February 13, 2011

Computer History Museum, part 2 of 3


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photo by Donald Kinney

Personally I rarely played Pong -- although Pong (and Pac-Man) seemed to be all the rage back in the 1970's and 1980's.   It cost a quarter to play, and in those days quarters didn't come easy.

Pong (marketed as PONG) is one of the earliest arcade video games, and is a tennis sports game featuring simple two-dimensional graphics.   While other arcade video games such as Computer Space came before it, Pong was one of the first video games to reach mainstream popularity.   The aim is to defeat the opponent in a simulated table tennis game by earning a higher score.   The game was originally manufactured by Atari Incorporated (Atari), who released it in 1972.   Pong was created by Allan Alcorn as a training exercise assigned to him by Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell.   Bushnell based the idea on an electronic ping-pong game included in the Magnavox Odyssey, which later resulted in a lawsuit against Atari.   Surprised by the quality of Alcorn's work, Atari decided to manufacture the game.

Pong quickly became a success and is the first commercially successful video game, which led to the start of the video game industry.   Soon after its release, several companies began producing games that copied Pong's gameplay, and eventually released new types of games.   As a result, Atari encouraged its staff to produce more innovative games.   Several sequels were released that built upon the original's gameplay by adding new features.   During the 1975 Christmas season, Atari released a home version of Pong exclusively through Sears retail stores.   It was also a commercial success and led to numerous copies.   The game has been remade on numerous home and portable platforms following its release.   Pong has been referenced and parodied in multiple television shows and video games, and has been a part of several video game and cultural exhibitions.
[ source: Wikipedia ]



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photo by Donald Kinney

This is magnetic memory -- and a charge can be induced (or not be induced) and later retrieved (or not retrieved) from each one of those tiny doughnut shaped ferrite cores.   Someone with the patience-of-Job carefully wove this early example together by hand.



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photo by Donald Kinney

Everybody has secrets.   Secrets are important.   Knowing the other guy's secrets can be very advantageous when you're trying to win a war or something.

German Enigma code machine
Like other rotor machines, the Enigma machine is a combination of mechanical and electrical subsystems. The mechanical subsystem consists of a keyboard; a set of rotating disks called rotors arranged adjacently along a spindle; and one of various stepping components to turn one or more of the rotors with each key press. The stepping component varies slightly from model to model. Most often the right-hand rotor steps once with each key stroke, and other rotors step occasionally. The continual movement of the rotors results in a different cryptographic substitution after each key press.

The mechanical parts act in such a way as to form a varying electrical circuit; the actual letter substitution is indicated electrically.   When a key is pressed, the circuit is completed; current flows through the various components in their current configuration and ultimately lights one of the display lamps, indicating the output letter.   For example, when encrypting a message starting ANX…, the operator would first press the A key, and the Z lamp might light, so Z would be the first letter of the ciphertext.   The operator would next press N, and then X in the same fashion, and so on.
[ source: Wikipedia ]



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photo by Donald Kinney

The MITS Altair 8800 was a microcomputer design from 1975 based on the Intel 8080 CPU and sold by mail order through advertisements in Popular Electronics, Radio-Electronics and other hobbyist magazines.   The designers hoped to sell only a few hundred build-it-yourself kits to hobbyists, and were surprised when they sold thousands in the first month.   The Altair also appealed to individuals and businesses who just wanted a computer and purchased the assembled version.   Today the Altair is widely recognized as the spark that led to the microcomputer revolution of the next few years: The computer bus designed for the Altair was to become a de facto standard in the form of the S-100 bus, and the first programming language for the machine was Microsoft's founding product, Altair BASIC.
[ source: Wikipedia ]



click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

The Commodore PET (Personal Electronic Transactor) was a home/personal computer produced from 1977 by Commodore International.   A top-seller in the Canadian and United States educational markets, it was Commodore's first full-featured computer, and formed the basis for their entire 8-bit product line, including the Commodore 64.
[ source: Wikipedia ]

Stop by tomorrow and I'll have more.



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3 comments:

Sinbad and I on the Loose said...

All very interesting. I just hope there will not be a quiz following all this.

Scott said...

What is really scary is that I remember most of this. I once did some photography for a small start-up company that sold what they called the first desktop computer under $20,000.00 and it had a slot for an 8" floppy disk and a place to add another if you wanted that option. They went out of business quickly and I never got paid.

AphotoAday said...

Hi SINBAD'S DAD -- yeah, you and me both must have the same aversion to quizzes... I got all the info from Wikipedia so you might know more than me.

And yes, SCOTT -- it really IS scary to start remembering some of this stuff... But I can remember in 1966 or 1967 when I saw my first computer -- it was huge but someone from Stanford had trucked it all the way down o Monterey Peninsula College for us to take a look... It had a special way of counting -- a 4 was something other than a 4 -- that's about all I remember... Life has been a blur ever since...

 
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