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UK's Oldest Computer To Be "Rebooted"

timothy posted about 5 years ago | from the just-like-star-trek dept.

Hardware 153

Smivs writes with this interesting piece of computer history, excerpted from the BBC: "Britain's oldest original computer, the Harwell, is being sent to the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley where it is to be restored to working order. The computer, which was designed in 1949, was built and used by staff at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment in Harwell, Oxfordshire. It first ran in 1951 and was designed to perform mathematical calculations. It lasted until 1973. When first built the 2.4m x 5m computer was state-of-the-art, although it was superseded by transistor-based systems. The restoration project is expected to take a year. Although not the first computer built in the UK, the Harwell had one of the longest service lives. Built by a team of three people, the device was capable of doing the work of six to ten people and ran for seven years until the establishment obtained their first commercial computer. 'We didn't think we were doing anything pioneering at the time,' said Dick Barnes, who helped build the original Harwell computer."

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obligatory Simpsons quote (5, Funny)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | about 5 years ago | (#29298845)

"In the future, I predict computers will be twice as powerful, ten times larger and be so expensive only the five richest monarchs of Europe will be able to afford them." - Professor Frink

Obligatory tired meme (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29298869)

But does it run Linux?

Obligatory Bill Gates misquotation (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29299053)

64 vacuum tubes ought to be enough for anyone.

Obligatory offtopic meme (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29299199)

Imagine a beowulf cluster of these...

Obligatory tired meme 2 (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29299099)

Can it run Vista?

Re:Obligatory tired meme (2, Interesting)

JCCyC (179760) | about 5 years ago | (#29300023)

I'm more interested in having it emulated in MESS [mess.org] .

One word (1)

MrKaos (858439) | about 5 years ago | (#29298857)

Beowulf.

Re:One word (0, Offtopic)

probityrules (971026) | about 5 years ago | (#29299159)

Stonehenge.

Re:One word (0, Offtopic)

ciderVisor (1318765) | about 5 years ago | (#29299429)

NO ! We're not gonna f***ing do "Stonehenge"!

Re:One word (5, Funny)

MrKaos (858439) | about 5 years ago | (#29299775)

Imagine a beowulf custer, it's easy if you try
Idle time available, while calculating pi
Imagine all the systems, we'd cluster today
Imagine there's no OS wars, It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or ps for, And no zealotry too
Imagine all the systems,computing their piece
Whooo Hooo
You may say that I'm a schema, But I'm a zero and a one
I hope someday you'll join us, And the cluster will be as one
Imagine divide by zero, I wonder if you can
No need for greedy matching, A motherboard that can
Imagine all the processes, Sharing memory
You may say that I'm a schema, But I'm a zero and a one
I hope someday you'll join us, And the cluster will be as one

With apologies to john Lennon

Re:One word (2, Informative)

pjt33 (739471) | about 5 years ago | (#29300521)

Who modded this offtopic? Stonehenge is seriously claimed by some to be the UK's oldest computer.

Re:One word (1)

andy_t_roo (912592) | about 5 years ago | (#29299405)

of cogs?

Re:One word (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29299745)

Are they going to put Linux on it?

...finally! (4, Funny)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | about 5 years ago | (#29298913)

Once the computer is in working order it will be shipped to San Fransisco where the new Systems Admin will finally be able to sniff out that backdoor appliance.

Re:...finally! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29303359)

With the size of that computer, and the shinaigans going on in the early 70's in the UK, they'll have to "sniff out" more than just backdoor appliances. I bet there are a lot of shady surprizes stashed beneth the casings of this rig...

hindsight (5, Insightful)

Lord Ender (156273) | about 5 years ago | (#29298935)

We didn't think we were doing anything pioneering at the time

This is why the article we had yesterday, which argued that technological growth is slowing down, was a total hogwash. Technological growth is speeding up! What is constant is our inability to recognize great technological advancement except in hindsight.

Re:hindsight (3, Interesting)

thisnamestoolong (1584383) | about 5 years ago | (#29299493)

Saying that technological growth is slowing down or speeding up is total hogwash, in my opinion. The only way to measure technological growth is by placing arbitrary mile markers in the road. On one hand you have the folks that choose to measure technological growth by new inventions and can say that we are just polishing things that have already been invented. On the other hand, you have the folks that measure technological growth by its ubiquity, and show that more and more people are using more and more tech each year. Who is right, and who is wrong? I would submit that it is irrelevant and simply humans trying to place arbitrary classification on a complex system. We ought to just make sure that we are always doing our best to further the fields of science and technology, and not worry about whether our growth is faster or slower than in the past.

Re:hindsight (1)

tool462 (677306) | about 5 years ago | (#29301395)

We ought to just make sure that we are always doing our best to further the fields of science and technology, and not worry about whether our growth is faster or slower than in the past.

But then how would you collect funding for your cause of choice?

Re:hindsight (4, Interesting)

hairyfeet (841228) | about 5 years ago | (#29302281)

I'd say the biggest change since those days boils down to a single word....price. My first computer was a VIC20 [mainbyte.com] which as you can see by the specs had a whopping 5k of RAM, and a whole 1MHz CPU. With the addons I paid close to $600 for it, and just recently I built a new machine for myself with dual 2500! MHZ CPUs, 8Gb of RAM (which is bigger than my first 4 HDDs put together) and nearly 1Tb of storage, all for a little less than I payed for the VIC. Even the smallest convenience store has computerized checkouts, and checking out of Walgreen's the other day I noticed they had MP3 players with larger storage than my first 2 HDDs for a whopping $15.

When you add to this the lifespan of computers nowadays (I am typing this on a circa 2000 1.1GHz Celery Win2K PC that I use as a netbox) it has made truly incredible amounts of computing available to the masses. The rise of "cheap computing" has done more to shake things up than any particular CPU or other hardware released IMHO. Just the sheer amount of power folks get today is just insane, and the ability for anyone, no matter how much or little they make, still just blows my mind. Anyone today can have a PC powerful enough for desktop publishing, running mailing lists, pretty much any job the average Joe would ever care to do for little to no money (I often refurb older machines to give away and have a couple of 500Mhz boxes running mailing lists for local churches) has really changed things.

In my youth computers were strictly for the hackers and those with the serious cash required to buy something with a GUI. Machines were expensive, proprietary as hell, hard to use, and often had to be programmed from scratch. Now even my nearly 70 Luddite father uses a laptop so he can "read the paper" using the wireless network I set up for him while he watches his NCIS from the couch. The amount of freeware and FOSS out there is just astounding, and there are literally thousands upon thousands of choices, from software to hardware, hell thanks to Linux and the BSDs even OSes. Maybe I'm just getting old and easily impressed in my advancing years, but if you would have told me that I'd have my oldest designing new levels for three dimensional video games on my hand me downs back then I'd have told you that you were insane, not just because of the kid. The amount of processing power we take for granted today or even pass down to our relatives when we get new toys to play with is just unreal, and that I think has changed the way we live more than anything else IMHO.

Re:hindsight (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29302361)

humans trying to place arbitrary classification on a complex system

That's what we do with literally everything, why should technology be different?

Vaccum Tubes? (4, Insightful)

A. B3ttik (1344591) | about 5 years ago | (#29298943)

The article is extremely light on details. Where are they going to get vaccum tubes or other antiquated apparatuses from? How much will they cost?

Re:Vaccum Tubes? (5, Informative)

MrKaos (858439) | about 5 years ago | (#29299009)

Where are they going to get vaccum tubes or other antiquated apparatuses from? How much will they cost?

I think many vacuum tubes are being manufactured in Russia right now, I know this from buying guitar amplifier tubes so I suspect that is where they will be sourced.

Re:Vaccum Tubes? (4, Funny)

value_added (719364) | about 5 years ago | (#29299185)

I think many vacuum tubes are being manufactured in Russia right now, I know this from buying guitar amplifier tubes so I suspect that is where they will be sourced.

That does raise the question of whether a computer built with vacuum tubes gives mp3 files a warmer sound.

Or maybe not. ;-)

Re:Vaccum Tubes? (2)

MrKaos (858439) | about 5 years ago | (#29299335)

That does raise the question of whether a computer built with vacuum tubes gives mp3 files a warmer sound.

Sure, once the tubes are at operating temperature...

Re:Vaccum Tubes? (1)

clickclickdrone (964164) | about 5 years ago | (#29301499)

>Sure, once the tubes are at operating temperature...
The joke didn't need explaining. Trust me.

Re:Vaccum Tubes? (1)

tecnico.hitos (1490201) | about 5 years ago | (#29299511)

That does raise the question of whether a computer built with vacuum tubes gives mp3 files a warmer sound.

Nah, they are from Russia, nothing is warm there.

Actually, the tubes give a cool sound, just be careful to don't get them clogged.

Re:Vaccum Tubes? (1)

isama (1537121) | about 5 years ago | (#29301475)

In soviet russia, the tubes play You!

Re:Vaccum Tubes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29299597)

You need the 4million dollar power plug and usb cords to really bring out the mid-range tones.

Re:Vaccum Tubes? (1)

An ominous Cow art (320322) | about 5 years ago | (#29303649)

For best results, the power cable should be gold-plated and cost $200 or more.

Re:Vaccum Tubes? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29299479)

There are still plently of places in the UK that make these, admittedly most of the ones i know are hand-made for guitar amplifiers but they most certainly are made in the UK.

Re:Vaccum Tubes from Russia (1)

Dareth (47614) | about 5 years ago | (#29299737)

Better watch out for trojans and backdoors in those tubes put there by the Russians, in case this computer were ever to be used against them in a war.

Re:Vaccum Tubes? (0, Redundant)

JCCyC (179760) | about 5 years ago | (#29300037)

In Soviet Russia, tubes vacuum you!

Obligatory? (1)

unforkable (956731) | about 5 years ago | (#29300487)

In Soviet Russia , Vaccum tubes manufacture you!

Re:Vaccum Tubes? (1)

BattleApple (956701) | about 5 years ago | (#29302209)

I think they have a lot of old stock too.. I ordered some nixie tubes on ebay from a guy in Russia a few years ago, and the box looked like it was at least 40 years old.
this is the seller's ebay store - http://stores.shop.ebay.com/orehova__W0QQ_armrsZ1 [ebay.com]

Re:Vaccum Tubes? (1)

inerlogic (695302) | about 5 years ago | (#29303759)

in Soviet Russia, YOU are 40 years old!

Re:Vaccum Tubes? (1)

Krneki (1192201) | about 5 years ago | (#29299057)

How much will they cost?

There is no greater wealth than wisdom, no greater poverty than ignorance; no greater heritage than culture and no greater support than consultation

Re:Vaccum Tubes? (5, Interesting)

rubycodez (864176) | about 5 years ago | (#29299631)

the thing uses dekatrons (ten cathode tube where pulse on guide electrode next to a cathode makes conduction jump to next cathode), which though not produced anymore are widely available. A computer made from them is much like a mechanical cash register with counting wheels. they are used by many hobbyists for clocks and other counting applications. no problem getting them

Re:Vaccum Tubes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29300525)

Vacuum tubes are manufactured near Elmira NY by Corning(?)... I believe MacIntosh still purchases tubes, as well as some other industries.

Re:Vaccum Tubes? (1)

Teresita (982888) | about 5 years ago | (#29302863)

Actually it was the first web server, because as Ted Stevens said, the Internet is just a series of tubes.

Re:Vaccum Tubes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29302117)

I suspect that (like the colossus) it was mostly built using telephone exchange spare parts. Bletchley Park grabbed a couple of old telephone exchanges when they were being upgraded to digital in the early '90s to build their replica colossus. I'd guess they have a lot of spares lying around.

There'll be some specialised bits that'll be hard to find (the memory tubes sound rare), but I wouldn't be suprised if they're hoping to do most of the work using parts they've got in stock. The relay boxes in the picture look exactly like the ones in the rebuilt colossus.

Shutting down older hardware... bad idea. (5, Informative)

marciot (598356) | about 5 years ago | (#29299049)

I've found that for older hardware that is running fine 24x7, the worst thing is to shut it down. It invariably fails to start up again.

You are entirely correct (5, Informative)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | about 5 years ago | (#29299787)

The original US tube-based computer (I forget the acronym) had about 5000 tubes, each of which had a MTTF of around 2-3000 hours. Many people thought that it would break down too often to be of any use. But the designers had realised that what kills tubes is turnon (when the filament carries more current because it is low resistance) causing filament damage and thermal shock damage to the envelope. If the tubes were warmed up slowly and then left on all the time, there would be an infant mortality phase but then the machine would get more reliable with time as the tubes got into the depths of the bathtub life curve.

Pedant note: although "all the time" or "always on" have more letters than "24x7", they are quicker to say and more meaningful. Why do we have this horrible cypher?

Re:You are entirely correct (2, Informative)

value_added (719364) | about 5 years ago | (#29300739)

Pedant note: although "all the time" or "always on" have more letters than "24x7", they are quicker to say and more meaningful. Why do we have this horrible cypher?

Pedant note: The term "cypher" is not a meaningful synonym for argot, cliche, neologism, colloquialism, expression, jargon, localism, newspeak, parlance, phrase, or vernacular (among others).

That's not to say slipping in other people's mud isn't forgivable. ;-)

Re:You are entirely correct (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | about 5 years ago | (#29301093)

This was rediscovered by the US (ENIAC) in 1946 , those people at Bletchley Park discovered this and built a computer using the idea of not turning them off in 1943 ...Wartime Official secrets stopped them telling anyone ....

The hardware people who discovered this were the Post Office (Telecoms) who used tubes for switching and knew the pitfalls ...

Re:Shutting down older hardware... bad idea. (1)

operagost (62405) | about 5 years ago | (#29301247)

Invariably? As a former sysadmin for what was an eight year old VAX at the time, I can assure you that we were able to completely shut down the hardware at least once while I was there-- disks and everything. The VAX had been booted for over a year and the disks and controllers for THREE.

A joke my Dad told... (5, Funny)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about 5 years ago | (#29299077)

Okay.. I know that the premise of this joke is totally wrpng and UK scientists were computing pioneers, but it reminds me my favorite joke my father ever told me:

Q: Why didn't the British never make a computer?
A: They couldn't figure out a way to make it leak oil.

(I think the joke is incorrect... probably on both counts).

Re:A joke my Dad told... (1, Offtopic)

maxume (22995) | about 5 years ago | (#29299129)

There are all sorts of non sequiturs that fit in there:

Q: Why didn't the British ever make a computer?
A: Have you tried the food?!

Re:A joke my Dad told... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29299557)

It's not a non sequitur. British cars and motorbikes of the period were infamous for leaking oil. They continued leaking oil until the British motor industry went tits-up in the 70s.

Re:A joke my Dad told... (0, Flamebait)

maxume (22995) | about 5 years ago | (#29299625)

Which modern computers rely on oil? Especially circulating oil.

Idiot over-clockers don't particularly count.

Re:A joke my Dad told... (1)

mckinleyn (1288586) | about 5 years ago | (#29299733)

Joke, n.
1. Something said or done to evoke laughter or amusement, especially an amusing story with a punch line.

Re:A joke my Dad told... (-1, Offtopic)

maxume (22995) | about 5 years ago | (#29299845)

What's your point? Comparing British manufactured computers to British manufactured engines is still a non sequitur, even if it is a joke (because a computer with oil in it is unexpected).

Re:A joke my Dad told... (1)

operagost (62405) | about 5 years ago | (#29301291)

Thanks for the WHOOSH, Lt. Commander Data.

Re:A joke my Dad told... (1)

dpiven (518007) | about 5 years ago | (#29300155)

Would leaky electrolytic capacitors count?

Re:A joke my Dad told... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29301131)

So they were practicing that wonderful American school of Engineering that is Harley Davidson.

Re:A joke my Dad told... (4, Insightful)

value_added (719364) | about 5 years ago | (#29299633)

A: They couldn't figure out a way to make it leak oil.

And that's a bad thing?

My first car was a 2-seater Triumph convertible. It suffered from electrical system problems, leaking hydraulics, and when it rained, the top would leak (even if you managed to snap all the buttons downs correctly). But was it fun! Wind through my hair, wet shoulders, the smell of hydraulic fluid dripping on my left shoe, being pulled over and cited for "overcrowding" when I had more than 3 passengers in the car ...

The cars I've owned since have all been what you'd call dependable if not "top of the line", but I can't remember a single interesting about them.

Re:A joke my Dad told... (1)

thebheffect (1409105) | about 5 years ago | (#29300213)

As a practical person, I prefer my car to be efficient in its abilities to get me to places I want to go, and its ability to not be a burden on my wallet. Ill trade 'interesting' for that any day.

Re:A joke my Dad told... (4, Interesting)

svtdragon (917476) | about 5 years ago | (#29301415)

My mother owned a Jaguar X-type from 2002 or so. I once read a review of it (this one [automotive.com] , I think) and they made exactly this point:

There was a time not long ago when Jaguars were stunningly beautiful, fantastic driving cars that were known to be fragile and unreliable. Jaguars were sexy but leaked oil. Jaguars were luxurious and emotional, but their windows often failed to go up or down. Jaguars were invigorating to drive but could leave you stranded on a cold morning.

This Jaguar, the X-Type, is the opposite of those great Jags of the past. This car trades those wonderful qualities that made Jaguars cars to lust after and has replaced them with the bland reliability that makes Toyotas cars to lust after....

Maybe we'd like it better if it leaked.

Re:A joke my Dad told... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29299751)

Are there really people here who don't get the joke? British cars and Motorcycles were notorious for leaking oil.
The joke goes...Question: How do you know whan your is out of oil?
                Answer: When it stops leaking.

Re:A joke my Dad told... (2, Funny)

pjt33 (739471) | about 5 years ago | (#29300493)

Are there really people here who don't get the joke?

Yes. But don't worry: I'm getting off your lawn.

UK's oldest computer? (5, Interesting)

solevita (967690) | about 5 years ago | (#29299233)

I thought that Colossus would take this title? Not only is it older and British, but it's also (I'm told) the World's oldest electronic computer [picotech.com] .

Re:UK's oldest computer? (5, Informative)

TobascoKid (82629) | about 5 years ago | (#29299411)

The Harwell is still in one piece, the Colossus no longer exists (the Colossus at Bletchly is a replica). Also, the Harwell is a stored program computer (like all modern computers), Colossus isn't.

Re:UK's oldest computer? (1)

Gorath99 (746654) | about 5 years ago | (#29299501)

Colossus was the first (electronic digital programmable) computer, but none of the original machines survive. The Harwell apparently is the oldest original computer in the UK that is still around.

Original Punch Cards too? (2, Interesting)

realsilly (186931) | about 5 years ago | (#29299269)

For many of the younger generations of developers who don't know anything about these machines, it would be quite something to show them how the original developers used to work. It will also show how far we have advanced.

primitive pr0n (2, Interesting)

syntap (242090) | about 5 years ago | (#29299279)

We didn't think we were doing anything pioneering at the time

Yeah, that's what the ASCII art inventors and the creators of GIF at CompuServ said.

Re:primitive pr0n (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | about 5 years ago | (#29301547)

Or the owners of the first porn domain on the Internet!

What? (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 5 years ago | (#29299299)

UK's Oldest Computer To Be "Rebooted"

Although not the first computer built in the UK

How could it be the UK's oldest computer if it wasn't the first computer built in the UK?

Re:What? (1)

glop (181086) | about 5 years ago | (#29299351)

Maybe the older ones are "dead"

Re:What? (4, Insightful)

ciderVisor (1318765) | about 5 years ago | (#29299359)

Oldest surviving computer, perhaps ?

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29299385)

UK's Oldest Computer To Be "Rebooted"

Although not the first computer built in the UK

How could it be the UK's oldest computer if it wasn't the first computer built in the UK?

Maybe the oldest was destroyed or is no longer around? Just speculating.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29300065)

Most pre-1960s computers were destroyed during RobotWars.

Re:What? (3, Informative)

Spad (470073) | about 5 years ago | (#29299415)

It seems to be predated in the UK by at least ENIAC, EDSAC and Baby, though not by a long time.

I can't find anything written about it that implies anything particularly special about it that would allow it to be "first" in a given area.

Re:What? (3, Informative)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | about 5 years ago | (#29301309)

It was built in 1951 and used for teaching until 1973, and then donated to a museum, it is the earliest surviving British computer

All the earlier ones (Colossus, Manchester M1 etc.. ) were destroyed, dismantled, or lost, just like their American counterparts (ENIAC etc ..)

The earlier ones you can see in museums are all only parts, or reconstructions, this is a complete and when restored potentially working computer

Re:What? (1)

The Wooden Badger (540258) | about 5 years ago | (#29300541)

Because "One of UK's oldest" or "UK's second oldest" just aren't sexy enough for headlines.

Re:What? (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | about 5 years ago | (#29301191)

The "older" computers have all been dismantled and the ones in museums are all replicas

the Colossus MkI was upgraded to MkII
All the MkII's were deliberately destroyed, except one, and that was thrown away by the secret services (who were using it)

the Manchester M1's were all dismantled years ago.

Nobody thinks heritage is important until it is old, and these early computers did not survive being obsolete long enough to get old and thought to be worth keeping, the ENIAC was for years thought to the the worlds first electronic computer, and only a few parts survive....

Modern Times (4, Funny)

casals (885017) | about 5 years ago | (#29299357)

"[...] the device was capable of doing the work of six to ten people [...]"

Interesting to see how it changes over time. Today, considering the majority of jobs, you either cut off social networking access or you'll need six to ten people to do the work of two or three.

What about Colossus? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29299441)

The Colossus computer was operation by about 1944 5 years before the Harwell so um isn't that that oldest computer?

Re:What about Colossus? (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | about 5 years ago | (#29301875)

Colossus and it's succesors (Manchester M1 etc ...) are all destroyed, dismantled or lost, the ones in museums are all just parts, or replicas ... this is an original potentially working computer

computer, versus stored program computer, versus.. (4, Interesting)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | about 5 years ago | (#29299467)

There's the problem of deciding what's a real computer-- do you include things that can crunch numbers, but have a hard-wired program, or have a program, but it's on a loop of paper tape, or have a program, but it's wired onto a plugboard. The Harwell machine is programmable, but the program is on a loop of paper tape, making anything other than one simple loop very problematical.

Also its data storage is in a few cold-cathode Dekatrons, which are basically overachieving neon lights. They limit the counting-up speed to about 20,000 increments per second, just barely in the electronic realm, and much slower than anything using real vacuum tubes. And it uses a lot of mechanical relays, further limiting its speed and making it a very marginal computer in any modern sense of the word.

Re:computer, versus stored program computer, versu (1)

dylan_- (1661) | about 5 years ago | (#29300349)

Also its data storage is in a few cold-cathode Dekatrons, which are basically overachieving neon lights.

I don't care. Cold-cathode Dekatrons are how everything should be stored!

Re:computer, versus stored program computer, versu (1)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | about 5 years ago | (#29300709)

WEll, I agree, they're cool looking. But to have your computing speed be limited by the de-ionization time of a gas is less than thrilling. You think a VAX-750 with ten users was slow.... :)

Re:computer, versus stored program computer, versu (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29301587)

Call me when they replace the Dekatrons with some clever blue LED/capacitor/resistor arrangement (Diode Resistor Logic?!) and then we'll talk cool blinkenlights.

Re:computer, versus stored program computer, versu (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | about 5 years ago | (#29301369)

Given enough tape and enough time it is a universal Turing machine, so it can emulate any computer ... slowly ....

Even ENIAC was a Turing machine and so could run anything ....it would be even slower and more cumbersome but could still run Linux!

If you read the details then you will see that they left it running unattended over Christmas and the New year once and it did a lot of calculations in that time ... not just a "simple" loop ...

Any machine that is Turing complete is a computer,

Turing (2, Insightful)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | about 5 years ago | (#29299939)

Looking back, hardly any of us were computer literate and it's astonishing that we managed stored computing at all.

Yeah, it's funny how that happens when you persecute your best people.

I guess this was '49. But still. These guys are getting media attention while Turing rots in his grave.

Re:Turing (2, Funny)

ZosX (517789) | about 5 years ago | (#29300899)

He's in a grave. Is he not supposed to rot?

you Fail it (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29299965)

Live in the past.. (1)

Paracelcus (151056) | about 5 years ago | (#29299973)

It's cheaper!

And besides, the red Chinese invented the computer 3,000 years ago.

Mathematical Calculations? No way! (1)

Whatsisname (891214) | about 5 years ago | (#29300221)

From the summary:

It first ran in 1951 and was designed to perform mathematical calculations.

Is there any computer that was designed to do anything else?

Well, yes (4, Insightful)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | about 5 years ago | (#29300383)

Most modern computers (by quantity) are basically communications devices. Although we have converted the processes of communication to mathematical operations, this is to fit in with the way a computer works. We manage to speak to one another without the use of mathematics. We do not see the function of a mobile phone or a netbook as being "to perform mathematical calculations".

Early data processing machines (like Hollerith card analysers) were designed to perform select and sort operations which they did using logical functions, but they did not do calculations. You wanted to know who in a brigade had a particular skill, you fed in the punched cards for the brigade, and the output stack delivered the ones whose holes coincided with the setup. Colossus was intended to do code breaking by high speed (for the time) data processing, but it did not do general purpose calculation. So yes, this is a meaningful distinction.

On a related note... (2, Funny)

billybob_jcv (967047) | about 5 years ago | (#29300721)

Micro$oft recently released Harwell OS 7, which uses all of the available registers to create a waving M$ flag using the Harwell's front panel lights. Unfortunately, it has since been determined that the new OS really requires two Harwell computers wired in a parallel configuration to perform adequately. The M$ product manager for the Harwell OS stated: "The hardware requirements on the side of the box clearly state that one Harwell computer is the MINIMUM requirement, not the optimum configuration."

Lets see how this bad boy handles today's porn! (0, Offtopic)

Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) | about 5 years ago | (#29300921)

Atomic program my ass... this mother fucker was used for hardcore mother fucking porn....

Boot this bitch up and lets jack like its 1949.

leaps and bounds in advancement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29301607)

How can anyone say that technological growth is slowing down... haven't they seen the Shamwow or the magic bullet II yet??? Those marvels of science could not be possible without such a giant leap into the future of technology! If more people would have recognized the value of that bionic ear piece sold on tv only, Billy Mayes wouldn't have had to yell so much and would still be introducing you to all the great marvels of today!

Oldest? (1)

mqduck (232646) | about 5 years ago | (#29301615)

How about the Difference Engine?

Oh, it's all well and good (1)

zorro-z (1423959) | about 5 years ago | (#29301807)

Oh, it's all well and good that Harwell has historic significance as the UK's oldest computer. What people want to know is: does it run Windows?

Its first use (1)

dogeatery (1305399) | about 5 years ago | (#29302009)

Its first use will be figuring out the secret ingredient in a Flaming Moe

Yeah but watch out! (1)

Orion Blastar (457579) | about 5 years ago | (#29302163)

Soon someone will port Linux to it, as well as Doom. :)

I heard that Vacuum tubes are rare to find and that Vacuum tube computers can be rewired to use Transistors instead when Vacuum tubes cannot be found.

Yes, but... (1)

Drone69 (1517261) | about 5 years ago | (#29302837)

will the Harwell be able to play Crysis? Better benchmark it with 3DMark first.

mod do3n (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29303301)

Another cun8ti?ng

Updates for your computer are available... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29303851)

They haven't turned it on in how long? Man, it's gonna take forever to download all the updates...

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