Tag: computers

The Computer Age Turns 75

 

In February 1946, the first general-purpose electronic computer, the ENIA, was introduced to the public. Nothing like ENIAC had been seen before, and the unveiling of the computer, a room-filling machine with lots of flashing lights and switches–made quite an impact.

ENIAC (the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) was created primarily to help with the trajectory-calculation problems for artillery shells and bombs, a problem that was requiring increasing numbers of people for manual computations. John Mauchly, a physics professor attending a summer session at the University of Pennsylvania, and J Presper Eckert, a 24-year-old grad student, proposed the machine after observing the work of the women (including Mauchly’s wife Mary) who had been hired to assist the Army with these calculations. The proposal made its way to the Army’s liason with Penn, and that officer, Lieutenant Herman Goldstine, took up the project’s cause. (Goldstine apparently heard about the proposal not via formal university channels but via a mutual friend, which is an interesting point in our present era of remote work.) Electronics had not previously been used for digital computing, and a lot of authorities thought an electromechanical machine would be a better and safer bet.

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We live in an age of information overload (however muddled by misinformation). With each decade, the potential for individual persons to learn about distant things improves. Books, radio, telephones, automobiles, television, internet, and many other innovations combine to provide access to pictures, stories, and people around planet Earth.  Among the most recent technological advances are […]

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Computing in the Old Days

 

No, not back to Babbage, but some vignettes from the mid-’60s.

When registering for classes in college, after lining up all your classes, you were sent to the “computer” to have the tuition calculated. The “computer” was an upper-classman with a calculator sitting under a large banner which said “Computer.”

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We’ve all heard the stereotypical “They all look alike” comments from us white folk in regard to recognizing different black faces. Sadly, blacks do tend to look similar (at least to me for blacks I don’t know personally), because I believe our genetics make us more sensitive to recognizing others of our own genetic makeup.  […]

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The Hole I’m Writing This On

 

Amy and I both play World of Warcraft. As the game progressed, we had to use lower settings and had reduced frame rate as our systems aged. So, on Black Friday, we saw some Graphics cards on sale, so we bought a couple. I swapped Amy’s card out in 10 minutes. Old one out, new one in, no problem. For my computer, I had two problems — perhaps you can see one.

Old Case

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I’d be mighty grateful if some of you folks who are expert at computers would tell me whether the use of the “images” of the Democrat computers are, or were, as reliable as examination of the servers themselves for the purposes of discovery of and analysis of “hacking” efforts (as opposed to “leaking”).  My understanding […]

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How to Build a Computer 4: Diodes and Transistors

 

We all love blasting things with ions, and most of us could spend all day shooting at wafers, but eventually someone is going to ask you to build something useful. What am I doing with all this mess of silicon anyhow? Here’s where we see the use of all that stuff. What do you suppose happens when you put a p-doped chunk of silicon next to an n-doped chunk of silicon?

One last cookie photo, then I’m going on a diet. Swearsies.

How to Build a Computer Part 2 of N: Crystallography

 

Last week we saw how to turn sand into silicon. This week I was planning on showing you how to turn silicon into a semiconductor. I mean more of one than it already is. Unfortunately my brief notes on crystallography went long. This week we’ll discuss crystals, next week we’ll do doping, and the week after that we’ll finally get to transistors. Unless I wax even more loquacious, which is the way the smart money is betting.

In a crystal every atom is slotted neatly into an ordered lattice, and every spot in the lattice has an atom in it. With some exceptions. Actually those exceptions are most of what we’re going to talk about today. Let’s assume this is a perfect silicon crystal:

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Since I got Windows 10 over a year ago, my computer won’t tolerate having multiple Chrome tabs open. The frequent low memory messages are not only seemingly random and very annoying, but get in the way of my work. This morning I couldn’t even have my Gmail inbox and Drive open at the same time. That […]

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The drive (pun intended) to get driverless vehicles on the road is going full speed ahead (I started thinking about them after reading Jim Pethokoukis’ post and comments on the subject). It may or may not be a good thing, but I lean towards “not”.  I’m an engineer, and I have a set of engineering […]

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News is pouring in from this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES). What has caught the interest of Ricochet’s tech junkies? All my links below are to YouTube videos.  After enjoying many technology conferences over the years, I have developed a rule of thirds to temper my enthusiasm. A third of what is shown might actually […]

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A recent Daily Shot included a story about the US. Government’s use of outdated computers.  This was the first I had heard about it and it’s not exactly a small thing. The Government Accountability Office issued a large, detailed report stating that it has been a “concern” that more than some of our main government […]

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If you read today’s Daily Shot, you saw Fred Cole’s recommendation of William Gibson’s 1990 retro-futuristic novel The Difference Engine, an alternative 1885 in which Charles Babbage has actually built his planned Analytical Engine (the title gets the name of the machine wrong; Babbage’s Difference Engine was more of a calculator for printing mathematical tables, while […]

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After almost 4 years and several thousand Photoshops I had to go out and buy a new PC today. (Hold your fire Mac Daddies, TV trucks don’t always play nice with Apple.) Anyway, it’s a new box with a new operating system and all the inherent problems of re-configuring one’s computing life. If you don’t […]

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Post-Holiday Shopping Advice: Coke vs. Pepsi

 

Hi, I’m Coke. And I’m Pepsi.

Which do you prefer? Me? I like root beer; any kind will do. I am sure that someone can give you reasons why Coke is objectively better than Pepsi, but they won’t actual be objective. They will be observations the person uses to convince you that their choice is based in objective fact, but will actually be based in their own preferences and biases.

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I’ve been talking with someone who manages cybersecurity operations. He tells me one of the most effective security measures for consumer and employee PCs is also the simplest. If you’re just browsing the internet or using common programs, log into a user account without Administrator privileges, such as a Guest account. Whatever authorities your active […]

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