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United Kingdom Hardware

The World's Oldest Original Digital Computer Springs Back Into Action At TNMOC 65

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the netbsd-accepts-challenge dept.
New submitter prpplague writes "After a three-year restoration project at The National Museum of Computing, the Harwell Dekatron (aka WITCH) computer will rebooted on 20 November 2012 to become the world's oldest original working digital computer. Now in its seventh decade and in its fifth home, the computer with its flashing lights and clattering printers and readers provides an awe-inspiring display for visiting school groups and the general public keen to learn about our rich computer heritage."
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The World's Oldest Original Digital Computer Springs Back Into Action At TNMOC

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @05:19AM (#42038503)

    I highly recommend visiting bletchley park. You won't be disappointed.

  • by Chrisq (894406) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @05:32AM (#42038573)

    With 828 dekaton counter tubes I reckon it's not a digital computer (2 base) but a decimal computer (10 base).

    There are 10 kinds of people who understand binary...

    It is still a digital computer (as opposed to an analogue computer), as were other non-binary false starts like the Setun [wikipedia.org] which used balanced ternary.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @05:38AM (#42038591)

    And yet even more people who have problems with English.
    Digital, as opposed to analogue, refers to the data being in discrete chunks.
    You may be correct in it being a decimal computer, as opposed to a binary computer, but it is still a digital computer.
    However the Dekatron valves could be made in effective binary mode (9 anodes to 1 pin) so it could still be a binary computer.

  • by expatriot (903070) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @05:39AM (#42038605)

    You do know that the term "digital" comes from "finger" so the origin is closer to base 10 than 2. The modern definition is something quantified by numbers rather than continuous properties. A digital encoding of 0.5 volts as the number 0.5.

    This does lead on to the adage that "end the end, everything is analogue" which makes more sense if you have ever used a high-frequency storage oscilloscope.

  • by Sique (173459) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @05:43AM (#42038615) Homepage
    "digital" comes from "digit" (number), which in turn comes from the latin "digitus" (finger). It has nothing to do with binary, other than binary being digital too. Any number based computer is digital. There are analog computers which use continuous currents or voltages to calculate. Those are not digital.
  • by Chrisq (894406) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @05:45AM (#42038627)

    And yet even more people who have problems with English. Digital, as opposed to analogue, refers to the data being in discrete chunks. You may be correct in it being a decimal computer, as opposed to a binary computer, but it is still a digital computer. However the Dekatron valves could be made in effective binary mode (9 anodes to 1 pin) so it could still be a binary computer.

    It was most definitely a decimal computer [wikipedia.org].

  • by dtmos (447842) * on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @06:00AM (#42038699)

    Dekatron valves [wikipedia.org] are an example of a solution to the problem of making storage registers before integrated circuits made them essentially free. Making reliable working memory was one of the biggest problems faced by the early computer hardware designers, and Dekatron valves (tubes) were one of the more creative solutions. Of course, the reliability of solid-state electronics made them a technological backwater, but that makes them no less interesting -- it's fun to speculate on how things would have worked out if cold-cathode valves remained the dominant storage technology.

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