The future of computers from tubes

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The future of computers from tubes

Presper Eckert, who got funding from the war department after promising they could build a machine that would replace all the "computers", meaning the women who were employed calculating the firing tables for the army's artillery guns.

The day that Mauchly and Eckert saw the first small piece of ENIAC work, the persons they ran to bring to their lab to show off their progress were some of these female computers one of whom remarked, "I was astounded that it took all this equipment to multiply 5 by ". ENIAC filled a 20 by 40 foot room, weighed 30 tons, and used more than 18, vacuum tubes.

When operating, the ENIAC was silent but you knew it was on as the 18, vacuum tubes each generated waste heat like a light bulb and all this heatwatts of heat meant that the computer could only be operated in a specially designed room with its own heavy duty air conditioning system.

Only the left half of ENIAC is visible in the first picture, the right half was basically a mirror image of what's visible. Army photo] To reprogram the ENIAC you had to rearrange the patch cords that you can observe on the left in the prior photo, and the settings of switches that you can observe on the right.

To program a modern computer, you type out a program with statements like: Army photo] Once the army agreed to fund ENIAC, Mauchly and Eckert worked around the clock, seven days a week, hoping to complete the machine in time to contribute to the war.

Their war-time effort was so intense that most days they ate all 3 meals in the company of the army Captain who was their liaison with their military sponsors. They were allowed a small staff but soon observed that they could hire only the most junior members of the University of Pennsylvania staff because the more experienced faculty members knew that their proposed machine would never work.

One of the most obvious problems was that the design would require 18, vacuum tubes to all work simultaneously. Vacuum tubes were so notoriously unreliable that even twenty years later many neighborhood drug stores provided a "tube tester" that allowed homeowners to bring in the vacuum tubes from their television sets and determine which one of the tubes was causing their TV to fail.

And television sets only incorporated about 30 vacuum tubes. The device that used the largest number of vacuum tubes was an electronic organ: The idea that 18, tubes could function together was considered so unlikely that the dominant vacuum tube supplier of the day, RCA, refused to join the project but did supply tubes in the interest of "wartime cooperation".

Eckert solved the tube reliability problem through extremely careful circuit design. He was so thorough that before he chose the type of wire cabling he would employ in ENIAC he first ran an experiment where he starved lab rats for a few days and then gave them samples of all the available types of cable to determine which they least liked to eat.

However, thanks to the elimination of moving parts it ran much faster than the Mark I: ENIAC's basic clock speed wascycles per second. Today's home computers employ clock speeds of 1,, cycles per second. The very first problem run on ENIAC required only 20 seconds and was checked against an answer obtained after forty hours of work with a mechanical calculator.

After chewing on half a million punch cards for six weeks, ENIAC did humanity no favor when it declared the hydrogen bomb feasible. Once ENIAC was finished and proved worthy of the cost of its development, its designers set about to eliminate the obnoxious fact that reprogramming the computer required a physical modification of all the patch cords and switches.

Because he was the first to publish a description of this new computer, von Neumann is often wrongly credited with the realization that the program that is, the sequence of computation steps could be represented electronically just as the data was.

But this major breakthrough can be found in Eckert's notes long before he ever started working with von Neumann. Eckert was no slouch: Clarke chose to have the HAL computer of his famous book " A Space Odyssey" born at Champaign-Urbana.

HAL from the movie " Look at the previous picture to understand why the movie makers in assumed computers of the future would be things you walk into. At age 6 he could tell jokes in classical Greek. By 8 he was doing calculus. He could recite books he had read years earlier word for word.future of computers.

Before looking forward toward future computer trends, let's take a quick look back to gain a better appreciation of the evolution thus far.

Do you remember when the first primitive computing machines occupied entire buildings?

The future of computers from tubes

The massive machines from the midth century consisted of row upon row of vacuum tubes and wires. The first binary digital computers are developed. Bell Labs’s George Stibitz designs the Complex Number Calculator, which performs mathematical operations in binary form using on-off relays, and finds the quotient of two 8-digit numbers in 30 seconds.

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Scientists Are Bringing Back Vacuum Tubes for Computers of the Future. A group of scientists have developed super-efficient microscopic vacuum tubes that may be able to outperform semiconductors. Setting aside the artificial intelligence debate for a moment, what might futuristic computers look like?

They might actually be invisible. Pervasive computing is a type of technology that incorporates computers into just about anything you can imagine. Why You Should Feel Good About the Future of Computer Science February 15, by Kristi Lanier 1 Comment At Cray we’re always looking way down the road years, even decades into the future.

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