Most people are at least vaguely familiar with the early history of modern digital computers, particularly their importance in breaking the Nazi Enigma codes during WWII. Less familiar is the computing machines that preceded them.
In response to the need for more and faster computation, researchers developed a series of analog computers that did the job but were complicated and difficult to maintain. Inspired by (and in some cases actually using) the switches used to connect telephone calls, digital computers using relays were developed that used base 2 arithmetic. As useful as they were these relay computers would end up mostly being forgotten, replaced by machines based on vacuum tubes.
The average car is full of computers and software yet in most cases that software is difficult or impossible to change. Sure you can take it to the dealer, but you don’t have to do that for your computer, your phone or even your GPS. Only one manufacturer, Tesla Motors, currently allows for over-the-air software updates. Everyone else is either stuck waiting for a recall or at the mercy of their local dealership’s service department.
The Macintosh turns 30 today, and Steven Levy was there for its birth.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that the Macintosh changed everything for me and I’ve had a Mac of some kind, from a 512K “Fat” Mac to my current quad-core iMac, since 1985.
A while back I blogged about a guy who was building a scale model Cray 1 supercomputer and had run into a difficult roadblock – the operating system. It’s taken a while but he’s managed to get it mostly running. Technically, it’s the OS for the Cray X-MP, but since it’s hardware-compatible it’s close enough. Next step is a programming language compiler in order to get new software installed and running. Drop him a line if you can help.
The Virtual AGC Links Page is your one-stop shop for everything related to the computers and software of the Apollo space program.