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Old Educational Computer Resurrected As a Spreadsheet

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the next-week-punchcards dept.

Education 37

An anonymous reader writes "Back in the '60s, Bell Labs created a 'paper computer' called CARDIAC so students could learn the fundamentals of computers. Dr. Dobb's recreates the paper computer in an Excel spreadsheet and hints they will show how it gets ported to an FPGA in future installments."

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Blue Screen (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43547087)

On the CARDIAC the "Blue Screen" STOP error is actually implemented as an ARREST.

FPGA? (2)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year and a half ago | (#43548151)

Never mind FPGA, we want a PDF version!

Re:FPGA? (2)

dissy (172727) | about a year and a half ago | (#43550071)

No problem!

Here is the PDF pieces of CARDIAC:
http://web.mit.edu/kmill/www/hardware/hardware.html [mit.edu]

Additionally, you can purchase an original kit for $15 from:
http://www.scientificsonline.com/cardiac-illustrated-computation-aid.html [scientificsonline.com]

I still have mine on a bookshelf at home. It was an amazing little kit to me when I was 15, and still no less impressive today.

Enjoy!

Re:FPGA? (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year and a half ago | (#43553757)

Cool, thanks...!

Re:Blue Screen (1)

dragon-file (2241656) | about a year and a half ago | (#43548377)

On the CARDIAC the "Blue Screen" STOP error is actually implemented as an ARREST.

If I hadn't blown all my mod points on cheap women and wine I would mod you up sir!

Re:Blue Screen (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#43550003)

On the CARDIAC the "Blue Screen" STOP error is actually implemented as an ARREST.

You've only evoked half-hearted laughter from your audience with this.

BARDIAC (1, Informative)

jackb_guppy (204733) | about a year and a half ago | (#43547167)

Had a Comp/Sci professor who wrote BARDIAC (~1977), same as CARDIAC but with punch cards. It ran on DataPoint 2000 which was the 8008 instruction set run on decreate componants. Nothing like using elumation software on an elumation computer!

Will have to play with excel sheet, relive OLD times!

Re:BARDIAC (2)

wbr1 (2538558) | about a year and a half ago | (#43547389)

on decreate componants

This is what happens when old computers go to die...

Re:BARDIAC (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | about a year and a half ago | (#43547765)

You missed the elumation typo.

Re:BARDIAC (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#43550011)

You missed the elumation typo.

No, this is how English was spelled when he was learning to read and write.

Re:BARDIAC (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year and a half ago | (#43547503)

Cool paper computer. Speaking of old times, imagine a beowulf cluster of these!

Re:BARDIAC (3, Funny)

HybridST (894157) | about a year and a half ago | (#43547629)

A Beowulf cluster of old times? No I can't imagine how that would work.. I might soon be able to simulate a beowulf cluster of BARDIAC on phone-level hardware though.

Re:BARDIAC (1)

jitterman (987991) | about a year and a half ago | (#43547757)

:) (didn't have mod points for +1 funny)

Re:BARDIAC (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | about a year and a half ago | (#43548091)

Now you just need to implement CORDIC algorithms for trig, power, log, mult, div, and square root and you would be all set :-0

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CORDIC [wikipedia.org]

Re:BARDIAC (1)

plopez (54068) | about a year and a half ago | (#43551819)

"Numerical Recipes" anyone? Or perhaps the second volume of Knuth?

Digi-Comp one FTW (1)

cellocgw (617879) | about a year and a half ago | (#43547269)

I still have mine- nice plastic and metal computer.

You can still get CARDIAC paper kits, BTW, somewhere online.

Re:Digi-Comp one FTW (1)

hendrikboom (1001110) | about a year and a half ago | (#43547301)

Wit short rubber bands, I believe. I never figured out where to get replacement rubber bands of the right strength.

-- hendrik

Re:Digi-Comp one FTW (1)

cellocgw (617879) | about a year and a half ago | (#43547339)

My kit uses spring-steel to drive the gate positions. No rubber bands required ... until I lost a couple of the springs and had to jury-rig w/ a couple rubber bands. No rubber bands in the original kit.

Still have mine (1)

Rootbear (9274) | about a year and a half ago | (#43547313)

I still have my CARDIAC, which stood for CARDboard Illustrative Aid to Computation. A teacher gave it to me in Junior High, about 1971, and it helped get me interested in computers. I'll have to check out the spreadsheet version.

As an aside, I love old computer names that end in -AC. My Mac Pro is named prozac.

Re:Still have mine (1)

nigelo (30096) | about a year and a half ago | (#43547477)

> My Mac Pro is named prozac.

That's depressing.

I had one of these! (1)

TheSync (5291) | about a year and a half ago | (#43547367)

My dad got me a CARDIAC back when I was in third grade.

I'm not sure I picked up much from it, but it inspired me to take a BASIC course on Commodore PETs in fifth grade, and from there on my future was set!

Re:I had one of these! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43547867)

... it inspired me to take a BASIC course on Commodore PETs in fifth grade, and from there on my future was set!

So... No future?

It is practically impossible to teach good programming to students that have had a prior exposure to BASIC: as potential programmers they are mentally mutilated beyond hope of regeneration.

-- Dijksta

Re:I had one of these! (1)

TheSync (5291) | about a year and a half ago | (#43547939)

It is practically impossible to teach good programming to students that have had a prior exposure to BASIC

Hah, it's true, I decided to go into Electrical Engineering. The programs I do write from time to time are pretty ugly :)

Re:I had one of these! (1)

Whippen (2018202) | about a year and a half ago | (#43563589)

I think it depends on the level of exposure to BASIC. If it is only minimal exposure, the concept of variables, arrays, loops, etc are transferable. If the exposure has got to the point of replacing a DO loop with a series of GOTOs, I agree, all hope is lost

PAPAC (1)

hendrikboom (1001110) | about a year and a half ago | (#43547407)

Ah ancient paper computers. There's one that was published in CACM back in the 50's. I remember finding it back in a university library when I was first getting into computers in the 60's. There's a link to it on boingboing: http://boingboing.net/2010/11/18/a-do-it-yourself-pap.html [boingboing.net] . have fun.

Re:PAPAC (1)

Al Williams (2884871) | about a year and a half ago | (#43547905)

That's cool. I wonder if I should try to get this in OpenSCAD and 3-D print the pieces instead of making them with paper?

Thanks, just a pity that it does not work with OO (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43547439)

It's cool, a pity it does not works with a "free" alternative...
Well I'll look at the licence and think about it...

Re:Thanks, just a pity that it does not work with (1)

Al Williams (2884871) | about a year and a half ago | (#43547963)

Thought about doing it in OO or even Google Docs. However, the target schools all seem to have Excel. But a port would be great.

Meh, it's like Brainfuck (1)

the_humeister (922869) | about a year and a half ago | (#43547779)

Brain Fuck [wikipedia.org] . You can implement this in silicon too.

The mind boggles (2)

MrLogic17 (233498) | about a year and a half ago | (#43548255)

Lemme get this straight: Dr. Dobb's is computer simulating a paper simulation of a computer.

Put another way, it's easier to learn about computers using a spreadsheet model of a paper model of a computer, than just a mere paper model of a computer.

Cool, yes. Circular logic loops, yes.

Re:The mind boggles (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year and a half ago | (#43549407)

The paper model requires the student to do some work along the way. They have to enter numbers in boxes, possibly erasing the numbers already there, plus they have to turn the wheel and follow the sets of instructions. A spreadsheet gets rid of that, and is much more passive I would think. If you just keep clicking the "next" button over and over what do you really learn? Maybe you learn to write those simple programs, but are you getting a feel for how a computer is just a dumb state machine?

Brings back memories (1)

doseas (1271896) | about a year and a half ago | (#43548835)

I used to teach programming to Jr High students in the '70s using CARDIAC. I still have one in my collection in "good working order".

Tinkertoy implementation (1)

girlinatrainingbra (2738457) | about a year and a half ago | (#43549085)

Well, it'd be more fun to make a tinkertoy implementation of the paper computer simulator, wouldn't it?
http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~cfs/472_html/Intro/TinkertoyComputer/TinkerToy.html [rutgers.edu]

something done by Daniel Hillis and Margaret Minsky (minsky's daughter?) at M.I.T. in 1977

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._Daniel_Hillis#Education_and_research [wikipedia.org]

Just wondering. . . (1)

TripleE78 (883800) | about a year and a half ago | (#43549273)

So, if you use this thing to simulate downloading music and get caught by the RIAA goon squad, does it lead to a CARDIAC arrest?

Thank you, I'll be here all week. Tip your waitress!

CARDIAC (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year and a half ago | (#43549387)

I actually used one of these. Computers were just rare back then for students to get ahold of. They were expensive, plus not educational about computing. CARDIAC let you figure out how a computer really worked on the inside, as it was basically a simple state machine. Even today there's nothing really similar to this to teach how computers actually work at a simple level (microcode). Even many CS programs completely skip over stuff like this or make it optional.

I think this was one of the things that pushed me towards computer science as a major despite never having seen or used a computer before.

xDIAC (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about a year and a half ago | (#43549399)

I implemented TARDIAC to simulate BSOD's

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