History and Nostalgia

The Autodesk File

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 PostScript or Adobe Acrobat PDF format.

The Analytical Engine

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 These pages are a virtual museum where you can explore the Engine both through historical documents and a Java-based emulator which allows you to experience for yourself what it would have been like to program a steam-powered computer.

Calendar Converter

Millennium, 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 Calendar Converter interconverts (in browsers which support JavaScript), a variety of calendars from various cultures and computer time representations.

Computation, Memory, Nature, and Life

This paper, using Stephen Wolfram's A New Kind of Science and Frank Vertosick's The Genius Within as points of departure, suggests that reliable, robust, bulk digital memory is both the secret of life and why computers so fascinate us.

Floating Point Benchmarks

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, QBasic, Ada, Common Lisp, Java, JavaScript, Pascal, Perl, Python, Ruby, Smalltalk, and Visual Basic (6 and .NET) implementations of the original floating point benchmark, and includes a comparison of the relative performance of these languages.

How Many Dots Has It Got?

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 can display.

Strangelove Slide Rule: Nuclear Bomb Effects Computer

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

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 computers.