Computer History Museum Photo Gallery: weird, fascinating photos including a giant Cray, and a 60Kg hard drive
Zara Baxter toured the Computer History Museum in California, and took these fascinating photos, including a giant 27Kg hard drive, a Star Trek-like SAGE Air defence system, and other intriguing artifacts. Scroll down for the captions! Click to enlarge photos.
An unassuming exterior contains a trip through geek-time.
Initially, computers were analog. The Maddida is a transitional computer: an electronic version of an analog differential analyser, used to solve differential equations. This aided in the design of aircraft, electrical networks and other complex systems.
Click image for full size! This is a small portion of Eniac's vast array of vacuum tubes (over 40,000!). It could perform 5000 calculations a second.
This is a portion of memory from UNIVAC 1, produced by Remington Rand, in 1951.
This portion of the Whirlwind I computer (1945) looks similar to some of the more ancient personal computer circuitboards.
Whirlwind was one of the first real attempts to build an electronic digital computer, rather than analog. The difference
is that digital computers use 1/0 to encode numbers, whereas analog computers used voltages or other mechanisms to directly represent numbers. Whirlwind was designed to be an aircraft simulator, and used magnetic core memory.
JOHNNIAC (John v. Neumann Numerical Integral and Automatic Computer) was operational from 1953-1966, used by the United States Air Force. It was hand-built, according to a logical design by Burks, Golstine and von Neumann, using stored programming, rarther than the wired programming of earlier pegboard computers. Another important forward step was air-cooling for the electronic circuits.
The control console of JOHNNIAC. Upt to 8 people could run programs on JOHNNIAC simultaneously.
SAGE was an air-defense system, consisting of over 20 locations across the US. Each housed an A/N FSQ-7 computer, which had around 60,000 vacuum tubes. IBM constructed the hardware, based on the Whirlwind, and each computer occupied a huge amount of space. From it's completion in 1954 it analysed radar data in real-time, to provide a complete picture of US Airspace during the cold war.
Close-up of some SAGE control panels. How Original Star-Trek!
These are Jacquard loom cards. Jacquard looms are used to manufacture complex patterns in fabric, such as for brocade. The cards, strung together, provide instructions to the loom about how to complete the pattern, lowering or raising the harness that guides the warp thread.
A gear and an arm from the Babbage engine - this is from the original constructed Difference Engine 2, built from Babbage's 1847 design and finished in 2002.
These disk platters are from the 60s and 70s -- IBM first created the magnetic disk for secondary storage in 1956, and the first model used 5 platters to store 5MB of data. The technology is not too dissimilar to that used today, though there are obviously some improvements in storage capacity.
The IBM 729 IV is a Magnetic Tape Unit that forms part of the
1958 IBM 7090 Data Processing System - an all-in-one Mainframe computer solution with card reader, printer, card punch, Central Processing unit, and more. Just the thing to fill those extra rooms in your home.
That's a hard drive. Yes, a hard drive that weighs 27Kgs and has a whopping 5MB of storage capacity. Can you resist?
This IBM System/360 Model 91 console was the same model used at NASA's Goddard Space Centre used during the late 1960s. The S/360 was one of the first computer families, designed at different prices and for different needs, such as computation or scientific uses. You could upgrade and add components, because all models were architecturally compatible.
Check those lights out: Houston, do we have a problem?
Another giant hard drive weighing slightly more than 27kgs - try 60+. Thank goodness we've managed to shrink them. Click "next" to see other photos.
The sign on the right should send a happy shiver down your spine. This curvaceous device is a Cray-1 supercomputer, built in 1972. It was the fastest machine in the world until 1977 and an icon for decades. It cost a mere $6 million, and could perform at 160MFLOPS - which your phone can now comfortably manage.
The control console of the CDC 6600. The CDC 6600 was designed by Seymour Cray (later of Cray Supercomputing), and was based around a 60-bit central processor and ten shared-logic 12-bit peripheral I/O processors.
Some of the complex wiring involved in the back end of the CDC 6600 - aren't you glad that the cabling on your system (and your phone for that matter, given that it's likely more powerful than the CDC 6600) is a little more straightforward?
The IBM 7030 'Stretch' was designed for scientific computations, and was the fastest computer in the world until the CDC 6600. That innocent looking typewriter at the front is the front end to a number of technical innovations, including memory interleaving, instruction pipelining, prefetch and decoding and the 8-bit byte.
Levers, lights, buttons and switches. The IBM 7030 'Stretch'
supercomputer was a masterpiece of informational display. But how did you tell the difference between when something went wrong, and a lightbulb blowing?
So many pretty lights. Maybe you could spell out words on them. 'Help, I'm stuck in a 60s computer,' perhaps?
The NEAC 2203 (1960) was one of the earliest Japanese transistorised computers. 004: licensed to compute!
A 1925 Model 080 Card Sorter, made by IBM Corporation. It sorted cards by number or letter, and with multiple passes, could resolve cards by a multiple digital or multiple letter combination.
Punch card machines often used plugboards as their means of control. Panels were interchangeable, in order to run different 'programs' via differently wired connections. We've no idea what this particular program does...
The card punch portion of the Hollerith Census Machine. For the 1890 census, there were slots to record what farm equipment was present, what lighting was used in the home, and the usual number of people in the household, among other piece of data.
Card punches, Card sorters and card readers were essential tools in many fields. In South Australia, they were used to collect data on state dairy herds during the 1950s.
The highlight and centrepiece of the Museum - The Babbage Engine. It's a replica, made in the British Museum using the original as a template.
Babbage never built his 'Analytical Engine', also called Difference Engine No. 2. Instead, it was finalised in 2002, thanks to engineers at the British Science Museum. This angle shows the handle that you crank to operate the Engine. It then calculates polynomials to 13 decimal spaces. Each crank of the handle (four turns) produces a result.
The Difference Engine is made up of 8000 parts. The original concept was designed around 1847 by Charles Babbage.
The cam stack, with 28 separate cams, drives the machine's motion, driving the timing and rotation within the engine.
The cam stack handles the movement of the columns that tally the numbers, adding 31 digit numbers from column to column. The final result is a 31-digit number, produced in the final column of digits, which is then printed. Human-error-free
Calculates and tabulates second order polynominal to 31 decimal places.
The Hollerith Census Machine was first used in 1890, for the US Census. It massively accelerated the recording and analysing of census data. A punch card was created using the device on the left from a preliminary data sheet, and read through a reader (right) that completed a circuit where there were holes in the card, and recorded the result.
The Enigma machine was used during world War Two - it gives more than a trillion possible combinations for a single number, making it impossible to decrypt letters encoded with the Enigma. The big silver piece next to it is a part of the Colossus - a British code-breaking computer.
Circuit boards from the 60's. Once they replaced vacuum tubes, transistors were initially connected to other electronic components on boards, creating electric circuits. The integrated circuit, created in 1959 by one of Intel's founders, Robert Noyce, and Texas Instruments' Jack Kilby, combined numerous transistors onto a semiconductor. There are several examples of transistor based circuit board collected here.
Magnetic core memory is composed of ceramic rings, with wires threaded through. These examples are from the 1950s and early 60s and were used in such computers as the ILLIAC.
Magnetic core memory came in a range of sizes. It replaced vacuum tubes entirely by about 1960, and was extremely cheap to produce - from $1 per bit initially, to 1c per bit by the mid-60s.
A cube of magnetic core memory is very pretty thing indeed.
RCA Selectron Memory Tube, as used in the Johnniac. These were expensive vacuum tubes, and eventually replaced in the Johnniac by magnetic core memory.
Arrays of Magnetic core memory are strung from the ceiling of the Computer History Museum in San Jose.
A wall of technology, much of it donated by Silicon Valley geeks and amateur Computer Historians, welcomes visitors to the Computer History Museum's main exhibition room.
A selection of personal computers from the 70s and 80s fills a wall at the Computer History Mseum: recognise anything you've used, here?
Some of the earliest workstations used portrait-format monitors. Wonder why they went out of fashion?
State of the art in 1981, the Telic Alcatel Minitel. Note the keyboard, which isn't the expected QWERTY.
The futuristically named 'Omnibot 2000' robot was a child of the 80s. It could follow commands from a tape program or remote control, and display when its battery needed charging. A motorised arm ...didn't do very much. And it would lose handily in a fistfight with a Roomba.
Not a freezer, but a printer. This Dover laser printer was
created by combining a Xerox photocopier with a laser and became the first commercial laser printer. Yours for just $300,000.
Detail of the Dover laser printer (1978). The basic principles
used in this machine are still used for today's laser printers.
The Dover laser printer could produce pages at the speedy pace of one per second.
One of the first line printers, produced by Dataproducts
Corporation from 1962.
Seymour Cray has a hand in so many new computer developments, that it's unsurprising to discover that he built the 'Little Character' prototype computer, which was constructed from modular circuit boards. To the lower left is a stack of core memory.
This odd looking creation is a supercomputer. The main
circuitry, shown here, is smaller than your average desktop
system, and is built using gallium arsenide circuitry rather
than silicon. Built in 1993, it's the only one of its type, and
produces so much power that it needs to be completely immersed in coolant while running.
The Gigabooster parallel computer (1992) ran DEC Alpha
processors (seven of them, visible below), for a performance of 1.6Gflops. With 1GB memory and 45GB HDD storage it was popular for sceintific applications and as a file server.
Silicon wafers are sliced from a single silicon ingot, such as
this one. Circuitry is etched into the wafer, once cut. This
ingot is considerably smaller than those used for today's
processors. Chips such as the Intel Core i7 use 300mm wafers, which are often from ingots several metres tall.
An 8-inch silicon wafer, once the etching of transistors is complete. This 0.35micrometer wafer looks suspiciously like a
swathe of Pentium chips.
From 1990 -- compared to the 1995 wafer of the previous slide, there are far fewer transistors per square cm. 486 technology used 0.8micrometer technology like this.
A cube of magnetic core memory is very pretty thing indeed.