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The Computer Labs That Created the Digital World

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the in-the-beginning dept.

Digital 48

MrSeb writes "In the time of Socrates, Plato and Cicero, great minds came together in local forums or sophist schools. The Enlightenment of the 18th century was triggered by homely gatherings at salons and fueled by the steaming hotpot of coffeehouses and caffeine. Today we still use forums, of course, and plenty of inventions and insight still originate from coffeehouses, but most innovation occurs in laboratories. ExtremeTech takes a look at the six computer labs that gave birth to the digital world — from Bletchley Park in Blighty, to PARC labs in Palo Alto, and everything in between."

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I don't know about you (1)

Hsien-Ko (1090623) | more than 3 years ago | (#37124154)

but my computer labs had digital brand Pentium MMX 200s all over the place, preloaded with Windows 95C w/ the crappy IE4 "Shell Update".

Re:I don't know about you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37126226)

My first computer lab had ancient Apples. We're talking Apple IIe's. Later, we had proper Macintoshes. Then I went to a private high school, and there was no computer lab. Just a junky ass 386 running Windows 3.0. I switched to a public high school, and we had computer *labs*.

Of course, the one used for the programming course my high school offered had a mix of 386 and 486s. Meanwhile, box upon box of shiny, brand new, super-fast (hah!) Pentium II's were sitting in a storage closet, unused - except for the few that were in use for tech students. Not lolnerdtech, we're talking vocational tech. Future mechanics and chefs and plumbers and such. Not that I have anything against plumbers - if I had any brains, I would've dropped out of this industry long ago to fix yer drains. Less stress, more money, better hours, and I'd be able to show ass crack. :P But seriously, you'd think you'd want the kids taking a programming course to have decent equipment, yeah?

Meh.

Went to college. Tons of labs. All of it was either Sun or Apple - iMacs, at the time, with the fancy fruity teal case and no floppy drive. The floppy drive was still important at the time; there was no viable replacement yet other than stupidly expensive Zip disks. Mad props to Jobs for leading the drive to kill 1.44 MB floppies, though.

I think there was a Windows lab somewhere. I don't know. I do know we had a T3 for the campus, which was at capacity. 24/7. Even at 4 AM. With people downloading music and playing Half-Life'n shit.

I don't know where I'm going with this, to be honest, so I'll stop now.

"DIGITAL" aka DEC logo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37124176)

There's no mention of Digital Equipment Corporation in the article... why the DIGITAL logo on the Slashdot story?

Re:"DIGITAL" aka DEC logo (1)

mirix (1649853) | more than 3 years ago | (#37125534)

Obviously anything digital is related to DEC, duh. It says so right on their logo.

Awful on mobile device (1)

line-bundle (235965) | more than 3 years ago | (#37124190)

It's practically unreadable on my mobile device. Is there a simple page without acrobatics?

Server Names (1)

Shamanin (561998) | more than 3 years ago | (#37124236)

I bet the server names were Socrates, Plato, and Cicero at all six computer labs!

Re:Server Names (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37124510)

I bet the server names were Socrates, Plato, and Cicero at all six computer labs!

How about Gates, Balmer, Jobs and Wozniack?

Re:Server Names (1)

wsxyz (543068) | more than 3 years ago | (#37124532)

What about Allen?

The author overlooked Project MAC et al (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37124282)

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

Silicon Valley entry is weak (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37124294)

The transcontinental railroad terminated in Palo Alto?
Is Apple anywhere on that map?

bell labs (2)

v1 (525388) | more than 3 years ago | (#37124312)

first one that really comes to my mind. so many great innovations came from there. but not specifically computers, more just plain technology (and more specifically, electronics)

Re:bell labs (2)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | more than 3 years ago | (#37124990)

Naw. Not specifically computers. Just little things like Unix were invented there.

Re:bell labs (1)

mirix (1649853) | more than 3 years ago | (#37125544)

Computing would look quite a bit different without the transistor, UNIX, and C, among many other things.

Re:bell labs (1)

chthon (580889) | more than 3 years ago | (#37127254)

Or even without the fundamental mathematical theorems developed by them crazy mathematicians at Bell Labs between roughly 1917 and 1947.

Re:bell labs (1)

bedouin (248624) | more than 3 years ago | (#37127602)

Without Bell Labs we wouldn't have the vocoder, which was originally used for encryption before finding its way into music.

would love to visit (2)

2fuf (993808) | more than 3 years ago | (#37124318)

I briefly visited San José and San Fransisco in 2003 for the Game Developers Conference. I phoned Xerox PARC to inquire whether they had guided tours, but they didn't (I guess maybe parts of it were still operational/considered company secrets?). Later I was able to visit Macromedia's office which was a huge thrill, although basically it was simply an office, nothing very special to see. To me it meant much, being a Flash developer from Amsterdam in those days I was very excited to meet the people who were actually building that software. In the form of Flex I still use it everyday, although I've become more of a Java developer/CTO now.

I'm sure the companies in Silicon Valley could make some nice bucks on the side by providing guided tours to several big industry names. It would be a great way for these companies to emphasize their brand names too. Heck, if I were living there, I'd probably start up a company doing exactly that :-)

Re:would love to visit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37124370)

"I'm sure the companies in Silicon Valley could make some nice bucks on the side by providing guided tours to several big industry names."

There is NOTHING to see in a Silicon Valley office.
The inside of PARC today looks just like the inside of pretty much any office building.
Apple was a sea of Herman Miller before Infinite Loop was built. The inside of Infinite Loop
is a sea of hard-walled offices just like PARC.

Re:would love to visit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37124398)

True, but the Google cafeteria is supposedly another story. A food tour of Silicon Valley might be worth something.

Re:would love to visit (3, Informative)

leighklotz (192300) | more than 3 years ago | (#37124544)

There are two ways anyone can visit PARC:
1. PARC Forum every Thursday http://www.parc.com/events/forum.html [parc.com]
      Not a guided tour, but you get to ask questions. And the talks are available for viewing afterward.
      I've asked questions of Guido van Rossum (a famous Dutchman no doubt you know) and Jill Tarter (SETI), and dozens of others.
2. Art exhibits
      There are art exhibits occasionally and they have guided tours of the art on specified days.
      You don't get to ask any questions; it's just an art exhibit space.

Intel has a small museum you can visit, and the Computer History Museum in Mountain View is a must-see.
The Tech computer museum in San Jose is iffy even if you have kids (exhibits aren't well maintained) though the imax theatre there is nice.

Now, what can I see in Amsterdam ;-)

Re:would love to visit (1)

isopropanol (1936936) | more than 3 years ago | (#37125030)

I stayed in Cupertino last May; it was a weekend so nothing was open.

Re:would love to visit (2)

hedronist (233240) | more than 3 years ago | (#37125268)

I briefly visited San José and San Fransisco in 2003 [...]. I phoned Xerox PARC to inquire whether they had guided tours, but they didn't...

At the suggestion of a friend from the PLATO IV project (Hi, Mike!) I visited PARC in September of 1974. Not knowing anything about it I walked up to the front desk and asked if I could have a tour. The nice lady asked where I was working and I said I had just moved to the area and didn't have a job yet. She said she would see if there was someone who had some time.

About 15 minutes later this nice guy came out and proceeded to give me about a 2.5 hour tour. I was not only amazed at the tech they had, but also at how deeply he seemed to understand all of it. It was a like a walk through Disneyland led by Walt himself. I called my friend and absolutely bubbled over about what I had seen. He asked who had shown me around and I admitted I was horrible with names, but I knew his first name was .... Alan. I also told my friend that someday I hoped to work there.

Yes, it was Alan Kay, and although I never worked at PARC, 4 years later I was working down the hill at Xerox ASD on the BravoX project with the in/famous Charles Simonyi as my manager.

Good times.

Outrage! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37124342)

They didn't talk about "Bandley 3" - the building of the original Macintosh team where they flew a pirate flag and Steve Jobs inspired the crew to 80-hour a week death marches with his iconic statement: "It's better to be a pirate than join the navy".

Never was there a more important computer lab, in all the entire history of computers!

Apple II's had a GUI and mouse? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37124348)

According to the 'experts' who wrote the article the legacy from Xerox's PARC was carried on by the Apple II (1977) which had a GUI and mouse. It wasn't until 1986 with the Apple IIgs that they added the GUI and mouse. If this represents the level of knowledge these bozo possess I wouldn't trust anything else they said.

Re:Apple II's had a GUI and mouse? (1)

wsxyz (543068) | more than 3 years ago | (#37124376)

Well they had an add-on mouse-based desktop program and "mousepaint" in 1983 or so to go along with the original Apple mouse card, but Apple first implemented the windows/mouse interface in 1982 with the Lisa.

Re:Apple II's had a GUI and mouse? (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#37124484)

they had a sparse few GUI programs on the 8 bit II's, the IIc came with a mouse port standard in 84, the apple II mouse card was developed about the same time as machintosh (1981 according to folklore)

http://www.folklore.org/StoryView.py?project=Macintosh&story=Apple_II_Mouse_Card.txt [folklore.org]

Volta Labs? (4, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#37124354)

This is another one of those "top N, one per page, ads on every page" ad farm trolls.

Their list isn't too impressive, either. Bell Labs, yes. IBM Watson, yes. PARC, yes. But where's the Moore School of Electrical Engineering, from which came ENIAC, and the beginnings of UNIVAC, the first commercial electronic computer to go into production? Also, Bletchly Park wasn't that influential because nobody knew about it until the 1970s.

What we call a "computer" today is properly a stored-program general purpose digital computer. There were machines built before that which had some, but not all, of those attributes. Bletchley Park's machines fall into that category). The WWII US crypto operation was at Arlington Hall, which did more hardware development than Bletchley Park. were developed. They were using punched cards where Bletchley used people and filing cabinets, and they seem to have developed digital magnetic tape, although the history there is cloudy. NSA is the direct descendant of Arlington Hall.

Another major pre-computer computing company was Teleregister, which was a spinoff from Western Union in 1949. They pioneered "remote computing" for stock quotations, railroad ticketing, and airline ticketing. Their Magnetronic Reservisor was the first big remote-access system, with magnetic drums holding the reservation data.

Re:Volta Labs? (4, Interesting)

webmistressrachel (903577) | more than 3 years ago | (#37125060)

I hate to tell you this (can't you tell?), but the Ferranti Mark one, based on Alan Turing's Manchester "Baby", was the first commercially produced programmable computer.

You pesky Americans, always trying to rewrite history! You're modded Insightful, too, and I bet I get "Troll" mods for stating facts, yet again.

Re:Volta Labs? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37125272)

But I suppose that it is just a historical aberration that nearly nobody has ever heard of it? Or that Manchester is not the 'center' of the internet, nor is particularly accredited for developing it? I suppose that is all just some misconception that us Americans have out of a sense of in-born national pride? In your own ventricular, 'piss off, ya tosser'.

Re:Volta Labs? (-1, Troll)

webmistressrachel (903577) | more than 3 years ago | (#37125484)

"Nearly nobody has ever heard of it?"

You stupid fucker, that's because you've gone about rewriting the history of computing, and you dominate the Internet with posts like the one I replied to.

Where do I claim that Manchester is the "center" of the internet? Alan Turing is the forefather of modern computing, and the "Manchester Baby" was the prototype of the aforementioned first commercial programmable computer.

How the hell can you justify telling me to "piss off, ya tosser" when I posted a FACT, disputing yet another Amero-centric attempt at twisting people's perceptions of history. And you wonder why the rest of the world hates America and Americans, you even play that card in your attempt to turn groupthink against me.

So in one post, you confirm that you're bullies, that you wish to downplay others' achievements ("nor is particular accredited") - Turing Machine you dumbass!!!! and you are liars - attributing something I never said to me. Fucking die and leave others to create a fair and just society - hey, I'll give you this one for free - it's called Manchester Capitalism (yes it fucking is do your research before trolling again) and it's something we WISH we could re-write here in Manchester!!!

Manchester? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37130058)

You'll be claiming that nuclear physics was virtually invented there next...

Re:Manchester? (1)

webmistressrachel (903577) | more than 3 years ago | (#37130626)

I dont claim anything of the sort - I must say, AC, you're scraping the bottom of the barrel here, the post you are replying to is fact. Manchesters contributions to computing and economics are so solid that if you cant be bothered checking my facts you deserve to live the American fantasy, and you will take the consequences of trying to rewrite history with the rest of your brethren. The world has had enough of everything you are doing, not just rewriting the past. Your 'military might' is stretched as it is, I dont think you can handle europe, china and russia as well. Id quit doing this crap right now if I was you. I just cant believe the amount of you who think you beat turing to it, or think the world was created in 6 days a few thousand years ago. As I said to another troll, the world's better off without you lot.

Re:Manchester? (1)

neonsignal (890658) | more than 3 years ago | (#37173926)

I think you missed AC's British humour:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geiger-Marsden_experiment [wikipedia.org]

Re:Manchester? (1)

webmistressrachel (903577) | more than 3 years ago | (#37177308)

So nuclear physics WAS invented here, then? I've been trolled... lol... oh the irony...

Either way, I'm proud to be Mancunian!

Re:Volta Labs? (1)

BluBrick (1924) | more than 3 years ago | (#37125602)

This is another one of those "top N, one per page, ads on every page" ad farm trolls.

I propose the name "Listvertizing"

No university labs (1)

Relayman (1068986) | more than 3 years ago | (#37130372)

Agreed. They didn't mention any university research facilities. MIT, University of Illinois and UC, Berkely immediately come to mind.

CERN (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37124488)

Um, no mention of CERN? Or NCSA???

WTF? Sophists? (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 3 years ago | (#37124814)

In the time of Socrates, Plato and Cicero, great minds came together in local forums or sophist schools.

WTF? I thought Socrates and Plato were against the Sophists? I think that statement just made him turn over in his grave.

Re:WTF? Sophists? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37125014)

He said in the time of Socrates. There were sophists around at that time.

As for the relation between Socrates and the Sophists:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophist [wikipedia.org]

And they left out (1)

bgspence (155914) | more than 3 years ago | (#37124846)

a few thousand others.

uhhh... MIT and Harvard? (3, Interesting)

lophophore (4087) | more than 3 years ago | (#37125086)

I think they missed something important...

Sure, Silicon Valley and Stanford. They get their props.

But what about 128 ("America's Technology Highway") in Massachusetts, centering around MIT and Harvard?

Digital, Data General, Wang, Prime -- all from that area. Raytheon. Analog Devices. Symbolics. BBN. The list goes on and on.

Multix, Tenex -- foundations from which modern interactive operating systems were derived -- from MIT. Harvard has a *computer architecture* named after it.

Ok. Never mind what I said about Silicon Valley. They were late to the party.

Re:uhhh... MIT and Harvard? (1)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131866)

I think they missed something important...

Sure, Silicon Valley and Stanford. They get their props.

But what about 128 ("America's Technology Highway") in Massachusetts, centering around MIT and Harvard?

Digital, Data General, Wang, Prime -- all from that area. Raytheon. Analog Devices. Symbolics. BBN. The list goes on and on.

Multix, Tenex -- foundations from which modern interactive operating systems were derived -- from MIT. Harvard has a *computer architecture* named after it.

Ok. Never mind what I said about Silicon Valley. They were late to the party.

Heeheehee...he said Wang.

Inaccurate article ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37125366)

The choice of labs is one thing, but there are a number of historical inaccuracies in there too.

Patents (1)

StripedCow (776465) | more than 3 years ago | (#37127070)

In retrospect, I guess they should have patented everything they could. But of course, legal departments are always lagging behind.

What is left of Bell Labs? (1)

mallyn (136041) | more than 3 years ago | (#37127672)

Folks:

I happen to be visiting family in Morristown, New Jersey.

I am curious, what is left of Bell Labs? Is anything at all left?

I know that AT&T is not what it used to be and much of Bell Labs will sold off of closed

I was hoping to perhaps drive by what is left of Bell Labs just to see it and say to folks that I saw the place.

Anyone out there know what is left and is it anywhere close to Morristown or Harding?

Thanks

patents to follow? (1)

Max_W (812974) | more than 3 years ago | (#37128070)

One should be very skeptical while reading such articles. First pseudo-historical myths are created, then everything is patented out from the global market.

No no no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37129498)

This is impossible. Slashdot's resident crew of Space Nutters and Space Jihadists have assured me that computers only exist because of Apollo. There were no smart people before we filled metal tubes with kerosene and sat three type-A gung-ho test pilots on top of it.

Is that a code review happening in the first pic? (1)

Zaatxe (939368) | more than 3 years ago | (#37134866)

Or was that a pair programming from 50 years ago?
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