Computers You Should Know

Speak and Spell, with a New Yorker Accent


Have you ever had that feeling, likely when you were a youngster, that there was some sort of vast conspiracy of life going on, adult secrets that no one would tell you? Well, a fellow that goes by the youtube handle Spats Bear, who must have had quite the fortuitous and lucky upbringing to have been exposed to both the high tech Speak and Spell and the exquisite Chrysler New Yorker, has discovered the truth that eluded him so! The voice behind both the Speaking machine and the Bitching Brad in the car is, gasp, the same!

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Computers You Should Know

BARK: A Swedish Computer That Sounds Like A Dog


I couldn’t find a picture of the Binär Aritmetisk Relä-Kalkylator (BARK) so I found a computer that could bark. I’m funny.

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Computers You Should Know

Cornell Power Network Analyzer

Cornell Power Network Calculator

In the late 1920s, as AC power grids were really starting to grow, a new branch of analog computing came into being – the network analyzer. At Cornell University, the network analyzer craze actually started off with Professor Malcolm McIlroy in 1947. He built a network analyzer to study water flow in pipes. He even found deficiencies in the fire sprinkler system with his computer. It was basically a giant breadboard with tungsten-filament light bulbs connected by wires. Instrumentation in the lines and power generation allowed him to simulate a water pipe network and then visually see where there might be issues based on the brightness of the lights. Mac, as he was known, finally convinced the Electrical Engineering department to get a power network analyzer of their own. Most likely because they kept hogging his and, as we all know, pipe flow is much more realistic than electricity.

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Computers You Should Know

Programmable Logic Controllers


In 1968, GM Hydra-Matic put out a request for proposal for a computer-based system to control a transmission plant. A small company out of Bedford, MA called Bedford Associates won a contract from the automotive giant for their modular digital controller. Bedford Associates set up a new company called Modicon to build and market these new controllers, with the 084 being the first model. Why 084? It was the 84th project Bedford Associates had worked on.

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Computers You Should Know

Donner, Party Of 3500


In May 1846 a group of people left Illinois in search of a new life in California. Of the 87 people that started the journey, only 48 would actually make it. Some of the dead became meals for the living, who were starving while stranded in the Sierra Nevada mountains over the winter.

A little more than a hundred years later, a small computer company would produce a “luggable” analog computer known as the Donner 3500.

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Computers You Should Know

Flight Computers

Universal Avionics UNS-1 FMS: One of the first computerized flight management systems

Universal Avionics UNS-1 FMS: One of the first computerized flight management systems

Navigating an aircraft has been on an ever-improving path since flights lasted more than a few minutes. Getting from Point A to Point B in an aircraft is much like navigating a ship, but with an extra dimension thrown in. Since the late 1970s, Flight Management System (FMS) computers have been used to aid in navigating aircraft. The FMS has grown in capability and scope over the years since.

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Computers You Should Know

How It Works: The Computer


Yesterday’s post a from engineerd™ on the Evolution of Data storage reminded me of this book on how the computer works from 1971. The book is called ‘How it works’ The Computer, and it by David Carey with illustrations by B. H. Robinson. The illustrations paint are great picture of just how classy theses machines were. Hit the jump to see more!

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Computers You Should Know

Harvesting Data

The NSA likes to read other people’s mail. It’s a bad habit that would be frowned upon if it weren’t for the fact that the NSA is reading other people’s mail to try to thwart any national security threats. The problem is, the people who send this mail don’t just type their letters in Word and email them. They use cryptographic systems to scramble the mail so that people like the cryptanalysts at the NSA can’t read it. This doesn’t stop the NSA. In fact, it seems they relish the thought of figuring out how to break the code used to encrypt the mail they want to read.

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Computers You Should Know

Microwriter MW4

Every since Mr. Qwerty* created the keyboard we love and adore, the more eccentric of computer designers have been searching for a better mousetrap. One such man was Cy Endfield. He decided that hitting one key per letter was silly, and that you could have a keyboard with only 6 keys! In 1978, he introduced this crazy idea to the world.

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Computers You Should Know

A Vax, Ye Mateys!

Revolutionizing the computer industry in 1977 wasn’t really that hard to do. While computer systems had been around since the 1940s, the rate at which the performance, footprint and useability of the computer was changing in the mid-1970s was fairly remarkable. Then, in 1977, Digital Equipment Corp. announced the VAX-11/870 and, well, revolutionized the computer industry.

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