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Ed S
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Ed S
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"Thanks to their stunning design, some ICT 1301s took on another role in the 1970s and 1980s, appearing in the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun, also Blake's 7, The Pink Panther, and Doctor Who. Only three other ICT 1301s are known to have survived, but Flossie is the only one ever likely to work again."
ICT 1301 Fact File (also from +The National Museum of Computing):
* A second Generation Early British Design, implemented by Computer Developments Limited for ICT (International Computers and Tabulators) which became ICL (International Computers Limited).
* Designer: Dr R Bird. He started the project in mid 1958.
* Console and colour scheme designer: Noel London
* Translation of design to a working machine by GEC at Coventry, using Early British Germanium transistors.
* Over 150 built.
* First customer delivered machine, Serial No 6, Flossie to London University at Senate House in 1962.
* This design developed into the 1302 a realtime multiprogram system which became one of the foundation blocks of the ICT 1900 range.

Floor footprint: 25 foot by 25 ft area
Max configuration weight: 5.5 Tons
Power consumption : max 13kw of three phase power, idle 6.2kw
Number of logic PCBs: just over 4 thousand plus 1 Single Valve
Number of transistors: over 16 thousand
Number of logic bays: 22
Internal Speed: 1MHz by 4 bits = 4MHz data rate
Number of bits per word: 48 + parity ( format = Hexadecimal)
Number of bytes in main (core) store: 12,000
Number of bytes on a single drum Store: 72,000
Max number of drums: 8
Integrated card reader: 600, 80 column cards per min
Integrated line printer: 600 lines per min by 120 print positions
Integrated card punch: 100, 80 column cards per min
Additional paper tape reader: 1,000 chars per second
Magnetic tape (as fitted ): approx 10 mega byte per reel
Max number of magnetic tape decks: 8
Plus ability by software to drive any single ICT 1900 device
Number of indicator lights on Console: 252
Number of relays to switch power: over 24
Website for more info www.ict1301.co.uk

(All the above from http://www.tnmoc.org/news/news-releases/flossie-first-mass-produced-business-computer-rescued which comes from the re-rescue about a year after the BBC article)
 
One of the world's oldest commercial computers, Flossie, is restored back to working order by two enthusiasts in a barn in Kent.
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Moore's Law in film props: Every 18 months the budget of a film a specific computer is used for as a prop diminishes by 50% as it is handed down from major feature films to B-movies. It usually starts as a room-filling device and is eventually cut down to the smallest panel as the sets become smaller and cheaper. – On the other hand, this may have prepared certain audiences for really small fancy computers … :-)
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Ed S
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Computer Science  - 
 
A wiki of CPU microarchitectures, with diagrams and comparisons. Mostly Intel, but it's a wiki - so dive in!

Extensions, MOVBE, MMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, SSSE3, SSE4.1, SSE4.2, POPCNT, AES, PCLMUL, RDRND. Cache. L1i$, 32 KB/Core (8-way set associative). L1d$, 24 KB/Core (6-way set associative). L2$, 1 MB/2 Cores (16-way set associative). Cores. Tangier, Valleyview, Avoton, Rangeley. Succession.
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Ed S
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Software  - 
 
An hour's talk on the history of C (and C++) - worth at least a whiz through the slides for some very nice retrocomputer photos!
http://www.pvv.org/~oma/HistoryAndSpirit_NDC_Jun2015.pdf
(Atlas, EDSAC, PDP-7 & 11, Interdata, DG NOVA, IBM 370, Honeywell and more!)
"At Bell Labs, back In 1969, Ken Thompson wanted to play. He found a little used PDP-7 and ended up writing a nearly complete operating system from scratch. In about 4 weeks. In pure assembler, of course. Dennis Ritchie soon joined the effort. While porting Unix to a PDP-11 they created C, heavily inspired by Martin Richards’ portable systems programming language BCPL. In 1972 Unix was rewritten in C, and later ported to many other machines aided by Steve Johnson's Portable C Compiler. C gained popularity outside the realm of PDP-11 and Unix. Initially the K&R was the definitive reference until the language was standardized by ANSI and ISO in 1989/1990 and thereafter updated in 1999 and 2011."
via the HN discussion on writing a self-hosting C compiler in 40 days:
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10731002
See also the link in the slides to the short EDSAC video - how to program!
youtube.com/watch?v=x-vS0WcJyNM
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+Maurici Carbo Does (bi-)quinary count too? :-)
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Literally hundreds of reentry capsules exist - testament to the reliability and longevity of the Soviet and post-Soviet space program. So many, they have junkyards for them. And pretty much every one preserved the lives of three fragile humans.
What happens to Soyuz reentry capsules after landing ? I guess some must go to museums, but quite a lot of them have returned now. Is there any indication of where and how they are stored ?
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Would make a great garden swing seat. 
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Ed S
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Home Computers  - 
 
The BBC Micro's wonderful expandable architecture, presented and explained in July 1982's Personal Computer World. Articles "Expand-a-Beeb!", "Sound Advice", "Mapping out the Beebon", by Paul Beverley, Mark Holmes, David Christensen. These photos from the PDF available at
http://8bs.com/magazines.htm
(among many other magazine scans, but unfortunately generally in zip files.)
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+Bunny Evans Heretic!
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Had an MRI scan yesterday - expecting results something like this. Top tip: if you want to search for "mri scan accident" do it afterwards.
There was a microprocessor arms race in the early seventies. Both Intel and Motorola lead the way, but that all changed in 1975. MOS Technology (MOS) introduced us to the 6502 microprocessor –…
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That's exactly the sort of thing! Although I was quizzed about metal in my body, and likely causes such as recent operations, I can't see that I can know the answers for sure.
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A grim picture of summer in Philadelphia, from the Emergency Room. But sound advice I'm sure.
via the discussion
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12421687
Do not ever say he was lucky that he did not feel pain.
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Ed S
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Software  - 
 
Lemmings took a year and cost £100k to make: "Lemmings was made on Amiga 500s with no hard drives or internet connection, with all the files saved on floppies. This is one of the reasons that the making of Lemmings has gaps of material and versions lost to time"
 
The beginnings of DMA Design's classic puzzle platformer Lemmings. Rich Stanton interviews the game's creator Mike Dailly.
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This does remind me of my biggest issue with writing games. i.e. I always got more interested in the writing of the tools for the game, than the game itself. The epic sprite editor programs I hacked together. I had one that would show you a zoomed version of the sprite with a pallet on the side, but you could hit a button and see the sprite in a 3x3 tiled view on the side so you could get the seaming right in real time. Never did get a game out, but still had fun messing around with it.
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We're in luck - France does indeed have computers in museums, despite our worst fears. Here's an IBM 7030 Stretch at the Musée des arts et métiers in Paris. ("One of the coolest museums a hacker could visit.") Also found here: Jacquard loom, Pascaline calculators (signed by Pascal himelf), a Cray, Minitel, and the XO--1 from OLPC foundation.
One to add to +Fabrice Lété's big world map of computer museums, perhaps: https://goo.gl/NOi6xy

IBM's first "transistorised supercomputer": "Its failure to meet its aggressive performance estimates forced its price to be dropped from $13.5 million to only $7.78 million and its withdrawal from sales to customers beyond those having already negotiated contracts. Even though the 7030 was much slower than expected, it was the fastest computer in the world from 1961 until the first CDC 6600 became operational in 1964"
from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_7030_Stretch
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That is fascinating - I had no idea
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Here's a homebuilt HP-35 workalike. On the same page, a PDP-8 workalike. And if you look elsewhere, you'll find Kyle Owen working on an HP-35 simulator for a PDP‑8, which sounds brilliant!
https://github.com/drovak/hpcalcpdp8
http://www.wickensonline.co.uk/retrochallenge-2012sc/rc201610-entrants-list/
PDP-8. PDP-8 ISA emulator. Rows of lights, from top to bottom: PC; Memory Address; Memory Data; Accumulator. Vertical lights on right are opcode (TAD, AND, ISZ, etc.) Emulator written in C running on an SBC. Display is custom PCB. 4800 baud RS-232 serial data
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Neato.
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Al Worden tells his story - and some great videos and a huge Saturn V infographic in here too. For three days he was the most solitary human:
"""
Avi: You spent a lot of time circling the Moon alone.
Al: Well, it was kind of a wonderful time for me Avi! I was trained as a single-seat fighter pilot to begin with, so I like to be in a flying machine by myself. On my flight I was in the Command Module for three days in orbit while Dave Scott and Jim Irwin were on the surface. Lots of people think it’s pretty lonely up there but I have to admit that I wasn’t really very lonely after flying with those two guys in a spacecraft about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle! I was glad to get rid of them for a while, so it was very comfortable for me.
"""
 
A long and fascinating interview. "An interview with Apollo 15 Astronaut Al Worden, on the 45th anniversary of his epic voyage to the Moon."
An interview with Apollo 15 Astronaut Al Worden, on the 45th anniversary of his epic voyage to the Moon.
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"The sky is just awash with stars when you’re on the far side of the Moon, and you don’t have any sunlight to cut down on the lower intensity, dimmer stars. You see them all, and it’s all just a sheet of white.
As you know, we’re part of the Milky Way galaxy and we look at it sideways, we look through it. I saw so many stars looking out that it was very hard to make out anything like a Milky Way. In fact, there were so many stars that I had some difficulty finding any of the 37 brighter stars we used as navigation guide stars because they were so bathed in starlight from all the other stars around them.
"
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Ed S

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Three times amazing, this thing:
- it's a single crystal
- it operates in gas hotter than its melting point
- it extracts more power than an F1 engine
An excellent read, about the turbine blades in Rolls Royce's jet engines:
https://www.theengineer.co.uk/issues/june-2015-online/jewel-in-the-crown-rolls-royces-single-crystal-turbine-blade-casting-foundry/
via HN
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As part of my work consulting on HP's Semiconductor Productivity Network application suite I saw ruby and sapphire crystals being grown though not so wide as they are today.
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does google know enough already?