David C. Brock is an historian of technology, and Director of the Center for Software History at the Computer History Museum. He focuses on histories of computing, electronics and instrumentation, as well as on oral history. Brock’s work in the history of semiconductor electronics includes Thackray, Brock and Jones, Moore’s Law: The Life of Gordon Moore, Silicon Valley’s Quiet Revolutionary (Basic Books, 2015 http://amzn.com/0465055648); Lécuyer and Brock, Makers of the Microchip: A Documentary History of Fairchild Semiconductor (MIT Press, 2010 http://amzn.com/0262014246); and Brock (ed.) Understanding Moore’s Law (CHF, 2005 http://amzn.com/0941901416). He has served as a writer and executive-producer for several recent documentary shorts and hour-long television documentaries including: “Moore’s Law at 50” (https://vimeo.com/123452018); “Scientists You Must Know” (https://vimeo.com/107862869); “Gordon Moore” (https://vimeo.com/70293585); and “Arnold O. Beckman” (https://vimeo.com/84708496). Brock is on Twitter @dcbrock
Perhaps you are like me: You’ve aware that quantum computing is a hot topic today but have a nagging feeling that you don’t really have a good picture of what it’s all about. Sure, you know it has something to do with the unintuitive behavior of the world described by quantum mechanics—cats in boxes that are blends of alive and dead until you look inside, and photons coordinating their properties instantaneously over great distances and that are also sometimes a particle and sometimes a wave. And you also know that somehow in this weird behavior, researchers see the possibility for a new kind of computer that accomplish feats that computers like the ones that you own could never dream of doing. Oh, and you know there is something about these quantum computers being able to break all the codes.Read More
In 1950, the physicist Arnold Nordsieck built himself this analog computer. Nordsieck, then at the University of Illinois, had earned his PhD at the University of California, Berkeley, under Robert Oppenheimer. To make his analog computer for calculating differential equations, the inventive and budget-conscious Nordsieck relied on US $700 worth of military surplus parts, particularly synchros — specialized motors that translate the position of the shaft into an electrical signal, and vice versa.Read More
The experience of women, and the issues of gender and sexuality, are vitally important to our understanding of the story of computing, and hence our contemporary world, for many reasons. Perhaps most straightforwardly, women have been ubiquitous throughout the history of computing as makers and users of it. As Eileen Clancy, the archivist and City University of New York graduate student, so aptly put it in her recent talk “Sekiko Yoshida: Abacus ‘Software’ in the Early US Space Program” at the Society for the History of Technology’s 2017 meeting: “The women are always there, if you look for them.”Read More
“There is no cloud,” goes the quip. “It’s just someone else’s computer.”The joke gets at a key feature of cloud computing: Your data and the software to process it reside in a remote data center — perhaps owned by Amazon, Google, or Microsoft — which you share with many users even if it feels like it’s yours alone.
A supercomputer is simply a computer that can perform many more calculations per second than the typical computer of its era. The definition is in constant flux. Yesterday’s supercomputer packed the punch of today’s smartphone. From 1969 to 1975, Control Data Corp.’s CDC 7600 was considered the world’s fastest computer, running at 36 megahertz. An iPhone 7, by contrast, runs at 2.33 gigahertz — nearly 100 times as fast as the 7600.Read More
COMMUNITY MEMORY is the name we give to this experimental information service. It is an attempt to harness the power of the computer in the service of the community. We hope to do this by providing a sort of super bulletin board where people can post notices of all sorts and can find the notices posted by others rapidly.Read More
In many parts of our world today, group communication centers on visual materials built with “presentation software,” often crafted by a speaker him or herself. As a result, meetings now generally depend on the use of personal computers, presentation software in the guises of product or service and display by digital projectors or flat-screens.Read More