[TUHS] Corbato dead

Rich Salz rich.salz at gmail.com
Tue May 9 08:06:41 AEST 2023

It was basically a selectric on top of a box with little hooks. It pulled
each key right?

On Mon, May 8, 2023, 2:47 PM Clem Cole <clemc at ccc.com> wrote:

> Indeed -- and the sounds it made were distinct.   Different from ASRxx or
> 2741's
> For the younger crew, this made the light and >>so much quieter<< TI
> Silent 700 of 10 years later such a marvel:
> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silent_700
> On Mon, May 8, 2023 at 12:12 PM ron minnich <rminnich at gmail.com> wrote:
>> ah, the flexowriter, for those who never saw it, was literally a
>> typewriter with solenoids at the bottom. I owned one, it was a miracle to
>> behold.
>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friden_Flexowriter#/media/File:Flexowriter_2201_Programatic.jpg
>> On Mon, May 8, 2023 at 7:19 AM Douglas McIlroy <
>> douglas.mcilroy at dartmouth.edu> wrote:
>>> Although it dates from four years ago, MIT's obituary for Corbató was
>>> still interesting to reread. It couldn't bring itself to mention
>>> Unix--only the latecomer Linux. It also peddled some mythology about
>>> Whirlwind from the decade before timesharing.
>>> "Whirlwind was ... a rather clunky machine. Researchers often had
>>> trouble getting much work done on it, since they had to take turns
>>> using it for half-hour chunks of time. (Corbató said that it had a
>>> habit of crashing every 20 minutes or so.)"
>>> "Clunky" perhaps refers to Whirlwind's physical size. It occupied two
>>> stories of the Barta Building, not counting the rotating AC/DC
>>> motor-generators in the basement. But it was not ponderous; its clean
>>> architecture prefigured "RISC" by two decades.
>>> Only a few favored people got "chunks" of (night) time on Whirlwind
>>> for interactive use. In normal business hours it was run by dedicated
>>> operators, who fed it user-submitted code on punched paper tape.
>>> Turnaround time was often as short as an hour--including the
>>> development of microfilm, the main output medium. Hardware crashes
>>> were rare--much rarer than experience with vacuum-tube radios would
>>> lead one to expect--thanks to "marginal testing", in which voltages
>>> were ramped up and down once a day to smoke out failing tubes before
>>> they could affect real computing. My recollection is that crashes
>>> happened on a time scale of days, not minutes.
>>> "Clunky" would better describe the interface of the IBM 704, which
>>> displaced Whirlwind in about 1956. How backward the 60-year-old
>>> uppercase-only Hollerith card technology seemed, after the humane full
>>> Flexowriter font we had enjoyed on Whirlwind. But the 704 had the
>>> enormous advantages of native floating-point (almost all computing was
>>> floating-point in those days) and FORTRAN. (Damn those capital
>>> letters!)
>>> Doug
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