Are we all perhaps linked by invisible bonds? Do the actions of one affect others, even if those others are far away? Our lives and the universe itself may be all part of a single mechanism in which all creatures and events are 'entangled' with one another.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

ENIAC-- The GrandDaddy Of Modern Computers

Below is a very brief excerpt of an interview with J. Presper Eckert, one of the inventors of ENIAC (Electrical Numerical Integrator And Calculator), the forerunner of today's computers.

If you'd like to read the entire interview, go here.

From ENIAC to Everyone
Talking with J. Presper Eckert
by Alexander Randall 5th

J. Presper Eckert reveals the inside story of the invention of ENIAC, the first practical, all-electronic computer, and debunks some myths in this forgotten interview. "It is shocking to have your life work reduced to a tenth of a square inch of silicon," he said.

Published on February 23, 2006.

There are two epochs in computer history: Before ENIAC and After ENIAC. The first practical, all-electronic computer was unveiled on February 13, 1946 at the Univ. of Pennsylvania's Moore School of Electronics. While there are controversies over who invented what, there is universal agreement that the ENIAC was the watershed project that showed electronic computing was possible. It was a masterpiece of electrical engineering, with unprecedented reliability and speed. And the two men most responsible for its success were J. Presper Eckert and John W. Mauchly.

ENIAC, which debuted 60 years ago, had 18,000 vacuum tubes.

Randall: Was ENIAC programmable?

Eckert: Yes and no. We programmed the machine by plugging wires in from place to place. That's not hard-wired, it is not software, it is not memory. It's pluggable programming. And we had switches to set the functions.

Randall: What was the first thing you did with ENIAC?

Eckert: It was designed to calculate trajectory tables, but it came too late to really help with the war effort. The first real use was Edward Teller using ENIAC to do calculations for the Hydrogen bomb.

Randall: What's the zaniest thing you did while developing ENIAC?
Eckert: The mouse cage was pretty funny. We knew mice would eat the insulation off the wires, so we got samples of all the wires that were available and put them in a cage with a bunch of mice to see which insulation they did not like. We only used wire that passed the mouse test.

So I guess the first computer mouse really was a mouse !

So that's how far we've come in the past 60 years. What do you think computers will be like 60 years from today?

UPDATE: (Monday, 3/20/20066:15 am)
Here are some pics of NASA's new supercomputer "Columbia"

There are more photos & info. here


The Columbia supercomputer is making it possible for NASA to achieve breakthroughs in science and engineering for the agency's missions and Vision for Space Exploration. Columbia's highly advanced architecture will also be made available to a broader national science and engineering community.

Columbia System Facts

Based on SGI® NUMAflex™ architecture
20 SGI® Altix™ 3700 superclusters, each with 512 processors
Global shared memory across 512 processors

10,240 Intel Itanium® 2 processors
Current processor speed: 1.5 gigahertz
Current cache: 6 megabytes

1 terabyte of memory per 512 processors, with 20 terabytes total memory

Operating Environment
Linux® based operating system
PBS Pro™ job scheduler
Intel® Fortran/C/C++ compiler
SGI® ProPack™ 3.2 software

SGI® NUMAlink™
InfiniBand network
10 gigabit Ethernet
1 gigabit Ethernet

Online: 440 terabytes of Fibre Channel RAID storage
Archive storage capacity: 10 petabytes

Columbia Supercomputer

10,240-processor SGI Altix supercomputer

Birds-eye view of the 10,240-processor SGI Altix supercomputer housed at the NASA Advanced Supercomputing facility.

Columbia Supercomputer

RAID for the 10,240-processor SGI Altix supercomputer

Oh yeah, it's pretty impressive, but can it play "Pong" ?

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