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The largest computer ever built (scottlocklin.wordpress.com)
119 points by mef 388 days ago | comments


jessriedel 388 days ago | link

> What are the manageable pieces needed to make quantum computing or deriving all electrical power from the sun a reality? I don?t know, and I don?t know of anybody else who does: therefore, such things do not count as legitimate long term projects.

Boy, that wording rubs me the wrong way. This stuff is known as "research". Yes, that makes it highly uncertain. No, that does not make it an illegitimate project.

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drcube 387 days ago | link

Yeah, they're legitimate "research" projects, not "engineering" projects. No usable device is expected to be produced and put into service at the end. People funding that research are buying knowledge, not useful systems.

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azov 388 days ago | link

If you're in Bay Area, it (well, some pieces of it) is on display in Computer History Museum - http://www.computerhistory.org/VirtualVisibleStorage/artifac...

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mef 388 days ago | link

Thanks for the link. This is mind-blowing:

The software was written by The Rand Corporation and the System Development Corporation (SDC) and employed about 20% of the world’s programmers at the peak of the project.

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smutticus 387 days ago | link

This web design is terrible. I expect better from the Computer History Museum.

I tried Chrome, Safari and Firefox on OS X and it looks terrible in all of them.

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awjr 387 days ago | link

Really? I went there, was able to clearly see a well written article, not cluttered with anything distracting that gave me the information I needed, allowing me to focus 100% on the content.

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dmd 387 days ago | link

He's referring to the Computer History Museum link in the parent, not the SAGE article.

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bostonpete 387 days ago | link

Not sure why you were downvoted -- I agree. The text scrolls off the right side of my browser (maybe b/c I'm not full-screen)? It drives me nuts when sites assume a minimum width of your browser, but this example is especially severe.

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chiph 387 days ago | link

"Core Memory" .. that brings back a memory. I worked on an unrelated system while in the USAF that had 512 bytes of core memory. We had a problem where the data was getting corrupted some of the time, particularly on a message indicator byte that disrupted flow control. After a day of oscilloscope work, it turned out that one core in the array had gone bad, and it just happened to be in the "wrong" place.

The system had been designed in the mid 1960's, and this particular core array had been running since 1970 or so, and this was 1985. So 14 or so years of continuous uptime. There's something to be said about building hardware at the macro size, not the micro size. ;)

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alan_cx 387 days ago | link

If long term projects can be made obsolete by their deployment time, then on what basis can long term project actually happen. What ever you do, it's a gamble.

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rbanffy 387 days ago | link

This is why "release early, release often" was invented.

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sixothree 387 days ago | link

3-112-0_Theory_Of_Programming_Apr59.pdf is quite interesting.

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f4stjack 387 days ago | link

Imagine a beowulf cluster of these...

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rachelbythebay 388 days ago | link

"Our grandfathers knew about fault tolerance"

Just our grandfathers, and not our grandparents as a whole?

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cperciva 388 days ago | link

Given the time period in question, I think it's quite likely that all the people working on this project were men.

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seanmcdirmid 388 days ago | link

Unless your grandmother was Rear Admiral "Amazing" Grace Hopper?

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cperciva 388 days ago | link

I did consider her, but during the period in question she was working at UNIVAC on compilers.

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seanmcdirmid 387 days ago | link

I was fighting the generalization, not the details.

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auctiontheory 388 days ago | link

Well, our grandmothers had to tolerate our grandfathers' faults. That's probably enough to ask.

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Domenic_S 388 days ago | link

"Grandfather" also means 'ancestor'.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/grandfather

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vacri 387 days ago | link

Your own 'ancestor' link is a referal to the definition of father of parent. It's not gender neutral.

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damian2000 388 days ago | link

Another case ... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grandfather_clause

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rachelbythebay 388 days ago | link

Okay, miss.

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slocklin01 388 days ago | link

Women were involved with programming from a fairly early date (you can find videos by Judith Clapp on youtube describing her involvement). As far as I know, they didn't have anything to do with the fault tolerant systems, or designing the computer itself. Therefore: yes, "grandfathers" is the correct word to use. Both in the English language sense, and in the gender sense in this instance.

I'm sorry you think it is more productive to call out perceived slights to your gender, rather than doing something awesome. I guess it's a lot easier kvetching than, you know, actually doing something.

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[deleted]
rachelbythebay 388 days ago | link

It's annoying when you're constantly reminded about how things are messed up, isn't it? It makes you want to leave the situation, right? That's essentially what you're saying.

That's the cat food factory hard at work.

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coolsunglasses 388 days ago | link

'Fraid that's not so.

Nitpicking over grandfathers in an article that wasn't about gender with regards to an era where it was probably an accurate statement?

Must one distort reality in order to be a good feminist now? This sort of behavior damages the cause and just promotes the stereotype of shrill feminists.

It's embarrassing and I don't want to witness it anymore.

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bonaldi 386 days ago | link

Sexist defence of the patriarchy is far more embarrassing, and I don't want to witness that, either. Virtually all the replies here are moronic.

As the piece is not talking about literal grandfathers, there are plenty of non-gendered terms for ancestors that can be used here, and they should be.

Sexism is subtle, and its wounds come from thousands of tiny cuts. Using "grandfather" seems innocuous to you, but it perpetuates the idea of an all-male environment, with wisdom being passed from father to son.

Sexism is a flaw in our environment. If we can't fix even minor bugs like this without dealing with hoonloads of "works for me!" and "feature not a bug", we will never be able to fix the crashers that result in conferences being derailed.

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manicdee 385 days ago | link

Its won thing two complain about distortion off reality but another two ask four a record of history that accurately represent's what actually happened.

How much did you have to resist correcting the grammar of that sentence? Are you nitpicking over grammar where it isn't actually important? Do you need to "distort reality" to be a good grammarian now?

What is embarrassing in our world is people shying away from the discussion of unintentionally sexist language. The words we use shape the thoughts we have. The thoughts we have influence the words we use. It's a reinforcement cycle.

Rather than "grandfathers" what about "forebears"? Since we're not talking about parental relationships any father/mother/parent talk is misleading.

Rachel has a valid criticism. Portraying that criticism as "distort[ing] reality in order to be a good feminist" is disingenuous.

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mich41 387 days ago | link

Yes, it is annoying when random discussions get derailed by feminists.

And no, it makes me (and probably most others) want them to leave.

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[dead]
Dylan16807 387 days ago | link

That is not even remotely helpful.

And a top-level comment isn't a hijack.

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