Randy McDonald (rfmcdpei) wrote,
Randy McDonald
rfmcdpei

[LINK] Two links on now-contemporary historical computers

  • Today, a vintage Apple I went up for sale and fetched $C 216 000.


  • Its processor works 1,000 times slower than that of the Apple iPad, but Apple's first computer has sold for 425 times the price.

    The Apple I, one of only 200 such models ever made, was sold Tuesday at Christie's auction house in central London for £133,250, or about $216,000 Cdn.

    It came with its original packaging and a signed sales letter from Steve Jobs, one of the co-founders of Apple Computer and the current CEO of Apple Inc.

    When the Apple I was introduced in 1976, it was the only personal computer to come with a fully assembled motherboard, making it ready to use straight from the box — provided the user supplied a keyboard, power supply and monitor, Christie's said.

    It sold for $666.66 and was available until it was discontinued in 1977.

    Bidding on the Apple I came quickly, with the computer eventually going to Italian businessman and private collector Marco Boglione, who made his offer over the phone.

    The buyer's brother, Francesco Boglione, who attended the auction in person, told The Associated Press that the purchase was a testament to his brother's love of computers.


  • 1976 is positively new, though, by the standards of Charles Babbage's famous unconstructed analytical engine. Why not finally build it?

    John Graham-Cumming will be well known to many Reg readers as the programmer behind POPFile and the initiator of the successful 2009 campaign demanding an official government apology for famous WWII Nazi codebreaker hero and persecution tragedy boffin Alan Turing. Now Graham-Cumming has called for a push to build a working Analytical Engine as planned in the early 19th century by mathematician Charles Babbage.

    Back in Babbage's day practical mathematics and calculation were reliant on printed tables generated by teams of people working out figures by hand. The resulting tables were naturally riddled with errors, and Babbage originally designed his machines as an automated way of producing tables. He never succeeded in building a complete working Engine during his lifetime: some suggest that Victorian engineering was not yet capable of the necessary precision and durability, others that Babbage's tussles with the scientific establishment of the time meant that he couldn't raise sufficient funding.

    A working Babbage engine, to his design for Difference Engine No 2, was however built in the 1980s and is now in the Science Museum. It weighs 2.6 tonnes, stands seven feet high and is 11 feet long.

    However, the Difference Engine is not a programmable computer, able to perform different tasks: in effect it is merely an automatic calculator. It is the never-yet-built, more complicated Analytical Engine on which Charles Babbage's fame among modern computer folk is based, as it was designed to run different programs coded on punched metal cards - of the sort used in 19th-century automated Jacquard looms.

    I say that it's time Britain built the Analytical Engine. After the wonderful reconstruction of the Difference Engine we need to finish Babbage's dream of a steam-powered, general-purpose computer.

    The Analytical Engine has all the hallmarks of a modern computer: it has a program (on punched cards), a CPU (called the 'mill') for doing calculations and it has memory. Of course, it's not electric, it's powered by steam. But the principles that underlie the Analytical Engine are the same that underlie the computer I'm writing this on.

    [. . .]

    What a marvel it would be to stand before this giant metal machine, powered by a steam engine, and running programs fed to it on a reel of punched cards. And what a great educational resource so that people can understand how computers work. One could even imagine holding competitions for people (including school children) to write programs to run on the engine. And it would be a way to celebrate both Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace. How fantastic to be able to execute Lovelace's code!
  • Tags: computers, history, links, united kingdom, united states
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