A bit of Computer History

From: EDN
Sep 13, 2019
by Suzanne Deffree

Weighing in at more than a ton and storing 5MB of data, the IBM 305 RAMAC was the first supercomputer with a hard disk drive (HDD).

Introduced by IBM on September 13, 1956, RAMAC stood for “random access method of accounting and control” and used a moving head HDD (magnetic disk storage) for secondary storage.

photo of IBM 305 RAMAC

So large that it had to be moved by forklift and transported by plane, the original 305 RAMAC computer system could be housed in a room of about 9×15 meters. The 350 disk storage unit itself measured around 1.5 square meters.

The machine stored 5 million 8-bit (7 data bits plus 1 parity bit) characters, the equivalent of 64,000 punch cards, on 50 24-inch magnetic disks. Two independent access arms under servo control moved up and down to select a disk and in and out to select a recording track. The average time to locate a single record was 600 milliseconds.

It has been said that in the years IBM produced RAMAC machines, the storage could have been increased, but Big Blue’s marketing department was against doing so because they did not see how such an amount of storage could be marketed.

IBM leased the RAMAC 305 system with 350 disk storage for $3,200 per month – a pretty penny in the 1950s but well worth it to companies investing hours and resources in archaic punch card systems. The first RAMAC to be used was in the US auto industry, installed at Chrysler’s MOPAR division in 1957.

More than 1,000 systems were built before production ended in 1961. The RAMAC became obsolete one year later when the IBM 1405 disk storage unit for the IBM 1401 was introduced. The 305 was withdrawn in 1969.

This IBM film tells the story of RAMAC:


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Sphero Mini Golf

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Petoi Bittle

From IEEE Spectrum

Rongzhong Li, who is responsible for the adorable robotic cat Nybble, has an updated and even more adorable quadruped that’s more robust and agile but only costs around US $200 in kit form on Kickstarter.

Looks like the early bird options are sold out, but a full kit is a $225 pledge, for delivery in December.

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SciFest All Access – A FREE Online STEM Festival for Kids

Running online from 26 September to 3 October, experience virtual booths with hands-on and interactive STEM content, special performances on the STEM Stage, earn badges and prizes in a scavenger hunt, and more.

More information at: https://connect.ieee.org/DGH300x0HPb00n0E3U3h0aY

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Old television kept wiping out village’s broadband for 18 months – CNN

https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/22/uk/old-tv-breaks-broadband-village-scli-intl-gbr/index.html

An entire village lost its broadband at the same time every day for 18 months. Now we know why

By Jack Guy, CNN
Updated 6:33 AM EDT, Tue September 22, 2020

(CNN)For 18 months, residents of a village in Wales have been mystified as to why their broadband internet crashed every morning.

Now engineers have finally identified the reason: A second-hand television that emitted a signal that interfered with the connection.

A crack team of engineers-turned-detectives have become heroes in the village of Aberhosan after finally finding the source of the problem, according to a press release from Openreach, the company that runs the UK’s digital network, published Tuesday.https://de99308bb67a428e167fddd776d77b63.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html?n=0

Staff had visited the village repeatedly and found no fault with the network. They even replaced cables in the area to try and solve the problem, but to no avail.

Then local engineer Michael Jones called in assistance from experts at the Openreach chief engineer team.

After carrying out a plethora of tests, engineers had a theory that the problem could be caused by a phenomenon called single high-level impulse noise (SHINE), in which an appliance emits electrical interference that impacts broadband connectivity.

Engineers used a device called a spectrum analyzer and walked up and down the village “in the torrential rain” at 6 a.m. to see if they could locate an electrical noise, Jones said in a statement.

At 7 a.m. — “like clockwork” — the device “picked up a large burst of electrical interference in the village.”

“The source of the ‘electrical noise’ was traced to a property in the village. It turned out that at 7 a.m. every morning the occupant would switch on their old TV which would in-turn knock out broadband for the entire village.”

Jones said the resident was “mortified” by the news and “immediately agreed to switch it off and not use again.”

Since the old TV was retired there have been no more problems with the connection, said Openreach.

Suzanne Rutherford, the company’s chief engineer’s lead for Wales, said that this kind of problem is more common than people think.

“Anything with electric components — from outdoor lights to microwaves to CCTV cameras can potentially have an impact on your broadband connection,” said Rutherford, who advised the public to check if their appliances are certified and meet current standards.

Earlier this year, UK telecoms regulator Ofcom warned that microwaves could reduce Wi-Fi signals. Ofcom issued several tips on how to keep households connected as millions of people started working from home at the start of lockdown.View on CNNhttps://d-1267362212911640430.ampproject.net/2009040024003/frame.html

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The Segway Is Dead, but Its Technology and Vision Lives On – IEEE Spectrum

https://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/consumer-electronics/gadgets/the-segway-is-dead-but-its-technology-and-vision-lives-on?utm_source=roboticsnews&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=roboticsnews-08-04-20&mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiT1RGaU56VXpOR0V4T0RkaiIsInQiOiJIelBGRkt6b0pMUkdlZVNyd0FzVXNDQ2p4SHR0akd3WXRjZCtPZlRlQ1NVS0xDa0liY1V1cWNZZFlWSE9BRmcyWlwvWERFQlhsekhsUVlcL1FlVHRcL2dFSWVnNVVtUkpHVVNLSmpXQm1sSGhjRG5Xb3BKSzhNemozemxNMmpuUnNyUCJ9

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China bans Scratch, MIT’s programming language for kids – TechCrunch

https://techcrunch.com/2020/09/07/scratch-ban-in-china/

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Watch “rocky 4 robot” on YouTube

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The Scientific Answer to Amelia Earhart Is Lost in a Pile of Phantom Bones

https://getpocket.com/explore/item/the-scientific-answer-to-amelia-earhart-is-lost-in-a-pile-of-phantom-bones?utm_source=pocket-newtab

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MIT creates a soft-fingered robotic gripper than could eventually tie knots and sew stitches | TechCrunch

https://techcrunch.com/2020/07/13/mit-creates-a-soft-fingered-robotic-gripper-than-could-eventually-tie-knots-and-sew-stitches/

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