Monday, June 25, 2007

Computers Through The Ages

Computers Through The Ages

Not much hair on your chin? Do people poke fun at you for never having braved the times of Windows 3.1? Here’s how to show them that even though you haven’t been there or done that, you still know more.

The Baby: On June 21, 1948, the University of Manchester made its first successful run of a computer program on the Small Scale Experimental Machine, affectionately called the Baby. It was the first machine that had the same basic set-up as the modern computer and could store both data and programs in memory.

The IBM 604: This was an electron-tube based computer that could read and process punch-cards. Its 2x2x1 m frame and a petite 640 kilo weight made it the first commercially available miniature electronic calculator. It ran at 50 KHz and was built out of 1600 vacuum triodes.

The ENIAC: Following the success of The Baby and its successor, the Mark I, researchers developed the ENIAC—the Electrical Numerical Integrator and Computer, which shattered the 2000-tube barrier with its 18,000 vacuum tubes in its 1800 square-foot cabinet. It could add, multiply and calculate square roots, though some claim its real agenda was to take over the world.

The Altair: In 1975, Popular Electronics magazine began selling the Altair as a kit. Based on the revolutionary Intel 8080A microprocessor, this monster could be picked up for $397 and required dedicated geek-time to be assembled and finally used. It had 256 bytes of memory, and was programmed in 0s and 1s by flipping switches on its front panel.

So the next time anyone mocks at you for not knowing computers, shoot a few classics at them.

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