History and Nostalgia
The history of
Autodesk and AutoCAD told through contemporary documents,
edited and annotated by Autodesk founder John Walker.
You can read this 900 page book
on-line on the World-Wide Web, or download a
copy to read or print off-line in either
or Adobe Acrobat PDF format.
New: Fifth edition (2017) updates to modern Web standards,
typography, and navigation.
In 1837, Charles Babbage invented The Analytical Engine, a
mechanical card-programmed digital computer which anticipated almost
every aspect of the electronic computers which would not appear for
more than a century afterward. These pages are a virtual museum where you can
explore the Engine both through historical documents and a Java-based
emulator which allows you to experience for yourself what it
would have been like to program a steam-powered computer.
shmillennium! Round numbers depend on which calendar you use to keep
score; human cultures have invented dozens of calendars over the
centuries, all equally valid. Our
calendars from various cultures and computer time representations.
This paper, using Stephen Wolfram's
A New Kind of Science
and Frank Vertosick's
as points of departure,
suggests that reliable, robust, bulk digital memory is both the secret
of life and why computers so fascinate us.
There are many disadvantages to being a balding geezer. In
compensation, if you've managed to survive the second half of
the twentieth century and been involved in computing, there's bearing
personal witness to what happens when a
technological transition goes into full-tilt
exponential blow-off mode. I'm talking about Moore's Law—computing
power available at constant cost doubling every 18 months or so. When
Moore's Law is directly wired to your career and bank account,
it's nice to have a little thermometer you can use to see how it's
going as the years roll by. This page links to two benchmarks I've
used to evaluate computer performance ever since 1980. They focus on
things which matter dearly to me—floating point computation speed,
evaluation of trigonometric functions, and matrix algebra. If you're
interested in text searching or database retrieval speed, you should
run screaming from these benchmarks. Hey, they work for me.
New September 2012 update adds Haskell to the C, FORTRAN,
Visual Basic (6 and .NET) implementations of the original floating
point benchmark, and includes a comparison of the relative performance
of these languages.
What's a "WUXGA"? Ever since the advent of the IBM PC,
manufacturers of personal computers, graphics adaptors, monitors,
and projectors have obfuscated the resolution of their hardware
with increasingly grotesque acronyms. This document deconstructs
the various acronyms and provides the information you ought to
have been given in the first place: how many pixels each mode
Before computers and calculators, there were slide rules. It is difficult for people today to appreciate just how magic it was to be
able to carry a small tool, made of bamboo and plastic, that could perform many of the computations of engineering and science which
used to be so tedious in mere seconds, as long as you were happy with its limited precision.
This document explores this vintage computing tool, using it to solve a variety of
problems ranging from loading a turnip truck to interstellar flight.
Relive the chilling calculations of the Cold War with this
interactive edition of the Nuclear Bomb Effects Computer published in
1962 by the United States Atomic Energy Commission. Enter the yield
and range, and the full suite of weapons effects will be displayed
just as on the original pocket slide rule. Nuclear weapons users who
prefer a physical slide rule, either out of nostalgia or an
appreciation for its ability to operate in post-apocalyptic
conditions, will find instructions for making their own.
UNIVAC Memories returns
to the 1960s and early '70s to explore the room-sized UNIVAC
mainframe computers I programmed in those days. Discover million-dollar
memory, two and a quarter ton 100 megabyte hard drives, minus zero,
and other curiosities from the brash adolescence of the second generation of