[Beowulf] A bit OT - scientific workstations - recommendations

Andrew M.A. Cater amacater at galactic.demon.co.uk
Fri Mar 10 15:20:26 PST 2006

On Fri, Mar 10, 2006 at 09:39:50PM +0000, John Hearns wrote:
> On Fri, 2006-03-10 at 14:47 -0500, Douglas Eadline wrote:
> > 
> > I have heard stories about some of the first vacuum tube computers where a
> > a full time technician walked around inside the computer
> > and replaced blown out tubes - between every program run. I tend to
> > think this has a certain myth aspect to this story, but like all myths it
> > probably has some truth to it.
> > 
> The original digital computer, Colossus, was staffed by Wrens who worked
> stripped down to their underwear due to the heat given off by vacuum
> tubes.
> I can but dream some days, working behind racks of whirring Opterons on
> full blast.
This is possibly not correct: I think the Wrens were mostly setting up
Bombe settings rather than Colossus. Still a lot of heat given off
by mechanical friction and valve (tube) power supplies and regulators :)

Colossus has the distinction of being potentially still the fastest
optical reader and paper tape reader in the world - 30 miles per hour 
(it was 60, but they found that paper tape might tear at that speed) 
and read by selenium light sensors. Lots more on Colossus at Bletchley
Park's site - lots more interest in Enigma generated lately following the
distributed M4 project to crack previously unbroken Naval Enigma
signals. At least one Colossus remained in service with GC & CS / GCHQ
after the war for a while.

[They've solved the leap year problems for Colossus: they just leave it
running in 1944 :) ]

Andy - who has actually used a genuine Enigma for public demonstration 
purposes :)
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