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  1. #1
    Sagan's Avatar Carl Sagan
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    World's oldest working digital computer gets a reboot



    The Witch, as the machine is known, has been restored to clattering and flashing life in a three-year effort.

    Design and construction work on the machine began in 1949 and it was built to aid scientists working at the UK's Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell in Oxfordshire. The 2.5 tonne machine was created to ease the burden on scientists by doing electronically the calculations that previously were done using adding machines.

    The machine first ran in 1951 and was known as the Harwell Dekatron - so named for the valves it used as a memory store. Although slow - the machine took up to 10 seconds to multiply two numbers - it proved very reliable and often cranked up 80 hours of running time in a week.

    By 1957 the machine was being outstripped by faster, smaller computers and it was handed over to the Wolverhampton and Staffordshire Technical College (more recently Wolverhampton University) where it was used to teach programming and began to be called the Witch (Wolverhampton Instrument for Teaching Computation from Harwell).

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-20395212
    http://youtu.be/zSgiXGELjbc

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    Ironman's Avatar
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    Valves = on and off = binary 0s and 1s.

    Yep - it's come a long way, baby!

    I love the tape coming out - I had a course on that kind of thing. The precursor of IBM cards.

  3. #3
    Skippy's Avatar Pickin' and Grinnin'!
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    Quote Ironman View Post
    Valves = on and off = binary 0s and 1s.

    Yep - it's come a long way, baby!

    I love the tape coming out - I had a course on that kind of thing. The precursor of IBM cards.
    I know, rite! Haha!
    Punched cards! I remember those.....hate 'em! And ugggh, tape drives! I remember how good it felt when I permanently moved from tape (prone to soooo many I/O errors on the CoCo III I had to save stuff 3 or 4 times to be sure ><!!) to 5 inch floppies, and
    how delighted I was when I realized I could cut a notch outta one side of em to get double sided disks!

  4. #4
    Ironman's Avatar
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    Quote gilt View Post
    Have you gotten a lot of use out of that course, IM? I was lucky; they had banished the punch cards from my college the year before I went.

    I used to have this old programmable Hewlitt Packard handheld calculator, which could be programmed by pulling a magnetic strip through a slot, as quick as it took the time to say, "Hewlitt Packard".
    I had a course in Assembly code (literally moving memory around), and a course where I transferred a file from one computer to another - character by character - via null modem cable. It was a class on IP addressing.

    I still have my graphing calculator from um a while back that I used for calculus. I still have it, but I need to get 4 AAA batteries for it.

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