Monday, March 31, 2008

Today In Geek History: Supercomputer.

On this date in 1951, the first US-made commercial computer, a UNIVAC I, was sold to the U.S. Census Bureau. They had it up and running in time for a June 14th dedication ceremony, so I'm guessing the peripherals weren't plug-and-play.

The behemoth took more vacuum tubes than an internet's worth of audio geeks, occupied over 40 square yards of floorspace, and was dumber than your cell phone by several orders of magnitude.


Turk Turon said...

I used to work at a TV post-production house at 2020 Wisconsin Ave. Due to some construction in the building, part of the original facade was exposed. It was black granite, highly polished, and if you traced the small holes drilled into it, like connecting the dots, it spelled out "Sperry-Univac."
Just goes to show that today's behemoths, like Microsoft and Google, will one day experience a similar fate.
Like Ozymandias.

Anonymous said...

I'll tell you something else that's changed in the computing world: In 1990, on an industrial archeology tour, I had the chance to see part of ENIAC's front end, and heard one of the few guys who programmed it tell the story of a relay moth being the original bug. He said that in those days, working on computers was a great way to meet women.

Mark said...

I was breathing the air that the rebuilt Colossus II computer was in at Bletchley Park a couple weeks back. There's just such a wonderful scent to vacuum tubes, voltage and Bakelite.

I got all emotional. Lovely stuff.

Old NFO said...

Thanks for posting this Tam- Here is a link to RADM Grace Hopper, USN who was one of the designers and one hellva lady... :-)

Draven said...

Scary geeky facts:

Your cell phone has more computing power than all of the computers on board Apollo.

The five redundant computer cores on each space shuttle were originally about the same speed as a 286.

A Sony PSP can generate the graphics for The Last Starfighter, which brought a Cray YMP supercomputer "to its knees" during rendering, in near real time.