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Era Computers (and what Rapture might mutate them into)


Real Computer technology from the late 40s and 50s  :


Computers for Rapture :



Wall of Tubes Computer - Eniac 1946 (Its Look Was Cloned for Minervas Den)



Walloftubes

The computer technology developed/changed/advanced fast (even upto 1952, though Ryan would allow access for important tech advancements after 'The Isolation'). Earlier machines would (and did) become obsolete very quickly.

Later in Rpature, The Thinker would have to be something quite a bit more advanced (and much of that was also in its programming)

Other smaller Rapture computers would be of those old types (tube monster style). It is unlikely that you'd have more than one (if any) of those big 'mainframe' computer because of its expense (and is there really a need for it ?) The Smaller ones would be used for accounting and scientific/engineering number processing.

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Tubes

Tubes from Minervas Den. Unfortunately Tube technology computers aren't anywhere near as fast (or compact enough) to perform anything like the processing any kind of simple AI requires. Even your simple smartphone exceeds what the old Tube computers did by several magnitudes.




McClendonHydraulicMechanicalLogic

Miniaturized Mechanical Logic ?

Early robots used various mechanical (and later simple electric) mechanisms to perform their function. Think of your thermostat as a simple robot - it has a feed back mechanism which maintains a temperature between a proscribed adjustable (programmable) range. For more complex operations such mechanisms can get terribly complicated and have to grow faster in detail than the complexity they perform. Mechanical devices (largely analog) have to be manually tuned and adjusted and constantly maintained, which forces them eventually into being ineffective solutions.

Robots STILL require some mechanical devices, but having a digital computer, with its precision much more controllable, doing complex decisions and guiding operations sidesteps much inefficiency. More complex control decisions can be carried out without as steep an increase in required mechanism to implement that programmed 'intelligence'.




Plugboard

Plugboard programming Office Computer

Plugboard used to program first generation computers. These Systems (including second generation computers about the size of a large desk) usually processed punchcards for simple office accounting operations. That whole Board is swapable allowing changing of programs (patterns of the data wires connecting the different functional sections of the processors).




AnalogFireComputer

Warships Fire Control Computer

An Analog (mechanical) gun fire control computer for a warship (contemporary with Rapture's era). SO, were the early 'automatic' Bathyspheres supposed to have this inside them ??? Not likely possible assuming they could navigate in real time (something hard even TODAY to do).




Transistermodule

Transistor based Mainframe module

One of the big (real world) Mainframe Company's transistor circuitry. Replaceable modules many times smaller than the earlier 'tube' systems. There appears to be only 4 Transistors, but that's the equivalent of 4 typical Vacuum Tubes. Quite a bit less space and less power required.




Selectron4096

Selectron Tube with 4096 bits of memory - this model was to difficult to produce as a product.



Selectron256

256 bit Selectron Tube (computer memory late 40s/early 50s) - These were the ones that were successfully produced and deployed on a few computers.




LGP-21

Computer not much more than an adding machine, except it is programmable, and able to handle punchtape data input. Main Memory was a solid magnetic disk (4K of memory). Unit had only 300 tubes. This cost as much as a suburb house - $16000.




Behindrowsoftubes

Removable Plug Modules (sometimes called 'fingers') with one or two tubes and a number of components plugged into the other side of this array of sockets. Then the next tier of wiring (seen here) interconnected those Modules.




1955circuitboardfortube

Circuit board still with a Miniature Tube (semiconductor) used on a military computer developed in the mid 50s.



Much Older Stuff :

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Patch Panel Programming (Early Programmable Computer Calculators) :

Pix

Data coming in from punchcards/papertape and optical(Ink mark on bills) readers is routed via manually movable signal wires around to different mathematical digital-electronic functional circuit blocks of the computer, to carry out simple numeric processing and transactions. The cards, representing simple transactions (like Bills or Accounts), are manually preprocessed with card sorters into different sets (like Deposit transactions versus Withdrawals). The data 'sets' would then be run through a particular program which does the required numeric operations (tallyings, account adjustments, use rate/fee calculations).

The "Patch Panels" (of prewired 'programs') are in a removable plug-frame assembly, so that more than one program process can be run by swapping the plug frame between a set of alternate panel inserts (each 'program' with a different wired data flow pattern/functionality).

Some small companies maintained simple systems like this for their common accounting well into the PC age.

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Small Computers (Histrorical) :

24-bit computers 6bit-op 3bit-addrmode 15bit addr or  ? 12addr for 4K banks, or 3 4bit register indexes (lots of different architectural options in those earlier days)

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Actual Dificulty with Those Oldtime (REAL) Computers - Their Very Small Memory :

There was just not that much memory inside those old computers, and external access to data (like data tapes) was very slow. A small data memory means not just limited data, but the programs themselves were quite small, and extra expertise was required to make anything useful fit into the available memory, and it required complex tricks for anything larger. Esoteric (and expensive) mechanisms were used for the early memory, and later improvements using Magnetic Core Memory expanded capacities a magnitude and decreased cost, but the amount of memory was still a tiny fraction of what the smallest computers had even 20 years ago.

Similar problems would exist with Rapture's computers. I don't want to go to Fantasyland and push the general technology too far in advance of where most of it would naturally be in a 50s era world. Brain Boost and exceptional talent still does not result in a decades-early broad multitude of previously non-existent technological advancements. So much of real world computer tech is dependant on numerous advancements in whole families of technologies - tools, materials, processes (which Rapture couldn't yet produce or obtain). The Thinker itself isn't a tablet computer, but a monstrous mainframe system. Any advances are still largely restricted, with the majority of Rapture's systems construction mostly still being tech equivalents from the 50s or early 60s.

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Foresight is Good :

Some Not Quite Visionary Computer Maker in Rapture declared that "The Most Memory Any Computer Would Ever Need would Be One KiloWord" - a rather short sighted thing to say. (Note -- Bill Gates once uttered something like this, showing he wasn't quite as much a "Visionary" as claimed, paraphrased : "No PC will EVER need more than 640K memory" ... causing the retardation of his companies Operating System by several years).

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mechanical_calculator

http://www.analogmuseum.org/english/impressions/

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Some Pre-Thinker Rapture Computers used Mercury Delay Tube Memory ? (Scrapped machinery seen in Minervas Den ??) :

Main Memory was a chokepoint for early computers before transistors and magnetic-core memory. The first mechanism was to use vacuum tubes to store the data bits. Even just for the CPU data registers (the blinky lights you most often see in the popular view of a 'computer') that was a substantial number of vacuum tubes (a data 'word' big enough to handle 6 digit numbers is 24 bits at least 24 tubes). Programs in those times were often manually set via many switches and wireplugs into plugboards to guide the logic operations and the data flowing thru the computers, and in and out as punchcards/punchtape. To have programs live in memory, there had to be enough memory to store the many (at least dozens/hundreds) 'words' of machine codes needed for an adequate processing functionality(program). So they tried to find ways without using vacuum tubes to store large counts of bits/words which could be accessed quickly enough to be the computers program.

An early computer memory mechanism was a set of mercury filled tubes with an acoustic transducer on one end and a vibration sensor at the other. A series of clicks representing bits was sonically broadcast into one end and electrically picked up on the other end to feed back around continuously, making a repeating delay loop (the delay was via the speed of sound in the mercury - 1450 meters per second, traveling the length of a several foot long tube). The bits could be modified (or regenerated continuously) as they came back around via the electronic components.

In a 2 foot mercury tube, the signal would go around ~2356 times a second using vibrations at 'click' frequencies around 1.3Mhz to store more than 512 bits per tube. Enough mercury tubes were used in parallel to equal the bits of the computers's memory word (usually 32). Because of the linear delay (waiting for specific data to cycle around), it operated as RAM only if the Computer's instruction speed matched the memory's cycling frequency. Many computers at the time did run near 2356 instructions per second (still THAT is 3000 times faster than a man with an adding machine)..

Such memory mechanisms were cheaper than the equivalent using a number of discrete vacuum tubes (back when the whole computer had around 1000 words of RAM memory - 4KB). A somewhat faster memory system used CRT (Cathode Ray Tubes) to store bits as points on a screen, which persisted long enough, and could be read and written. These were later superseded by faster/cheaper/denser/less finicky Magnetic Core Memory and later (1970) IC RAM chips. In the MMORPG's Rapture, ADAM based Bio-Electronic nerve cell based memory was developed in the mid 50s.

http://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images?_adv_prop=image&fr=sfp&va=core+memory

Some ICBM missile systems, which had to have miniaturized and VERY rugged 'memory', used very simple magnetic hard drives to contain a few thousand words of program and data.

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State of Programming :

Real World, the first stored program computers (not using Plugboards or arrays of switches/dials) did not happen until 1947, and programming languages not til around 1955. With some possible Rapture accelerated advancement, a limited/specialized 'Programming Language' may have been available earlier in Rapture (Porter would need something like this for his AI, and it is something that could be produced by a single man). The earliest computer 'languages' were really shorthands and 'macros' where patterns which were used repeatedly could be written and then expanded by a program to produce the machine code that was fed into the computer.

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