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World’s oldest digital computer restarted
Fox News ^ | November 22, 2012 | (Tech News Daily)

Posted on 11/22/2012 10:43:38 AM PST by Olog-hai

One of the world’s first digital computers to replace the handwritten calculations of human “computors” is getting an official reboot that could lead to a spot in the Guinness Book of Records.

The 61-year-old Harwell Dekatron—about the size and weight of an SUV—was originally hailed as a slow, steady machine capable of delivering error-free calculations while running for 90 hours a week. It has survived to become the oldest original working digital computer following the announcement of its completed restoration by The National Museum of Computing in the U.K. on Tuesday.

“In 1951, the Harwell Dekatron was one of perhaps a dozen computers in the world, and since then, it has led a charmed life, surviving intact while its contemporaries were recycled or destroyed,” said Kevin Murrell, a trustee at the museum. …

(Excerpt) Read more at foxnews.com ...


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Chit/Chat; Computers/Internet; Science
KEYWORDS: harwelldekatron

1 posted on 11/22/2012 10:43:51 AM PST by Olog-hai
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To: Olog-hai

kind of cool that it still works


2 posted on 11/22/2012 10:47:10 AM PST by GeronL (http://asspos.blogspot.com)
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To: Olog-hai

Yeah, but does it run Windows 8® without a hitch?


3 posted on 11/22/2012 10:49:58 AM PST by BipolarBob (The first thirty years of my childhood were less than desirable.)
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To: BipolarBob
Yeah, but does it run Windows 8® without a hitch?

First, develop an appliance to transcribe its output to video.

Then, recompile the code to work with its machine code.

Finally, wait about 90 years to see if it will be able to boot the code.

(cf. When HARLIE was One)
4 posted on 11/22/2012 10:54:28 AM PST by Dr. Sivana (There is no salvation in politics.)
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To: Olog-hai

Interesting. Kinda neat to read about this from my smart phone.


5 posted on 11/22/2012 10:54:49 AM PST by Crooked Constituent
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To: BipolarBob

Better yet, can it still stick a 1 foot floppy disk in it?


6 posted on 11/22/2012 11:04:15 AM PST by max americana (Make the world a better place by punching a liberal in the face)
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To: Olog-hai
Imagine the heat this thing produced!


7 posted on 11/22/2012 11:05:45 AM PST by mylife (The Roar Of The Masses Could Be Farts)
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To: Olog-hai

Makes my 28 year old Compaq Luggable a positive youngster by comparison.


8 posted on 11/22/2012 11:06:08 AM PST by rockrr (Everything is different now...)
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To: max americana

It was paper tape, not disks.

Could be worse, you could be entering data manually in octal (fingerboning)


9 posted on 11/22/2012 11:08:46 AM PST by mylife (The Roar Of The Masses Could Be Farts)
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To: Olog-hai
The Dekatron gas-filled tubes (similar to Nixies) this thing runs on fortunately consume very little power and are reasonably rugged and fail-resistant. 1500 watts is relatively nothing (though I will admit being skeptical of that low power figure) The early ENIAC and GENIAC computers which used thousands of vacuum tubes (with filaments that light up, vs gas-filled tubes) consumed astronomical amounts of power....and required techs with shopping carts filled with replacement tubes circling the things on a steady basis.

Photobucket

7500 6SN7's @ .6 amps filament current = 28.3 kw just to light up the filaments!

10 posted on 11/22/2012 11:11:09 AM PST by Attention Surplus Disorder (This stuff we're going through now, this is nothing compared to the middle ages.)
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To: Olog-hai

This was actually IBM’s first attempt at building a laptop.


11 posted on 11/22/2012 11:12:14 AM PST by Towed_Jumper (I fart in Muhammed's general direction!)
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To: rockrr
I learned to program in high school on an IBM 1620. So named because that is allegedly the year it came out.


12 posted on 11/22/2012 11:13:05 AM PST by dirtboy
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To: rockrr
I had one of these CPM-based beauties. Lord help your shin if a corner of that metal case banged into it while lugging the Kaypro around.


13 posted on 11/22/2012 11:17:11 AM PST by dirtboy
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To: mylife

Oh I dunno, the dude looks pretty cool...oh, you mean the computer!


14 posted on 11/22/2012 11:18:30 AM PST by COBOL2Java (The GOP-e said "Beat a Marxist with a Liberal!" What a colossal blunder.)
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To: Olog-hai; zot; SeraphimApprentice; Interesting Times

I thought the first digital computer was the human brain linked to fingers and toes used to add things up.

Oh well, digits live forever, or until someone hits the delete button or wipes a magnet over the hard drive.


15 posted on 11/22/2012 11:18:30 AM PST by GreyFriar (Spearhead - 3rd Armored Division 75-78 & 83-87)
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To: Olog-hai

Wonder how much power it drains? The old computers used so much electricity that you could hard-cook an egg at the heat exhaust.

When I was in college I had a job tending a mainframe that required a specially air-conditioned room or it would overheat — and that computer use semiconductors. The Harwell Dekatron that was restored used vacuum tubes and would generate even more heat.

Anything that puts a frown on a greenie’s face is a good thing as far as I am concerned.


16 posted on 11/22/2012 11:18:58 AM PST by No Truce With Kings (Ten years on FreeRepublic and counting.)
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To: Olog-hai
A panorama view of the world's oldest original working digital computer at The National Museum of Computing. (Robert Dowell)


17 posted on 11/22/2012 11:30:20 AM PST by COBOL2Java (The GOP-e said "Beat a Marxist with a Liberal!" What a colossal blunder.)
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To: mylife

On Kadena AFB in 1970 i worked in a half acre room that was 3/4 filled with computers and hard disk stacks. The whole room was kept at , I think, 50 degrees fand the thing was never turned off. So long as it ren no tubes blew.


18 posted on 11/22/2012 11:37:25 AM PST by arthurus (Read Hazlitt's Economics In One Lesson ONLINE www.fee.org/library/books/economics-in-one-lesson)
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To: arthurus

Yeah we pumped 48 deg cooling water.


19 posted on 11/22/2012 11:56:36 AM PST by mylife (The Roar Of The Masses Could Be Farts)
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To: dirtboy
My first, the Philco Ford 1000. Circa 1976, NORAD Cheyenne Mountain Complex.

The Philcos ran Missile Warning, Delta, 425L, Space Track and other missions (classified). We also had the bigger Philco 2000's but I can't find any pictures for them.

These were replaced with Honeywell 6080's and Level 66's starting in 1979.

Gosh, where are they all now?

20 posted on 11/22/2012 12:20:41 PM PST by Alas Babylon!
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To: Alas Babylon!
When I first moved up to the Philly area in 1986, I was using one of the very first Compaq 386 boxes. 16 mhz. 1 meg ram. EGA monitor. 40 meg hard drive. Tape backup. Quadlaser printer. Seven grand in mid-eighties dollars.

I look at what you can get for under a grand now and just marvel. Heck, you can get an eight-gig thumb drive for five bucks. I still remember the first time I heard 'gigabyte' and thinking, whoa, that is a lot of data. Now you can blow that out in a minute of downloading.

21 posted on 11/22/2012 12:25:49 PM PST by dirtboy
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To: Alas Babylon!
Gosh, where are they all now?


22 posted on 11/22/2012 12:26:30 PM PST by Revolting cat! (Bad things are wrong! Ice cream is delicious!)
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To: dirtboy

My first program: “Hello, world!” written in FORGO, a two-pass cards-only compiler on the 1620 at IIT. No disk, no tape; just the external 28 KCharacter external core memory, which was a little larger than a deepfreeze. You just signed up for it for an hour at a time, walked in, and had at it.

Spring ‘63.


23 posted on 11/22/2012 12:54:45 PM PST by Erasmus (Zwischen des Teufels und des tiefen, blauen Meers)
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To: mylife

I hope they powered it up on a variac first.


24 posted on 11/22/2012 12:56:14 PM PST by Erasmus (Zwischen des Teufels und des tiefen, blauen Meers)
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To: COBOL2Java

I wonder if those vertical cans on the right are covers for Strowger switches.


25 posted on 11/22/2012 1:07:32 PM PST by Erasmus (Zwischen des Teufels und des tiefen, blauen Meers)
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To: dirtboy

Under a grand? My latest laptop was $500 and it will even run Call of Duty.


26 posted on 11/22/2012 1:10:49 PM PST by AppyPappy (If you really want to annoy someone, point out something obvious that they are trying hard to ignore)
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To: GeronL
kind of cool that it still works

Totally groovy too.

27 posted on 11/22/2012 3:08:17 PM PST by Isabel C.
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To: GreyFriar

Thanks for the ping. Interesting piece of history.


28 posted on 11/22/2012 5:58:56 PM PST by zot
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To: BipolarBob
Yeah, but does it run Windows 8® without a hitch?

You mean that it's possible for Win8 to run on something without a hitch?

29 posted on 11/22/2012 6:04:50 PM PST by Redcloak (Winter is coming.)
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To: mylife

nothing like banks of rows and rows of glowing leds and lots of noise as fans circulate air to cool the innards.. I was lucky enough to work on UYK-5s, core memory, tape transports, I remember bubble logic and assembly language and tape readers..

wonder if it takes long to boot? ;-}


30 posted on 11/22/2012 6:16:20 PM PST by NormsRevenge (Semper Fi)
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To: arthurus

Landed in Cam Ranh Bay August 1970...they made an announcment

they needed a programmer for an IBM something or the other.

Believe that was the first time I became aware of computers

The radio vans and radio bunkers I ended up working had to

refrigerated like those 70`s computers


31 posted on 11/22/2012 6:19:15 PM PST by Harold Shea (RVN `70 - `71)
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To: NormsRevenge

UYK 20 guy here


32 posted on 11/22/2012 9:36:30 PM PST by mylife (The Roar Of The Masses Could Be Farts)
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To: mylife

Look at all those tubes! Man, and I thought some of my amateur radio gear had alot of tubes ......


33 posted on 11/22/2012 9:44:24 PM PST by usconservative (When The Ballot Box No Longer Counts, The Ammunition Box Does. (What's In Your Ammo Box?))
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To: usconservative

Series Tuba


34 posted on 11/22/2012 10:25:58 PM PST by mylife (The Roar Of The Masses Could Be Farts)
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To: dirtboy

I took my high school’s first-ever computer class in 1968. We toggled in our primitive programs on a DEC PDP-8.


35 posted on 11/22/2012 10:35:26 PM PST by Lancey Howard
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To: Attention Surplus Disorder

I started working with computers back in 1967 after I got out of the Army. The first company I worked for, CNA Insurance in Chicago, hired me up be a control ‘clerk’ setting up jobs to run on the companies computers.

I shortly became an operator trainee and then an operator.

We had a 705 vacuum tube computer along with a fewer of the ‘newer’ 360 series machines and one 1401.

The 705 ran extremely hot and if one got too close to the vacuum tubes, they would get a nice ‘sunburn’ very quickly.

IBM had a few ‘engineers’ on site 24/7 to keep the machines running and it was fairly common to get a ‘machine check’ light on the machine when one or more of the vacuum tubes fauled. At the time of failure, an engineer would come in and replace the defective tubes and we would usually just hit the ‘start’ button and resume from where we stopped with no need to reboot.

The 705 only ran one program at a time and it was not uncommon for certain programming errors to occur and the operator would call the programmer responsible for the failed program, read some addresses off the console and get the actual machine code from the programmer and then simply restart the machine from the spot where it failed.

The 705 had dedicated air conditioning pumped directly into it to try to keep it cool. However, one day the machine actually caught on fire and had to be repaired.

I apologize for any typos, ‘Spell Check’ flagged every word as an error so I posted without it.


36 posted on 11/23/2012 9:01:31 AM PST by dglang
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To: mylife

I toured the core memory factory in mInnesota after I got out of the service, interviewed there.. but it was on the tail end of its use in the mid70s.. I went into data cards instead.

The Marines got all the Navy hand me downs. some of the early UYKs were hugh, old fire control, trays of cards with hugh components. The UYK-5 was a lot of small circuit cards.

UYK-7s were the latest when I left and looked pretty slick, could have shipped over and worked with them, opted to go civvie instead and ended up working on a bunch of minis and micros , mainframe and servers in the SillyCon Valet parking lot over the years.. talk about shrinkage. lol


37 posted on 11/23/2012 9:57:02 AM PST by NormsRevenge (Semper Fi)
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To: NormsRevenge
Shrinkage?
38 posted on 11/23/2012 10:12:38 AM PST by mylife (The Roar Of The Masses Could Be Farts)
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To: mylife

uhh,, I meant miniaturization of components and devices. a pocket spy pen now has more computing power than a space shuttle control computer. :-]


39 posted on 11/23/2012 10:32:10 AM PST by NormsRevenge (Semper Fi)
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