Thursday, 12 November 2020

The strange beauty of historic computers

Wired have a great article on the sights and smells of historic computing, the strange beauty indeed of the "olden days" of computing : mainframes, minicomputers, line printers and other historic computing artifacts. Many of the computers and peripherals at places like the Computer History Museum in California (somewhere i must visit one day!) or at the National Museum of Computing in Bletchley (which i have been to) still work after being restored adding an extra dimension to the experience. The sound and heat of a punched card reader...

It was a very different tech world to now, a bigger world too. Computers filled huge rooms with printers being the size of small cars, plus tape units the size of wardrobes. That is part of the fascination i feel, its just so different to the computing we use now.

Unfortunately by the time i entered work the world was largely moving past the age of old iron, though i did get to use a Prime minicomputer at university. This was great fun but the closest i ever got to the hardware were the rooms full of dumb terminals and a large remote printer (though that made a wonderful noise). 

The biggest computer i've ever had physical access to is a HP PC server which was the size of a small fridge. Big but not the same as a room full of IBM 360 or an ICL...

Photo from Flickr Commons