Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Geekware


From Corrine.


By the way, I knew what it was.

The reason I knew is at the bottom.


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Can you guess what this is?
The year was 1956.



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This was a 5MB Hard Disk from IBM.

In September 1956, IBM launched the 305 RAMAC, the first computer with a hard disk drive (HDD). The HDD weighed over a ton and stored a whopping 5MB.Makes you appreciate your 4GB USB flashdrive, doesn't it?

Just for reference: 1 GB = 1000 MB!

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Now I'll tell you how I knew that.

First I'll give you some history about computers.


In 1946, John Mauchly and J Presper Eckert developed the ENIAC I (Electrical Numerical Integrator And Calculator). In one second, the ENIAC (one thousand times faster than any other calculating machine to date) could perform 5,000 additions, 357 multiplications or 38 divisions. The use of vacuum tubes instead of switches and relays created the increase in speed, but it was not a quick machine to re-program. Programming changes would take the technicians weeks, and the machine always required long hours of maintenance.


The Mark I* reached completion in 1944.

Howard Aiken was an electrical engineer and physicist who first conceived of an electro-mechanical device like the Mark I in 1937.

In 1947, Howard Aiken completed the Mark II, an electronic computer.

Howard Aiken loved computers, but even he had no idea of their eventual widespread appeal. "Only six electronic digital computers would be required to satisfy the computing needs of the entire United States," he said in 1947.


In 1950, the Remington Rand Corporation bought the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation and changed the name to the Univac Division of Remington Rand. Their research resulted in the UNIVAC* (UNIVersal Automatic Computer), an important forerunner of today's computers.

In a publicity stunt, the UNIVAC computer was used to predict the results of the Eisenhower-Stevenson presidential race. The computer had correctly predicted that Eisenhower would win, but the news media decided to blackout the computer's prediction and declared that the UNIVAC had been stumped. When the truth was revealed, it was considered amazing that a computer could do what political forecasters could not, and the UNIVAC quickly became a household name. The original UNIVAC now sits in the Smithsonian Institution.


****************


And now I'll give you some of my history.
In 1970, when I was 13 years old and attending Boardman (Ohio) high school, I had the opportunity to work with a UNIVAC (*the third computer made), as the school had obtained a teletype which was connected to the mainframe via telephone wires. This gem was programmed with COBOL, the computer language from Hell. Contrary to popular belief, the machine was not "the size of a house", but could easily fill a room.


In 1973, I had a Mark 5, *a descendant of the second computer made. This 'compact' machine (possibly the first laptop?) is the size of a refrigerator. I still have it, and it still works.


1977 brought my first microcomputer, a TRS-80, nicknamed the "Trash-80". It was based on the Zilog Z80 processor (an 8-bit microprocessor whose instruction set is a superset of the Intel 8080) and came with 4 kb of RAM and 4 kb of ROM with BASIC (1000 kb equals one megabyte and 1000 megabytes equals one gigabyte, so your computer with 512 Meg RAM has 128,000 time more memory). An optional expansion box enabled memory expansion, and audio cassettes were used for data storage.


1977 also brought an event which must be one of the biggest mistakes ever made. Back then, there were very few people who knew and understood computers and programming. This included myself, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Paul Allen, and Bill Gates.

Bill contacted me and told me about a new operating system he was working on. He had plans to start a company which would market software for the new microcomputers. His only product would be microcomputer software, so he planned to call his new business 'Microsoft'.

He sent me a copy of an operating system he had developed and named 'Windows'. He wanted me to join him in this venture as a partner. Again, if you wanted to find someone back then who knew this business, there weren't many choices.

I stuck the big old 5 1/4 inch floppy disk in my machine and studied this odd concept of selecting a picture to make a program run. I found it novel, but awkward. We didn't have the 'mouse' back then, the TAB key was how you moved from one icon to the next.

I was working on my own system, one I named Basic2. It would allow anyone to program computers as it was designed to use simple english as it's language. Programming with this system would be as simple as talking to another person.

I told Bill that I wasn't interested, I had different ideas. Yeah, I know.

Also, I thought he was crazy. He told me that very soon there would be a computer in every home. This was a time when computers were extremely rare and people who wanted them, let alone who could operate them, were even more scarce.

Bill Gates was a visionary. And it still pisses me off!

But that is why I knew what that hard drive was. When it was first made, I wanted one.

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