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A joint project of Stanford Faculty, Staff and The Computer Museum History Center Questions to [email protected] or 725-8363. Computer History Exhibits Signs and Placards master copy on Haring. First floor: Stanford CSD history Basement: Technology timelines Floor 2: Early computing.

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Computer history exhibits signs and placards master copy on haring

A joint project of Stanford Faculty, Staff

and The Computer Museum History Center

Questions to [email protected] or 725-8363

Computer History Exhibits

Signs and Placards

master copy on Haring

First floor: Stanford CSD history

Basement: Technology timelines

Floor 2: Early computing

Floor 3: The sixties

Floor 4: The seventies

Floor 5: Galaxy game


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Computer History Exhibits

case

f 2

case

f 1

case2

case3

case1

case4

case5

Basement:

Timelines

First floor:

Early Stanford

CSD history

2nd: 50’s:Univac & Whirlwind

3rd: 60’s: IBM 360 & DEC PDP-6

4th: 70’s: Aple II & Cray

Fifth floor:

Galaxy

game

A joint project of .

Stanford Faculty, Staff, & The Computer Museum History Center

Questions to [email protected] or look at http://www-cs.stanford.edu (museum)


Computer history exhibits signs and placards master copy on haring

Computer History Exhibits

Opening Talks in room B1, Nov. 5th, 5:30 pm

Donald Knuth: George Forsythe and the Development of Computer Science

Gordon Bell: Values & Issues in Preserving Historical Computer Artifacts

Serra street

Exit to

outside

B1

Entrance to

Basement

Lecture Hall

First floor

Basement

Campus Drive


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Dark areas are due to

a head crash in 1969.

Platter from General Precision

Librascope L 4800 head-per-track Disk Unit

Stanford AI Lab DEC PDP-6, November 1967

Storage capacity per side ca. 1,120,665 words of 36 bits

Capacity per unit (10 inner sides of 6 platters)

11,206,650 words or ca. 48 M bytes.

Total 5484 heads (and tracks). Total weight 5200 lbs

Rotational speed 900 rpm, Avg. access time 35 msec.

Transfer rate 1.6 m sec/word or 2.7 M byte/sec

Startup current 300 amps, Startup time 5 minutes,

thermal stabilization 2 hours

Cost $300,000 ($1,420,000 today)

The photograph shows the unit with the disks and the electronics bay (2000 lbs) removed.

Courtesy of Martin Frost


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Storage capacity per side

~1,120,665 words of 36 bits

Capacity per unit

(10 inner sides of 6 platters)

11,206,650 words or

~48 M bytes.

Total 5484 heads (and tracks)

Rotational speed 900 rpm

Avg. access time 35 msec.

Transfer rate 1.6 m sec/word

or 2.7 M byte/sec

Startup current 300 amps

Startup time 5 minutes,

thermal stabilization 2 hours

Weight 5200 lbs

Cost $300,000 ($1,420,000 today)

Platter from

General Precision

Librascope L 4800

head-per-track

Disk Unit

Stanford AI Lab

DEC PDP-6

November 1967

Courtesy of Martin Frost

Dark areas are due to

a head crash in 1969.

Total Tracks (and Write-Read heads): 5484 (includes 300 spares)

Bits/Track: 80,256 Bits/Sector: 66

Sectors/Rev: 1216

based on CPI

1997 159.1 159.6 160.0 160.2 160.1 160.3 160.5

1967 32.9 32.9 33.0 33.1 33.2 33.3 33.4 33.5 33.6 33.7 33.8 33.9 33.4


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Apple Macintosh

Hard disk unit

ca. 1989

5 platters, 10 sides

one head per side

Capacity 20 Megabytes

Courtesy of SUMEX

SONY Corporation

3.5” Floppy disk drive

ca. 1991

High density, double sided

one head per side

Capacity/floppy 1.4 Megabytes

With disk in protective,

low friction carrier.

Courtesy of SUMEX

8” Floppy disk

first use ca. 1965

Single sided disk

Capacity/floppy ca. 150 Kilobytes

Courtesy of Vaugn Pratt


Computer history exhibits signs and placards master copy on haring

Apple Macintosh

Hard disk unit

ca. 1989

5 platters, 10 sides

one head per side

Capacity 20 Megabytes

Courtesy of SUMEX

8” Floppy disk

first use ca. 1965

Single sided disk

Capacity/floppy ca. 150 Kilobytes

Courtesy of

SONY Corporation

3.5” Floppy disk drive

ca. 1991

High density, double sided

one head per side

Capacity/floppy 1.4 Megabytes

With disk in protective,

low friction carrier.

Courtesy of SUMEX

5” Floppy disk drive

Shugart Corporation

first use ca. 1977

Single sided disk

Capacity/floppy 360 Kilobytes

Courtesy of Vaugn Pratt


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Digital Equipment Corporation

Model 846 single platter disk cartridge

from SUMEX DEC PDP-11, ca. 1972.

Cut open to show disk

The 2 reading heads were mounted on slides in the drive and entered the unit through the small port in the rear.

Larger units were composed of multiple, up to 11, platters

Storage capacity per side, using 200 formatted tracks,

ca.1.1 Megabytes of 8 bits

Capacity per unit 2.2 Megabytes. Rotational speed 2400 rpm.

Average seek time for head movement 60 msec.

Rotational latency 12.5 msec. Transfer rate 0.312 Megabyte/sec.

Courtesy of Tom Rindfleisch, SUMEX


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Lightning Calculator, ca. 1930.

The Lightning Adding Machine Company, Los Angeles CA

This calculator belonged to Prof. George Forsythe.

This American calculator copies the design of the Pascaline, first designed by Blaise Pascal in 1642.

The pen is used to add or subtract digits in any of 8 decimal conditions by rotating one of the disks. A lug on each wheel creates a carry when the 9 digit is passed. This improved version had a single lever to reset all digits to zero.

Courtesy of the Estate of George and Sandra Forsythe and The Computer Museum.


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George Elmer Forsythe

Founding Chairman of the Stanford

Computer Science Department 1965-1972

born 1917 in State College, PA

graduated from Swarthmore College 1937

PhD in Mathematics from Brown University 1941

at Stanford University 1941-1942, 1957-1972

Air Force meteorologist 1942-1945

at UCLA’s Institute for Numerical Analysis to 1957

with John Herriot, formed the Division of Computer

Science within the Mathematics department in 1961

Director of the Computation Center 1961-1965

died 1972 at Stanford, CA


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George Forsythe supervised 17 PhD theses at Stanford.

Many of his students became professors themselves

and several became department chairs in turn.

The complete tree of Forsythe’s academic descendants

is available on the web pages describing these exhibits,

at http://www-cs.stanford.edu, and then click on museum.

courtesy of Cleve Moler and Jim Varah


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Polya Hall

Home of the Stanford

Computer Science Department 1963- Oct.1979

Named for George Pólya (1887-1985)

Prof. of Mathematics

Polya: 13 Dec.1887- 7 Sep.1985 [Don Knuth]


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IBM Card Programmed Calculator (CPC)

A CPC was Stanford’s computer from 1953-1956.

The tall box is the arithmetic unit, which used 1500 vacuum tubes and had 8 registers of 4 digits and 1 register of 5 digits. Digits were represented by 4 bits each, requiring 2 vacuum tubes per bit.

The box on the right contained 4 mechanical accumulators of 12 digit words and 2 of of 16 digits, and 48 words of mechanical storage. Mechanical storage was implemented in the form of wheels, which were positioned by solenoids, and had contacts for readout.

Instructions were read from cards, placed into the center unit, at a rate of up to 150 per minute. Through wiring a plug board placed in the arithmetic unit certain cards could be skipped, giving some control over program flow.

The CPC was not yet a von Neuman machine architecture.

The central unit also had a printer, which could print 120 columns of numeric output at 150 lines per minute (lpm), but only 40 columns of letters at 100 lpm.

Results could also be punched on the rightmost unit, on up to 50 cards per minute. Another wiring board selected the card columns.


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Wiring Plug Board, ca. 1960.

IBM Corporation, NY.

On pre-Von Neumann computers programs were wired. Placing the wires into plug boards allowed fast changing of programs and off-line program preparation.

The wires routed the impulses obtained from cards to start and increment counter wheels, to transmit carry im-pulses to other wheels, and to set indicators for negative numbers or overflow. Printers had similar wheels, but embossed, which were rotated before striking the paper.

This panel controlled a collator, a machine for merging two sets of sorted cards according to the contents of sequencing fields. The fields could be in different columns.

Courtesy of The Computer Museum History Center


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Data processing cards were invented by Hermann Hollerith of the

U.S. Bureau of the Census. Commonly known as IBM cards they

were used for data and program storage from 1890 up to the 1980’s.

They had 80 columns, and up to 4 holes out of 12 positions could be

punched out per column, allowing first 12, later 64, and eventually

256 distinct characters codes per column. More holes weakened them.

The size of the card was based on the dollar bill of that time, so

that they might be carried in standard wallets. Dollar bills are

now smaller in size and in value.

Silver certificate dollar bill from 1920 courtesy of Voy and Gio Wiederhold


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Early Computers at Stanford

Typearrived-retiredLocationspeed(+/x)Memory Prim.language

msec Words/bytes

IBM CPC Mar.1953-56Elec.Lab. 760K/13M 48wired board

IBM 650Jan.1956-62? Elec.Lab. 2.2K/19K 2KW SOAP

Burroughs 220Jun.1960Encina 200/330010KW Balgol

shared with First National Bank of San Jose (overnight check processing)

IBM 7090 Feb.1963?-67Pine Hall 4.4/2532KWFORTRAN

Burroughs 5500Mar?.1963-68Pine Hall Algol

DEC PDP-1 1964 - Pine Hall ~5/18bits 64KW

DEC PDP-6 Aug.1965 AI lab ~4/36bits LISP

IBM/360-50Jun.1965SLAC 4/16 256Kb

IBM/360-50Dec.1965-7xMed.Sch. 4/16 1.128Kb PL/1 subset

IBM/360-67 May 1967-Pine Hall 1.5/6 500Kb Algol W,

installedas an IBM/360-65 because of an inadequate timesharing systemFORTRAN

IBM/360-75SLAC 0.75/3 1Mb FORTRAN

IBM/360-911968SLAC 0.2/0.4 2Mb FORTRAN

DEC PDP-10 1969? -85? AI lab LISP, SAIL

DEC system 2040 1976-1977 LOTS 1.0 128KW

DEC system 2050 1977-19 LOTS 0.5 256KW


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Early Faculty at Stanford

1953 Jack Herriot, Alan Peterson, codirectors computation center


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Remington-Rand Univac Flip-Flop Assembly Model 1818A, serial 001348. Manuf’d for the U.S. Navy, Oct.1960.

Courtesy of David Hermreck, Potomac, MD.

Two?-bit highly reliable plug-in electro-mechanical memory unit.

It uses relays, composed to form flip-flop storage cells, similar to the exposed AEC unit shown. The access time was about 1/2 sec.

To avoid corrosion, all joints were soldered to be airtight, and

then the unit was filled with nitrogen gas, through the valve on the

side. All contacts are gold plated.

Similar flip-flop units, but not sealed, were used for the IBM CPC

(Card-Programmed Calculator) shown above, used at Stanford from1953 to 1956. The CPC could hold 9 words of 4 4-bit digits in vacuum tube circuits, and 48 words of 10 digits in relay storage.

The CPC was hence not a von-Neumann machine architecture; programs remained external. Computation was driven by sets of cards, fed through a card reader at up to 2.5 instructions/second.


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Primary Programming Languages Taught at Stanford

<Tentative Draft, tell us what you know>

Languageyearscompilermachine

Board wiring 1953-56noneIBM CPC

Assembler1956-60SOAP IIIBM 650

Algol 581960-65BalgolBurroughs 220

FORTRAN1963-67 FORTRAN IIIBM 7090

Algol 601963-68AlgolBurroughs 5500

Algol W1968-75 Wirth’sIBM/360

FORTRAN1975FORTRAN IVIBM/370

ALGOL 60 +1976-77SAILDEC 10

PASCAL1978-91LOTS DEC-10

C1991-todayApple Macintosh

Java?future?

Information courtesy of Claire Stager, Eric Roberts, ...


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DEC-10 system Memory Controller Board,

modified for LOTS, the Stanford

Low-Overhead Time Sharing System, 1977

By 1976 semi-conductor memory prices had dropped to the extent that large number of display terminals could each have their own buffer in a timeshared system. The buffersizes were adequate for 40 lines of 80 = 3200 characters each, requiring about 320, 000 bytes for 100 terminals. This was more than provided for in the original controller design, so that boards for LOTS were modified to allow high-order addressing.

On PCs and workstations today, the entire display image is buffered, omitting the need for a hardware charcter generator, but requiring up to a Megabyte per display.

Courtesy of Ralph Gorin


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ACME system status panel, 1966

Designed by Robert Flexer and Klaus Holtz

For the time-sharing and real-time data acquisition system in The Medical school, ACME, status indicators were provided on each of the 30 terminals, to reduce user frustration. The white ACME IS ON light was pulsed periodically, so that it would decay if the system went down. YOU ARE ON signaled each time slice allocated. The WAITING FOR YOU light indicated that input was expected from the terminal or a data-acquistion port, and the SPECIAL RUN ON light warned users that a high demand data acquisition task was in progress, reducing the performance for all others.

Courtesy of Gio Wiederhold


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  • The SAIL language was

  • derived from Algol 60,

  • expanded with

  • direct access to PDP-10 I/Ofacilities,

  • control over external interrupts

  • macro-capabilities

  • sets and lists

  • data structures for associative search

  • multi-processing

  • The last three augmenta-tions were derived from LEAP, developed in 1969 by

  • Jerry Feldman and Paul Rovner on the Lincoln Labs TX-2.

SAIL User Manual

June 1973

Editor: Kurt VanLehn

Stanford AI Laboratory

The SAIL language was,

with LISP 1.5, the

primary programming language at the Stanford AI

Laboratory, and used, a.o., for its research in robotics.

Courtesy of Gio Wiederhold


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DataDisc Display System

1971: The DataDisc (DD) used the disk you see here to store

and continuously generate 32 video channels that were used

as display screens on monitors around the Stanford AI Lab.

1972: The DD video channels were routed through a crossbar

switch to any combination of 56 DD display terminals in the

building. Users could view the same channel from multiple

monitors, or multiple channels on one monitor.

1982: More and more DD channels had become very streaky and

annoying, so the DD disk was replaced with RAM memory using

the big 64Kbit chips in the “newDD” system designed at SAIL.

Here you see the DD’s small read amplifier cards mounted

around a circle. On the other side, arranged in a spiral,

are the disk heads, which you can see in the shiny mirror in

the back, which is the DD disk itself! (Note the dark lines on the

outer portion of the disk -- from head crashes which disabled only

selected channels.) One new DD memory board, holding four

video channels, is to the right.


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Monroe Decimal Calculator. ca. 1930

Inventor: Frank Stephen Baldwin 1839-1925.

This 10-key calculator provided accurate manual computation.

Its operator was called a computor.

Each complete forward turn of the large crank on the right will add the value set into the 8 x 10 keys into the bottom register of the carriage.

The top register counts the turns. Subtraction is achieved by turning the crank in reverse.

To multiply the Repeat button is pressed and the crank turned as often as needed for the low-order digit. Then the carriage is moved to the right with the handle in front, so the next digit of the factor can be cranked in.

The crank on the carriage is for resetting result and counter registers.

Division is performed by subtracting the divisor left to right.

Courtesy of Gio Wiederhold


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Monroe Decimal Calculator,ca.1930

Inventor: Frank Stephen Baldwin 1839-1925.

This 10-key calculator provided accurate manual computation. Its operator was called a computor.

Each complete forward turn of the large crank on the right will add the value set into the 8 x 10 keys into the bottom register of the carriage. The top register counts the turns.

Subtraction is achieved by turning the crank in reverse.

To multiply the Repeat button is pressed and the crank turned as often as needed for the low-order digit. Then the carriage is moved to the right with the handle in front, so the next digit of the factor can be cranked in. The crank on the carriage is for resetting result and counter registers.

Division is performed by subtracting the divisor left to right

Courtesy of Gio Wiederhold


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Marchant Electric Calculator, ca. 1950.

Marchant Calculator Comp. , Oakland CA.

This calculator was usedby Prof. George Forsythe, founding chairman of the Stanford Computer Science department.

This calculator replaced the human power required in earlier machines (see the Monroe calculator) with an electric motor, a single on/off relay and a number of mechanical clutches. The key on the side determines the number of turns for multiplication. Division was automated by entering the divisor in the keys and continuing subtraction until the the dividend was fully reduced. The carriage would then shift left and division continued.

Courtesy of the Estate of George and Sandra Forsythe.


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Calculators were used together with mathematical tables for scientific computation.

The proportional parts entries on the right-hand side of the base tables helped in interpolation to gain 6-digit accuracy in these computations.

This book was used at the NATO Air Defense Center in Holland by Gio Wiederhold in 1957 to predict short-range free-flight missile trajectories.

A group of 12 computors, working in pairs for cross-checking, took up to three weeks to obtain one result.

Courtesy of Gio Wiederhold

Mathematical Tables from the

Handbook of Chemistry&Physic, 1949

Chemical Rubber Publ. Company, Cleveland OH.


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Automatic Calculator, model SW

Friden, Inc, San Leandro CA. 1956

This machine further automated calculation by allowing a multiple digit factor to be entered in the small panel on the right. Multiplication continues right to left, while the carriage shifts left, until all digits have been consumed. The result is appears on top.

The Friden company also produced a calculator which could do square roots.

A side panel and top cover have been removed to provide an impression of the complexity of mechanical computation. This type of calculator represents the end-of-the-line for mechnical digital calculation.

Courtesy of Robert Floyd


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Stanford CSD Trophies

ACM Programming Contests

19xx, 19xxx, 19xx

Stanford CSD Trophies

ACM Programming Contests

19xx, 19xxx, 19xx, 19xx

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The Stanford Arm

Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory

Hand-Eye Project, 1969

The arm contains 6 joints, and was configured to approximate human reach, but with a different joint structure. A pair were mounted on a table and operated in concert with a camera, which scanned the table surface for objects, as blocks, which then could be stacked. Specified tasks were then accomplished without further camera feedback. The claw provided force feedback.


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Electric Key Punch

IBM Corporation, 1923.

Input and output for data processing was mainly by cards that were punched with holes in any of 12 row (X,Y,0-9) positions in one of 80 columns.

Any column could contain one of the 10 digits or an X (above the 2- key) for minus. Letters are entered by typing a digit (1-9) and X, Y, or zero. The EBCDIC en-coding in IBM mainframes is still a derivative of this scheme; elsewhere it has been replaced by ASCII.

In this model, the addition of a solenoid to drive the punches which perforated the cards greatly reduced fatigue and increased the speed of data preparation.

Courtesy of IBM Research, Yorktown NY


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  • The IBM/360 architecture was to cover the spectrum from

  • modest to large machines, and data-processing as well as scientific computation. The principal designers were

    • Gene Amdahl,

    • Fred Brooks, and

    • Gerrit Blaauw.

  • The 8-bit byte, 32-bit word

  • architecture is still used in

  • today’s IBM mainframes.

  • It influenced greatly the later

  • RCA Spectra, XDS S , Ryad,

  • and Univac 9000 computers,

  • and to lesser extent the DEC

  • VAX and Intel architectures.

Console panel from

an IBM/360-40

computer

Announced April 1964,

first delivered 1965.

Courtesy of

The Computer Museum

The table held the console printer

of the ACME system, an IBM/360-50G

with 1M. later 2Mb, auxiliary memory,

performing timeshared real-time data

acquisition and computation at the

Stanford Medical School.


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CORE Memory planes from IBM/360 series

IBM Corporation, ca. 1964

Ferrite-core memories were first developed during the early 1950’s for use in the SAGE air-defense system. Each tiny doughnout-shaped core stored a single bit of information (1 or 0) by means of the clockwise or counterclockwise direction (around the hole) of the core’s internal magnetization. Tiny electric wires strung through the core holes were used to write and read information. Ferrite-cores soon replaced all other computer memory technologies because of their superior reliability and speed. The ferrite-core memory planes shown here were used in IBM System/360 computer beginning in 1964. A memory consisted of many core planes interconnected with electronic red-write circuitry. System/360 memories provided read-write cycles of 0.75 to 2.5 microseconds and capacities of thousand bytes to 1 million bytes. Manufacturing costs of ferrite cores were less than 0.1 cents each, but a fully wired core memory with all support circuitry cost 1 to 2 cents per bit. Semiconductor memories gradually replaced ferrite-core memories after the first all-semiconductor memory was introduced on the IBM System/370-145 in 1970.

Courtesy of IBM Yorktown Heights


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CORE Memory planes from IBM/360 series

IBM Corporation, ca. 1964

Ferrite-core memories were first developed during the early 1950’s for use in the SAGE air-defense system. Each tiny doughnout-shaped core stored a single bit of information (1 or 0) by means of the clockwise or counterclockwise direction (around the hole) of the core’s internal magnetization. Tiny electric wires strung through the core holes were used to write and read information. Ferrite-cores soon replaced all other computer memory technologies because of their superior reliability and speed. The ferrite-core memory planes shown here were used in IBM System/360 computer beginning in 1964. A memory consisted of many core planes interconnected with electronic red-write circuitry. System/360 memories provided read-write cycles of 0.75 to 2.5 microseconds and capacities of 16 Kilobytes to 1 Megabyte. Manufacturing costs of ferrite cores were less than 0.1 cents each, but a fully wired core memory with all support circuitry cost 1 to 2 cents per bit. Semiconductor memories gradually replaced ferrite-core memories after the first all-semiconductor memory was introduced on the IBM System/370-145 in 1970.

Courtesy of IBM Yorktown Heights


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The IBM/360 implementations differed in the technologies employed:

~rel. micro-code mcycle integer datapath planned maximum

modelperf. storage time add time width memorymemory

360-20* .25 main memory 2msec 20msec? 1 byte 16K (D) 64K (F)

360-30 1 capacitor cards 0.75msec 12msec 1 byte 32K (E) 64K (F)

360-40 3 printed transformers 0.62msec 10msec? 2 bytes 64K (F) 128K (G)

360-50 10 balanced capacitor 0.5msec 4msec 4 bytes 128K (G) 256K (H)

360-65 20 balanced capacitor 0.2msec 1.5msec 8 bytes 256K (H) 512K (I)

360-75 50 hardwired, overlap 0.195msec .75msec 8 bytes 512K (I) 1Mbyte (J) *

360-91* 200 hardwired, pipelined 0.060msec .2msec 8 bytes 1Mbyte(J)2Mbyte (K)*

* subsequent to April 1964 announcement

Notes from Pugh, Johnson, Palmer:

pp 338: -92=15x -70

p 640 total range 200:1

CACM vol 221.1 1978

A single operating system was planned

as well. However, it became soon obvious

that the smaller machines would drag

down the larger ones, and 64K became

the minimum size for IBM-OS, smaller

machines used a system called DOS.

Stanford developed new (ACME), or

augmented IBM’s operating systems

(Wylbur and Orvyl).


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Apple Corporation

Apple I I +

Designed originally 1977

Magnavox 12” b-w TV,

used as computer display

The early Apple

computers used TV sets

to display about 20 lines

of 40 characters each.

Computer courtesy of

The Computer Museum,

TV c.o. Voy & Gio Wiederhold


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VisiCorp

User Guide for

VisiCalc Electronic

Worksheet

program, 1981.

Inventor Bob Frankston

at Software Arts, Inc, 1979.

All commands were

single letter codes,

combined with arrow keys

and functions.

Conventional programming, languages as BASIC and PASCAL were made available for the Apple, but had limited acceptance.

The innovative interactive VisiCalc spreadsheet program for the Apple II and, later, the IBM PC, transformed personal computers to useful business tools, and greatly broadened their market.

Visicalc was in turn replaced by Lotus, due its intuitive point-and-click interface.

Courtesy of Gio Wiederhold


Computer history exhibits signs and placards master copy on haring

UCSD

Apple PASCAL 1.1

Developer Kenneth Bowles

1979

Graphic extensions by

Apple Corporation.

Manual by Arthur Luehmann

and Herbert Peckham,

McGraw-Hill 1981

Pascal was defined in 1972 by

Prof. Niklaus Wirth and imple-

mented in 1978 with Kathleen

Jensen at the ETH in Zürich,

Switzerland for the CDC 6000.

The intent was to have a clear

and effective language for

teaching. Its simple type

structure was in part a

reaction to the complexity

introduced with Algol 68.

Pascal became rapidly very

popular and was also widely

used in commercial practice.

It was the language used for

teaching at Stanford CSD

from 1979 to 1991.

Courtesy of Gio Wiederhold


Computer history exhibits signs and placards master copy on haring

display case 42

display case 42

Computer History Exhibits

Installation in Progress

Watch this Space

Computer History Exhibits

Installation in Progress

Watch this Space


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The Galaxy Game

Bill Pitts & Co., 1971

The Galaxy game was probably the first commercial computer game built. It was installed in the Tresidder Union Coffee House from 1971 to 1978. A single PDP-11 minicomputer is used to drive two separate game screens with two players each.

Galaxy is is a reprogrammed version of Spacewar!, which was conceived in 1961 by Martin Graetz, Stephen Russell, and Wayne Wiitanen and first realized on the PDP-1 at M.I.T. in 1962 by Stephen Russell, Peter Samson, Dan Edwards, and Martin Graetz, together with Alan Kotok, Steve Piner, and Robert A. Saunders using PdP-1 assmbley language. It very became popular at most Artificial Intelligence research centers and is now available in a simulated version on the web:

http://lcs.www.media.mit.edu/groups/el/projects/spacewar/.

The original version used 4 keyboard keys to control each of the two the spaceships: spin one way, spin the other, thrust, and fire. Solar gravity will cause the ships to destruct if no action is taken.

The Stanford version added three types of space: no gravity, anti-gravity, and uncharted space.

Courtesy of Bill Pitts, with assistance by Ted Panofsky.


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The Galaxy Game

Bill Pitts & Hugh Tuck, 1971

The Galaxy Game was the first commercial video game. Installed in Tresidder Union in September 1971, the game was quickly and enthusiastically embraced by the Stanford community, with players often waiting for over an hour for their next turn.

Galaxy Game is a reprogrammed version of Spacewar!, which was conceived in 1961 by Martin Graetz, Stephen Russell, and Wayne Wiitanen and first realized on the PDP-1 at M.I.T. in 1962 by Stephen Russell, Peter Samson, Dan Edwards, and Martin Graetz, together with Alan Kotok, Steve Piner, and Robert A. Saunders using PDP-1 assmbly language. It very became popular at most Artificial Intelligence (AI) research centers and is now available in a simulated version on the web:

http://lcs.www.media.mit.edu/groups/el/projects/spacewar/.

Spacewar was a magical game that captivated everyone that played it. However, since time on the mainframe computers required to support Spacewar was billed to users at rates of several hundred dollars per hour, Spacewar was usually played only by system programmers when the mainframe was idle; times like 2am!

In late 1970, Digital Equipment Corporation introduced the PDP-11 minicomputer. Finally, there was an affordable computer with the power to run Spacewar!. So, Bill Pitts (a recent Stanford grad and AI alumni) and his high school buddy Hugh Tuck formed Computer Recreations, Inc. in June of 1971 to build coin operated Spacewar machines.

Bill, a computer hacker, did the programming and electrical stuff, and Hugh, a mechanical engineer, designed the enclosures. After three and a half months of labor, Spacewar was about to be delivered to the masses. However, at this time (1971), the concept of "war" was a very bad thing on campus. Astute marketeers that they were, Bill and Hugh decided to change the name to Galaxy Game.

The first version of Galaxy Game, packaged in a walnut veneered enclosure, incorporated a PDP-11/20 computer, a simple point plotting display interface, and a Hewlett Packard 1300A Electrostatic Display. The PDP-11/20 (with 8K bytes of core memory and an optional hardware multiply/divide unit) cost $14,000 and the display cost $3,000. Coin acceptors and packaging brought the total cost to approximately $20,000.

Galaxy Game was priced at 10 cents per game or 25 cents for 3 games. If at the end of the game your ship still survived and had some fuel left, you got a free game. Perhaps Bill and Hugh were not the most astute of businessmen .


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. .

A second version of Galaxy Game, with a more powerful display interface enabling the PDP-11 to drive four to eight consoles, was developed to amortize the cost of the computer over several consoles. This version was installed in the Coffee House at Tresidder Union in June 1972, where it remained in operation until May 1979. Throughout its tenure at Tressidder, Galaxy Game was heavily used. Ten to twenty people gathered around the machines most Friday and Saturday nights when school was in session.

After removing Galaxy Game from Tressidder (because the display processor had become very unreliable) the machine was disassembled. The computer and displays were stored in an office and the fiberglass cases were stored outdoors for the next eighteen years. Sometime in April 1997, Les Earnest (the former Director of the Stanford AI Lab) received a phone call from Bill Pitts. Bill was about to throw away some old PDP-11 stuff, and he was wondering if Les might know of a good home for old computers. Les mentioned that the new Computer History Exhibits might be interested.

So, Bill fired off a couple of emails in the direction of Stanford and then finally, a reply! Yes, the Computer History Exhibits would like Galaxy Game as an operating exhibit.

To get Galaxy Game operating again would be no small feat. The call for help went out. The biggest job would be to build a new display processor using the original design schematics. Ted Panofsky, who had designed and built the display processor way back when, soon received a call from Bill. Could Ted please take complete responsibility for building and delivering a fully functional display processor in eight weeks? For free, of course. Ted said he'd been waiting 25 years for just such an opportunity! Yes, he would love to!

So, with Ted's generous contribution of time, energy, and smarts, and help from Doug Brentlinger, Paul Mancuso, and Victor Scheinman, the Galaxy Game is back. By the way, the original display processor's poor reliability resulted from using early vintage Texas Instruments wire wrap IC sockets. Ted was not the one that selected them.

Both versions of Galaxy Game were based on the the Stanford AI Lab's PDP-10 version of Spacewar. Galaxy Game is a faithful PDP-11 re-implementation of the AI Lab's PDP-10 Spacewar. Except, I don't seem to recall any coin acceptors on the PDP-10

Bill Pitts, October 29, 1997


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The Computer History Exhibits thank Bill Pitts, Ted Panofsky, Doug Brentlinger, and Paul Mancuso for their effort in restarting the Galaxy andkeeping it going.

Money spent in playing thie Galaxy Game will only be used for the maintenance of the Co,mputer History Exhibits


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Contributors

Hector Garcia-Molina, Mark Horowitz, Joe Oliger, Carlos Tomasi, Gio Wiederhold

We also acknowledge departmental support for installation infrastructure

Special Thanks To

Doug Brentlinger, Diane Forsythe, John Goldschmidt, Ralph Gorin, Andrew Kacsmar, Oussama Khatib, Jill Knuth, Verena LaMar, Paul Mancuso, Robert Miller, Zae Ozaki, Ted Panofsky, Bill Pitts, Victor Scheinman, Eileen Schwappach, Marianne Siroker

Organizing Committee

Zoe Allison, Gwen Bell, Les Earnest, Martin Frost, Penny Nii, Bernard Peuto, Len Shustek, Gio and Voy Wiederhold


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