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Digital Software Hardware

The Computer Labs That Created the Digital World 48

Posted by samzenpus
from the in-the-beginning dept.
MrSeb writes "In the time of Socrates, Plato and Cicero, great minds came together in local forums or sophist schools. The Enlightenment of the 18th century was triggered by homely gatherings at salons and fueled by the steaming hotpot of coffeehouses and caffeine. Today we still use forums, of course, and plenty of inventions and insight still originate from coffeehouses, but most innovation occurs in laboratories. ExtremeTech takes a look at the six computer labs that gave birth to the digital world — from Bletchley Park in Blighty, to PARC labs in Palo Alto, and everything in between."
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The Computer Labs That Created the Digital World

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  • but my computer labs had digital brand Pentium MMX 200s all over the place, preloaded with Windows 95C w/ the crappy IE4 "Shell Update".
  • It's practically unreadable on my mobile device. Is there a simple page without acrobatics?

  • I bet the server names were Socrates, Plato, and Cicero at all six computer labs!

  • by v1 (525388) on Wednesday August 17, 2011 @05:56PM (#37124312) Homepage Journal

    first one that really comes to my mind. so many great innovations came from there. but not specifically computers, more just plain technology (and more specifically, electronics)

    • Naw. Not specifically computers. Just little things like Unix were invented there.

    • by mirix (1649853)

      Computing would look quite a bit different without the transistor, UNIX, and C, among many other things.

      • by chthon (580889)

        Or even without the fundamental mathematical theorems developed by them crazy mathematicians at Bell Labs between roughly 1917 and 1947.

    • by bedouin (248624)

      Without Bell Labs we wouldn't have the vocoder, which was originally used for encryption before finding its way into music.

  • I briefly visited San José and San Fransisco in 2003 for the Game Developers Conference. I phoned Xerox PARC to inquire whether they had guided tours, but they didn't (I guess maybe parts of it were still operational/considered company secrets?). Later I was able to visit Macromedia's office which was a huge thrill, although basically it was simply an office, nothing very special to see. To me it meant much, being a Flash developer from Amsterdam in those days I was very excited to meet the people who

    • by leighklotz (192300) on Wednesday August 17, 2011 @06:35PM (#37124544) Homepage

      There are two ways anyone can visit PARC:
      1. PARC Forum every Thursday http://www.parc.com/events/forum.html [parc.com]
            Not a guided tour, but you get to ask questions. And the talks are available for viewing afterward.
            I've asked questions of Guido van Rossum (a famous Dutchman no doubt you know) and Jill Tarter (SETI), and dozens of others.
      2. Art exhibits
            There are art exhibits occasionally and they have guided tours of the art on specified days.
            You don't get to ask any questions; it's just an art exhibit space.

      Intel has a small museum you can visit, and the Computer History Museum in Mountain View is a must-see.
      The Tech computer museum in San Jose is iffy even if you have kids (exhibits aren't well maintained) though the imax theatre there is nice.

      Now, what can I see in Amsterdam ;-)

    • I stayed in Cupertino last May; it was a weekend so nothing was open.
    • by hedronist (233240)

      I briefly visited San José and San Fransisco in 2003 [...]. I phoned Xerox PARC to inquire whether they had guided tours, but they didn't...

      At the suggestion of a friend from the PLATO IV project (Hi, Mike!) I visited PARC in September of 1974. Not knowing anything about it I walked up to the front desk and asked if I could have a tour. The nice lady asked where I was working and I said I had just moved to the area and didn't have a job yet. She said she would see if there was someone who had some time.

      About 15 minutes later this nice guy came out and proceeded to give me about a 2.5 hour tour. I was not only amazed at the tech they had, but

  • Volta Labs? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Animats (122034) on Wednesday August 17, 2011 @06:01PM (#37124354) Homepage

    This is another one of those "top N, one per page, ads on every page" ad farm trolls.

    Their list isn't too impressive, either. Bell Labs, yes. IBM Watson, yes. PARC, yes. But where's the Moore School of Electrical Engineering, from which came ENIAC, and the beginnings of UNIVAC, the first commercial electronic computer to go into production? Also, Bletchly Park wasn't that influential because nobody knew about it until the 1970s.

    What we call a "computer" today is properly a stored-program general purpose digital computer. There were machines built before that which had some, but not all, of those attributes. Bletchley Park's machines fall into that category). The WWII US crypto operation was at Arlington Hall, which did more hardware development than Bletchley Park. were developed. They were using punched cards where Bletchley used people and filing cabinets, and they seem to have developed digital magnetic tape, although the history there is cloudy. NSA is the direct descendant of Arlington Hall.

    Another major pre-computer computing company was Teleregister, which was a spinoff from Western Union in 1949. They pioneered "remote computing" for stock quotations, railroad ticketing, and airline ticketing. Their Magnetronic Reservisor was the first big remote-access system, with magnetic drums holding the reservation data.

    • Re:Volta Labs? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by webmistressrachel (903577) on Wednesday August 17, 2011 @07:57PM (#37125060) Journal

      I hate to tell you this (can't you tell?), but the Ferranti Mark one, based on Alan Turing's Manchester "Baby", was the first commercially produced programmable computer.

      You pesky Americans, always trying to rewrite history! You're modded Insightful, too, and I bet I get "Troll" mods for stating facts, yet again.

    • by BluBrick (1924)

      This is another one of those "top N, one per page, ads on every page" ad farm trolls.

      I propose the name "Listvertizing"

    • Agreed. They didn't mention any university research facilities. MIT, University of Illinois and UC, Berkely immediately come to mind.
  • In the time of Socrates, Plato and Cicero, great minds came together in local forums or sophist schools.

    WTF? I thought Socrates and Plato were against the Sophists? I think that statement just made him turn over in his grave.

  • a few thousand others.

  • by lophophore (4087) on Wednesday August 17, 2011 @08:01PM (#37125086) Homepage

    I think they missed something important...

    Sure, Silicon Valley and Stanford. They get their props.

    But what about 128 ("America's Technology Highway") in Massachusetts, centering around MIT and Harvard?

    Digital, Data General, Wang, Prime -- all from that area. Raytheon. Analog Devices. Symbolics. BBN. The list goes on and on.

    Multix, Tenex -- foundations from which modern interactive operating systems were derived -- from MIT. Harvard has a *computer architecture* named after it.

    Ok. Never mind what I said about Silicon Valley. They were late to the party.

    • by mcmonkey (96054)

      I think they missed something important...

      Sure, Silicon Valley and Stanford. They get their props.

      But what about 128 ("America's Technology Highway") in Massachusetts, centering around MIT and Harvard?

      Digital, Data General, Wang, Prime -- all from that area. Raytheon. Analog Devices. Symbolics. BBN. The list goes on and on.

      Multix, Tenex -- foundations from which modern interactive operating systems were derived -- from MIT. Harvard has a *computer architecture* named after it.

      Ok. Never mind what I said about Silicon Valley. They were late to the party.

      Heeheehee...he said Wang.

  • In retrospect, I guess they should have patented everything they could. But of course, legal departments are always lagging behind.

  • Folks:

    I happen to be visiting family in Morristown, New Jersey.

    I am curious, what is left of Bell Labs? Is anything at all left?

    I know that AT&T is not what it used to be and much of Bell Labs will sold off of closed

    I was hoping to perhaps drive by what is left of Bell Labs just to see it and say to folks that I saw the place.

    Anyone out there know what is left and is it anywhere close to Morristown or Harding?

    Thanks

  • One should be very skeptical while reading such articles. First pseudo-historical myths are created, then everything is patented out from the global market.
  • Or was that a pair programming from 50 years ago?

Unix is the worst operating system; except for all others. -- Berry Kercheval

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