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.
Continue reading Programmable Logic Controllers
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.
Continue reading Donner, Party Of 3500
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!
Continue reading How It Works: The Computer
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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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.
Continue reading Microwriter MW4
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.
Continue reading A Vax, Ye Mateys!
In 1871, while repairing a Thomas’ Arithmometer, W. T. Odhner came up with a new arithmometer, or mechanical calculator, that would be less bulky. The Swedish ex-pat living in St. Petersburg, Russia completed his creation in 1873 using a pinwheel disk rather than the bulky cylinder used in the Thomas. After producing a few for his boss and a few other people, he was producing them in earnest by 1890.
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Every Soviet and Russian manned spaceflight from Yuri Gagarin through 2002 contained the “Globus” IMP you see above. IMP is an acronym derived from the Russian term for “indicator of position in flight”. It’s purpose was to convey the spacecraft’s position relative to the Earth. However, it also transmitted its data to other systems, notably the attitude control system.
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Imagine this: you just started at a new job and your boss assigns you a “practice” project. When you’re done, the bosses are so impressed that they actually take your project from prototype to production and sell it. This is exactly what happened to Allan Alcorn when he started at Atari in 1972. The result was Pong.
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