Sunday, June 22, 2008

Baby is sixty

The world's first computer, "Baby", is sixty. Weighed a ton and had 120 bytes for memory. Not megabytes, not kilobytes, just bytes. I can't even imagine how you can do anything with 120 bytes.
Apparently the computer revolution was sparked near where I live, in Manchester. Watch the video, it's fun.

Update: Alex points out that Baby was also the mother of the earliest known recording of computer-generated music.

I like how the more formal name for Baby was "Small Scale Experimental Machine". These days a "small scale" computer is something you can hide under a fingernail.


ttl said...

120 bytes is plenty for Real Programmers. Back in the days they probably used what they didn't need for cache. ;-)

In 1981, Bill Gates famously declared: "640K of memory should be enough for anybody". The irony is that if MS had sticked to 640K for the kernel, the MS operating system might be very good these days.

Alex said...

Baby, the first "programmable" computer was the first to make music. I would have shared this link earlier, but I didn't know you were interested.

JauBois said...

Unfortunately, it all comes down to dividing fine hairs. Two sentences taken from the article: "Baby was the successor to machines such as the American ENIAC and the UK's Colossus.
The Small Scale Experimental Machine, or "Baby", was the first to contain memory which could store a program." indicate that (a) it is a successor to the ENIAC which was, in fact, a computer and (b) the point that they are making is that it could "store a program" (which, by the way, looks like there is a magnetic drum for storage. Machines like the ENIAC didn't store their programs in the sense we use today: they were literally wired up to perform specific tasks. I believe there was a comment spoken about "that doesn't need to be rebuilt" - which is what the ENIAC would require to perform a different task. And then, although the great machine that Babbage envisioned never came to pass, he did construct a working model of something much simpler. I reckon the point of this comment is that using the word "first" is usually fairly fraught with danger: it often depends merely on opinion or point of view.