of the settings books (about 2 years before the US entered the war).

It was the Lorentz cypher, as used by Hitler and the high command, was the cypher that was decrypted with the aid of the Colossi. A Lorentz machine was bult at Bletchely Park by modifying a British cypher machine.

Bletchley Park is well worth a visit to see the reconstructed Colossus and the computing museum - it was most odd to see the computers I used as a wee lad in the museum.

Re:What kind of dumbass captions are these? (4, Informative)

hughk (248126) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228513)

Noooo!!!!

Colossus was developed for breaking cryptographic material (Fish) from Lorenz telex style stream ciphering machines (Tunny). Enigma was broken by the Bombes which were more mechanical in nature.

All quite clear if you visit Bletchley Park in the UK, the rather lower budget British museum of cryptography and computing. Both the Colossus and Bombe reconstruction projects were run out of BP and if are lucky you can get a talk on their operation from Tony Sale or one of the other builders.

Re:What kind of dumbass captions are these? (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228543)

Soldiers tended to use obvious encryption keys like "HITLER" which made cracking Enigma even easier.

Re:What kind of dumbass captions are these? (2, Informative)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228855)

>>>if he thinks Enigma was unbreakable.

Well let's look at history. Where the British able to break Enigma? NOPE. They had to literally steal a machine before they could read Germany's encrypted orders. So the author was correct when he said Enigma was an unbreakable code.

Favorite quote (4, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#29227521)

Magnetic core memory came in a range of sizes. It replaced vacuum tubes entirely by about 1960, and was extremely cheap to produce - from $1 per bit initially, to 1c per bit by the mid-60s.

Crazy, but in those days, no one ever used more than 640 bits of memory. True story.

Direct link to photograph, in case you want to see a range of core memories, which, incidentally were great because they didn't lose their values in a power outage:

http://www.pcauthority.com.au/Gallery/153867,computer-history-museum-photo-gallery-weird-fascinating-photos-including-a-giant-cray-and-a-60kg-hard-drive.aspx/40 [pcauthority.com.au]

Re:Favorite quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29228033)

Crazy, but in those days, no one ever used more than 640 bits of memory. True story.

Do you want to say they did not solve differential equations that time?

5 meg @ 27 kilos (2, Funny)

acehole (174372) | more than 4 years ago | (#29227531)

Going off of those standards, the thumbdrive sitting on my desk should weigh 22,118.4 kilos.

Double that because i've got two.

From the advent of the personal computer (4, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#29227555)

Here was an interesting one, [pcauthority.com.au] an old PC with a monitor in portrait format. It asks why they didn't catch on, and I'm not sure I know the answer. It seems like it WOULD be better, especially because you could look at an entire page on the thing. Now with 21 inch monitors I can do that anyway, but what was it that caused our landscape monitors to become standardized like they are?

Also, check out the keyboard on this beast! [pcauthority.com.au] Not QUERTY. Not DVORAK. Who thought that would be a good idea?

Re:From the advent of the personal computer (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29227565)

The French.

Re:From the advent of the personal computer (3, Informative)

cowbutt (21077) | more than 4 years ago | (#29227749)

Here was an interesting one, an old PC with a monitor in portrait format. It asks why they didn't catch on, and I'm not sure I know the answer. It seems like it WOULD be better, especially because you could look at an entire page on the thing.

Some contemporary monitors can be rotated between landscape and portrait orientations; the Lenovo L220x [flickr.com] , for example. It's a feature that's more popular in pre-press organisations.

Re:From the advent of the personal computer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29228007)

interestingly, there's a guy that sits two desks from me at work who has three monitors - one is portrait. you can still get 'em: http://www.compucon.com.au/lcd/AOC919Pwz.htm

Re:From the advent of the personal computer (3, Interesting)

rubies (962985) | more than 4 years ago | (#29227759)

...because in use they aren't terribly functional. One of the secretaries I used to work with back in the eighties had a Radius portrait display on a Mac II - it was awful as seeing the whole page at a time was far less important than seeing what was on the page clearly. Print Preview pretty much killed portrait monitors stone dead.

Re:From the advent of the personal computer (4, Informative)

KokorHekkus (986906) | more than 4 years ago | (#29227791)

Also, check out the keyboard on this beast! Not QUERTY. Not DVORAK. Who thought that would be a good idea?

That's a french Minitel terminal (their videotex system, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minitel [wikipedia.org] ). The telephone company gave people free terminals if they would forgo printed telephone books. Remeber, this was the early 80:s so there must have been enough people with less than stellar keyboard skills who'd rather peck away on a ABC-keyboard than hunt around on a AZERTY-keyboard if given the choice. But I'm pretty certain that most terminals had the french standard AZERTY keyboard (here's the Minitel 1 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6d/Minitel_1.JPG [wikimedia.org] )

Re:From the advent of the personal computer (2, Informative)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228429)

Also, check out the keyboard on this beast! Not QUERTY. Not DVORAK. Who thought that would be a good idea?

That's a french Minitel terminal (their videotex system, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minitel [wikipedia.org] ). The telephone company gave people free terminals if they would forgo printed telephone books. Remeber, this was the early 80:s so there must have been enough people with less than stellar keyboard skills who'd rather peck away on a ABC-keyboard than hunt around on a AZERTY-keyboard if given the choice. But I'm pretty certain that most terminals had the french standard AZERTY keyboard (here's the Minitel 1 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6d/Minitel_1.JPG [wikimedia.org] )

I've seen pretty much every Minitel deployed including a number of those used in restricted releases prior to nationwide deployment and I don't remember ever seeing one with a non standard French keyboard.

Those things were rather kludgy with their using an X25 network at a snail's pace (1200/75) which was more or less sufficient for "enriched" text, although watching pages being drawn was still painful.

A number of people created BBS systems for them through the POTS, avoiding the (expensive) Minitel network altogether.

Oddly enough, there apparently are some people that still use them. The train ticketing, phone book, and a number of other services are still up and in use.

Alphabetical keyboards are evil. People who can't type will still hunt for keys, and people who can type no longer can. It's a stupid idea.

Minitel won't die... (4, Informative)

Anne Honime (828246) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228625)

Oddly enough, there apparently are some people that still use them. The train ticketing, phone book, and a number of other services are still up and in use.

Not odd at all considering the various threats of Internet, from spam to virus, credit cards frauds, DoS etc. Minitel pretty much insure that whomever you phone is legit provided you don't misstype the phone number. It's a very helpful and desirable feature for some sensitive businesses (chemist ordering prescription drugs, etc.)

And thanks to being a passive terminal, Minitel is immune to virus and trojans by nature. Being so simple, there are no bugs either I'm aware off. And being text only makes for a great bonus to blinds who can plug whatever Braille device they want to use it.

Re:From the advent of the personal computer (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29227837)

Portrait monitors became popular when desktop publishing software first appeared. The high resolution monitors were pretty expensive and used non-standard resolutions and proprietary graphics adapters (back then VGA 640x480 16 color graphics was the standard), and the market was primarily publishing houses. Most of the portrait monitors were monochrome monitors with limited consumer appeal. When color desktop publishing took off most professionals got large landscape format color monitors and were able to view two pages simultaneously, side by side.

Re:From the advent of the personal computer (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 4 years ago | (#29227977)

I really don't know, but there are several monitors that can pivot. If you have a VESA monitor, you can remove the stand and put it on a VESA arm in a portrait manner.

I think I'd rather have more than one program side by side, monitors in portrait mode are a bit too narrow. I would like taller monitors though, 1.6:1 screens are a little too short for me in landscape. I dunno. Maybe some day I'll try two 24" screens in portrait mode, the screens are pretty cheap these days. That would be helpful since most web pages seem to require a lot of vertical scrolling, a taller screen should mean less scrolling.

Re:From the advent of the personal computer (2, Interesting)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228459)

I really don't know, but there are several monitors that can pivot. If you have a VESA monitor, you can remove the stand and put it on a VESA arm in a portrait manner.

Any monitor can do that as long as it has a VESA compliant attachment at the back. Then it's only a software issue.

What's nice is a monitor that can pivot on its own stand (typically in that case it can also twist and swivel, be raised and lowered). Although to lower costs a lot of makers only offer crappy stands on all but the very high end models these days. My Dell 24" can pivot on its stand (it can mess the numerous connectors a bit though).

It's less convenient if it's stuck in just one position. Although I don't pivot it all that often... 1200 vertical pixels is usually enough.

Re:From the advent of the personal computer (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228111)

Quite simply because being able to view portions of two pages simultaneously side by side is much more useful than viewing large portions of a single document.

Re:From the advent of the personal computer (4, Funny)

asifyoucare (302582) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228151)

... Not QUERTY. Not DVORAK. ..

QUERTY eh? I wonder how that layout got such an odd name.

Re:From the advent of the personal computer (1)

tsadi (576706) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228487)

I find this one [pcauthority.com.au] very interesting also. However the caption lacks any information or keyword that might allow one to search for more information on what that device is.

Or maybe my Google-fu just failed me? Any of the experts here know what that thing is?

Re:From the advent of the personal computer (1)

Anti_Climax (447121) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228735)

It seems like it WOULD be better, especially because you could look at an entire page on the thing. Now with 21 inch monitors I can do that anyway, but what was it that caused our landscape monitors to become standardized like they are?

It probably had to do with the desirability of reading fewer but full lines of output instead of reading additional lines that were truncated, wrapped or created with a smaller character set. Once we got to GUIs running on bitmapped monitors where portrait orientation was a useful feature for page layout, they started to come back in a niche fashion. There was at least one CRT I've seen that could rotate 90 degrees on its stand and there are several LCDs available right now that do the same.

Kg? (1, Funny)

Colonel Sponsz (768423) | more than 4 years ago | (#29227575)

including monster 27Kg and 60Kg drives

So can anyone explain to me what exactly a Kelvin gram is, and how it relates to hard drives? I'm guessing something to do with heat capacity...
Oh, you meant kilogram?
k = kilo
K = Kelvin
It's not rocket surgery, people. And it's something that should be caught by Slashdot's "editors" before it goes up on the main page.

Re:Kg? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29227597)

fuck off you prick. it's not like anyone who isn't retarded looked at that sentence and said "27 Kelvin gram drives! who'd have thought it!" quit looking for petty little excuses to look like a fuckhead and look out of the window instead. see, it's pretty out there!

Re:Kg? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29228333)

Yes, what a cunt.

Re:Kg? (4, Funny)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228699)

quit looking for petty little excuses to look like a fuckhead and look out of the window instead. see, it's pretty out there!

You do know you're posting on slashdot? We hate Windows.

* RIMSHOT *

Re:Kg? (2, Insightful)

Seth Morabito (2273) | more than 4 years ago | (#29227733)

Where the heck is the "-1: Pedantic" button when you need it?

Re:Kg? (1)

bakes (87194) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228827)

There are times when a modicum of pedantry, politely applied, is useful in providing an important correction or 'tweak' to an otherwise accurate post.

Of course, this is not one of those times. GP is a dick.

Re:Kg? (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 4 years ago | (#29227901)

So can anyone explain to me what exactly a Kelvin gram is

Easy. A Volkswagen multiplied by a Library of Congress per football field.

Re:Kg? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29227911)

Obviously Kg=1024 grams.

Don't you know anything about computing?

Re:Kg? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29227917)

Fuck me. +5 Informative? There's some stupid mods around today.

Re:Kg? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29227969)

Ummm, in Australia, where PC Authority would appear to be based, Kg refers to kilogram. Not that I'd rant at you for your misunderstanding.

Re:Kg? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29227981)

I kindly suggest you go get laid.

Re:Kg? (1)

jimmydevice (699057) | more than 4 years ago | (#29227989)

Only an experiment in natural language processing on one of those early 60's machines would parse that like you did.
This is of course, before the card that patched the bug was added to the deck.
Are you running with a full deck?

Re:Kg? (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228345)

including monster 27Kg and 60Kg drives

So can anyone explain to me what exactly a Kelvin gram is, and how it relates to hard drives? I'm guessing something to do with heat capacity...

Well, since KB is a kibibyte, these are probably just measured in kibigrams (1024 grams = 1 kibigram). Remember, this was a long time ago before marketing got into the act. Ahh the good old days...

Re:Kg? (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228763)

Well, since KB is a kibibyte

Are you playing "taunt the pendant"? The buttugly kilo-binary-byte is abbriviated KiB, but yes it's with a capital K.

kB, MB, GB, TB, PB... you can let the base 2 vs base 10 fans battle to the death but kilo is an odd exception to the rule.

Re:Kg? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29228389)

who the fuck modded this stupid comment informative? please Colonel Sponsz, do the rest of humanity a favor and kill yourself. or at the very least, don't EVER reproduce. make sure your stupid gene stops with you. it must really suck to be you.

Re:Kg? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29228427)

-1 Troll at best.

I agree with AC above me, it must really suck to be you.

Leo, the tea-shop computer (4, Interesting)

mister_dave (1613441) | more than 4 years ago | (#29227681)

I recently read A Computer called Leo [amazon.co.uk] , which tells a story of post WW2 computer development in the UK.

The thing that stuck me most was the long cylinders of mercury used as memory [cam.ac.uk] , (mercury delay lines [wikipedia.org] ).

Re:Leo, the tea-shop computer (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228641)

The thing that struck me the most was what they did to Alan Turing.

It's sad that none of it works (5, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 4 years ago | (#29227685)

The sad thing about the Computer Museum is that almost nothing there works. The Difference Engine replica is about it, and that's entirely mechanical. Some people tried to restore an IBM 1620 back in 1999 [computerhistory.org] , but they never got it working.

It's almost the last computer museum, too. The ones in Boston, San Diego, and Germany went bust. There's one still open in Bozeman, Montana. [compustory.com] There are a few others which are just stuff in storage. That's about it.

The history of this field disappears very fast.

Re:It's sad that none of it works (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29228125)

> It's almost the last computer museum, too. The ones in Boston, San Diego, and Germany went bust.

What?

http://en.hnf.de/

Also, earlier this year I was in the Boston Museum of Science and they had quite a bit of old computer tech there (including a HUGE HDD platter like on the pics in TFA).

(captcha: fetish)

Re:It's sad that none of it works (3, Interesting)

Dadoo (899435) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228227)

There's one still open in Bozeman, Montana.

I've been to the one in Bozeman. It looks cheesy on the outside, since it's in a strip mall, but it's actually pretty cool. It's also more a museum of information technology, than a computer museum (since it starts out with stone tablets), though they do have a lot of old computer equipment.

Surprisingly, the coolest part isn't the computer equipment; it's the Gutenburg press. They actually have original stock (paper) that, unlike most museums, they allow you to touch. Very cool.

Re:It's sad that none of it works (1)

hughk (248126) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228557)

Bletchley Park is still hanging there. It has bits of various machines such as Atlas onwards (sorry to say that I used the Atlas many, many years ago in its last year of operation). It even has a PDP-11/34 and a MicroVAX. The latter machines, I believe are complete and working.

You would think they could have gotten this right. (5, Informative)

bezenek (958723) | more than 4 years ago | (#29227701)

The caption on one of the photos (Image 30) reads:

The highlight and centrepiece of the Museum - The Babbage Engine. It's a replica, made in the British Museum using the original as a template.

This is not a replica of an original. The machine in the British museum was built by a team using Babbage's note. No original was ever built, as Babbage could not get funding for the project. The machine at the Computer History Museum (as pictured) is the second built by the same British Museum team who built the first.

If you want to see it, it will be at the CHM until December 2010, at which time it will be moved to the home of Nathan Myhrvold, the person who paid for its construction.

-Todd

Re:You would think they could have gotten this rig (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228013)

It is a tricky linguistic problem. This probably doesn't happen often, where the designer never gets to make one but someone makes long afterwards. It's not a replica in the conventional sense, but I don't know what other word would describe it better than that.

Is there any information on what this thing cost to make? Was it in the millions? several tens or hundreds of thousands?

Re:You would think they could have gotten this rig (1)

bezenek (958723) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228115)

Is there any information on what this thing cost to make? Was it in the millions? several tens or hundreds of thousands?

I was at the talk which Nathan Myhrvold gave (he paid for it) at the opening ceremony for the exhibit. He did not give a figure, but my impression was $10 million (US) or more. Nathan did make a comment about the ridiculous cost of shipping it via air from the UK to the US. :-)

-Todd

Re:You would think they could have gotten this rig (1)

hughk (248126) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228565)

I think you'll find that this was probabaly down to the costs of having the parts made and the maybe one person who was officially on the project. A lot of skilled people gave some serious time to the project. If you included their time, it would be much more.

Re:You would think they could have gotten this rig (1)

bezenek (958723) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228611)

I think you'll find that this was probabaly down to the costs of having the parts made and the maybe one person who was officially on the project. A lot of skilled people gave some serious time to the project. If you included their time, it would be much more.

I agree. I said $10 million (US) or more. I did not want to over-estimate. And, as you say, the machining of the parts was certainly expensive.

-Todd

Re:You would think they could have gotten this rig (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29228025)

Correct - but also note that it was the Science Museum in London that build the replica - not the British Museum (also in London). The British Museum houses collections of cultural artifact and history from around the globe (it's in Great Russell Street in the Bloomsbury area of London, and is well worth a visit if you ever get the chance). The Science Museum is in Cromwell Road in the Kensington area of London, and specialises, as you might guess, in the history of science and technology from the year dot to the present time - also well worth a visit.

Re:You would think they could have gotten this rig (2, Informative)

tialaramex (61643) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228279)

It _is_ a replica, but just not in the way you imagined.

The (British) _Science_ Museum has (or had) a workshop for building Difference Engine No. 2. This is the second one, built by replicating the first. They can't build one by following Babbage's plans, because his plans are wrong in subtle ways, and had to be corrected. One of the things the Science Museum gained by making the first one was a _correct_ set of plans for the machine. If you have a lot of money and want a Difference Engine, I have no doubt that the Science Museum would start up that workshop again and build another replica for you too.

Re:You would think they could have gotten this rig (1)

bezenek (958723) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228437)

Good point. You are correct. Thank you for your comment.

-Todd

The CDC 6600 console (1)

MacroRodent (1478749) | more than 4 years ago | (#29227813)

That CDC 6600 console with the two round screens must be the weirdest-looking real-life terminal device ever built! The whole thing looks like a robot face. I wonder what the screen resolution was...

Re:The CDC 6600 console (2, Informative)

jimmydevice (699057) | more than 4 years ago | (#29227891)

The CDC display was vector, not raster and I'm thinking it was 10 bits in both axis.
It was refreshed by the I/O processor.
It had a great lunar lander game.

Good Ole Days (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29227821)

That brings back a lot of memories. Back then, we used to put our desks on top of the computer.

CDC (3, Interesting)

solanum (80810) | more than 4 years ago | (#29227847)

Seeing that old gear is great. It's amazing the ingenuity used in the 40s and 50s.

My mother-in-law used to program a CDC, which always seems quite crazy as she can't even use SMS on her phone! Of course in those days doing punch cards was so tedious men didn't want the jobs. It would be interesting to compare the ratios of female:male programmers and correlate it with the improvement in tech over time.

Flamebait? (1)

solanum (80810) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228587)

Yeah, thanks for that mod. I'd like to hear your reasoning for it. I think you'll find it's well documented that many of the early programmers were women and that women only make up a small proportion of programmers now.

I remember being inside a Sage (3, Interesting)

tinrobot (314936) | more than 4 years ago | (#29227935)

When I was in high school, my computer class did a field trip to one of the sites. It was a two story building, with each floor the size of a department store and filled with aisles and aisle of racks filled with vacuum tube processing modules. The had disk had a drum the size of a small trash can. Even at the time (late 70's) the guy giving the tour said the computer could be replaced by one the size of a phone booth. These days, a few hundred of them could fit into something the size of a phone.

Re:I remember being inside a Sage (4, Informative)

vtcodger (957785) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228187)

***Each SAGE housed an A/N FSQ-7 computer, which had around 60,000 vacuum tubes. IBM constructed the hardware, and each computer occupied a huge amount of space.***

The sites had two computers, not one. The switched between them once a day so they could check all the vacuum tubes on the off line computer -- of which I'm pretty sure there were only about 6000. Mostly they were 6SN7 dual triodes so there were actually about 12000 switches in each computer. Memory was 68K by 32 bits wide, and software was continually swapped in from drums in the background. Instruction cycle time was 6 microseconds. The specs weren't vastly different from a 1980s IBM PC with 256K of memory.

The software was written in assembler and was speced to accept digitized radar from 16 sites, support 40 or 80 (can't remember which) consoles, track up to 300 aircraft simultaneously, control dozens of manned interceptors plus unmanned Bomarc interceptors, communicate with four or five adjacent sites digitally, and some number of manual sites via teletype, and some other things. And it actually did most of that. (I think it maxed out a little below 200 simultaneous tracks). Try THAT on a 8088

In general, the software -- which cost a fortune -- worked. Not perfectly, but better than Windows and Office.

And, yes, SAGE needed a lot of air conditioning. The lights in parts of Santa Monica used to dim momentarily when the air conditioning at the RAND System Reseach labs development facility started up.

*** It was a two story building***

It was a four story building. And the computers were on the second floor only. Another floor held something like 40 (80?)desk sized consoles -- each with a fairly large display, a light gun (closest thing today would be a mouse), and a button panel. Other floors held offices, Telco equipment, etc. The consoles were used to monitor target tracking, control interceptors, etc. There were also a half dozen or so regional command centers -- also with AN/FSQ7s that were configured a bit differently.

Wow (3, Interesting)

John Pfeiffer (454131) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228031)

I think I've seen one of those 27 kilo HDDs before. I volunteered at a local computer recycling program, and among many usable machines, they'd get old stuff that we were to dismantle, and separate into different kinds of materials for disposal. The one I saw was an IBM, and the outer housing for the HDD was roughly the shape and size of a washer or dryer. The host machine was similar but twice as long. It had an 8-inch floppy with what I think was some kind of auto-loader. I think, all told, it had hookups for THREE 220V circuits. (Two on the host, and one on the HDD) I wanted to get one of the drive platters for myself, but the best I could do was the 'Unit Emergency' killswitch off the host computer. (I had set aside the control panel from the host machine, but didn't have room to take it home that day, and someone tossed it.)

Also, holy crap. I never knew silicon wafers came from hugeass things of silicon like that, I always assumed they were made more or less in their final wafer form artificially from smaller pieces. o_O I guess it makes more sense that they're cut from massive homogeneous chunks of solid silicon.

I wish they had a better shot of the RCA tube memory. I've seen pictures of those before, the dies look cool in a vacuum tube like that. They look very intricate, like miniatures of space station solar panels or something, heh. (Like the die in an EPROM, but MUCH bigger)

Yeah, I programmed the SAGE ... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29228041)

Yeah, I programmed the SAGE in the late 50's. It did crazy stuff: Imaging talking to remote radars connected via a phone line? You're kidding, no? Modems the size of a small bus.

Got audio by monitoring the 1's and 0's cycling a particular register bit, and since the SAGE was a dual machine, some local talent had one playing right and left hand boogie-woogie.

What would Jobs say? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29228045)

Can you imagine the design meetings? "Good lord, who was it that decided 50 kilo chassis would be in vogue this year!?"

Amdahl 470 in 1980 (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228537)

In 1980 I was programming on an Amdahl 470 with a whopping 1 Gigabyte of disk memory. This required a large room full of IBM Winchester drives, looking for all the world like some sort of high-tech laundromat. The computer itself was in another large room full of equipment, and a laser printer the size of a VW microbus (no kidding).

This machine also came with not one, but two full time consulting engineers, one from Amdahl for hardware problems, and one from IBM for software problems. The Amdahl CE made $ 50K per year, which seemed like an impossibly high salary to us grunt programmers.

The biggest game on this machine was a dungeons and dragons type game written in PL1. I have often wondered what that game really was and what its history was. ( I never played it since as a student I couldn't afford it - with the IBM mainframe philosophy, you were charged for everything, which came out of my grant, and machine time was not cheap. Logging in to check the status of my jobs and immediately logging out cost about $ 3.00, for example.)

Display Card Packing (1)

fatp (1171151) | more than 4 years ago | (#29228615)

When I saw the title, I thought it mean the big, beautiful boxes of the > $500 display cards...
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