The old computers that led us into the computing revolution. The 10,000 dollar PDP-8.

Posted: June 3, 2012. At: 5:13 AM. This was 5 years ago. Post ID: 3996

The 10,000 dollar PDP-8. It has 4 Kilobytes of RAM!
The 10,000 dollar PDP-8. It has 4 Kilobytes of RAM!

This is the PDP-8 computer. This beast had 4 Kilobytes of RAM and was quite the purchase back in the day. You could program in FORTRAN on this machine, entering code with a teletype input. The more powerful PDP-9 had twice the RAM, 8 Kilobytes to be precise and cost only 35,000 dollars. But with double the memory and processing power, your productivity would be even higher. This is how far computers have come. 8 Kilobytes of RAM was a lot in 1966, the computers that sent the astronauts to the moon were about the same level of power as this computer. A hand-held graphing calculator today has more power than the engineers in 1966 could have dreamed of. To think that the movie 2001 had a computer that could talk and read lips, and that was released in 1968. We are getting close to constructing a computer like the Hal 9000, but the interface to the computer might be a little different to what we saw in that excellent movie.

The PDP computer is using core memory, this uses ferrite cores and wires to store bits of information. A byte of information is eight bits. A 5 1/2 inch floppy disk in the old days could store 360 Kilobytes of information, with some managing to fit 1.2 Megabytes of information on a disk. Of course we can now purchase hard disks with capacities of 2 Tera-bytes, which is 2048 Gigabytes or 2097152 Megabytes. I used to think that a 160 Gigabyte hard disk was a huge size, now 500 Gigabytes is just fine. Hard disk capacities are planned to reach 60 Tera-bytes in the future. I remember using a computer with a 10 Megabyte hard disk, and we thought that was a large size. But computers have moved on since then and now we have multi-terabyte hard disks and the ability to use up to 32 Gigabytes of RAM in a single computer. That is a good amount if you are loading very large images into a photo editing program or doing video editing. Installing four 8 Gigabyte RAM sticks will give you that.

A computer from the 1950`s.

The amount of processing power we have even in a cell phone these days is incredible.Not to forget the storage capacity that is ever growing. In the old days we had Winchester hard disks that ranged in size from 10, 20, 30 and 40 megabytes. A lot of space back then and if you had a DOS system with doublespace, you could use compression to double that to 80 megabytes. The Winchester was a large unit, you could fit about three modern SATA II hard disks in a mounting in the space that this takes up, but the platters and the overall drive was huge back then.The old 5 1/2 floppy disks were originally single sided, but the platters could store information on both sides. You could punch a slot into the disk with a special tool and make the disk double sided. I saw a 5 1/2 floppy disk in an old episode of MacGyver and it reminded me of this old technology. A 1.44 Megabyte floppy disk in the hard casing was slightly more reliable, but USB flash drives with 8 Gigabyte capacity can fit a lot more. Floppy drives are only used for playing music these days.

A good look at the olde Winchester hard drive in all it`s naked glory.

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