Science Fiction Dictionary
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

 

The Vacuum Tube Supercomputer Centre

The Vacuum Tube Supercomputer Centre, a fanciful effort by the Hughs Ominous Valve Works, provides an interesting look at how computers might have evolved if the transistor and the integrated circuit had never come into being. Offering “true vector computing at competitive prices”, the Supercomputing Centre

“makes maintenance possible with a fork lift instead of tweezers and a magnifier, and allows a modularity and openness previously impossible in supercomputer architecture. Our industry-leading record for uptime is no accident, as it is common for employees to be changing out or even rewiring circuits while the computer continues steaming away at full speed.”

Computer manufacturers turned to the transistor in the 1950’s, because vacuum tubes tended to leak, and the metal that emitted electrons in the vacuum tubes burned out. Vacuum tubes required so much power that big and complicated circuits were physically too large and took a great deal of energy to run. In the late 1940's, large vacuum tube-based computers were built with over 10,000 tubes; they occupied over 93 square meters of space.

The Vacuum Tube Supercomputing Centre solves the power problem - by providing lots of power. Their “coal-fed boilers power some of the largest turbogenerators ever built by Westinghouse... six of them.”


(From Vacuum Tube Supercomputer Tour)

The random access memory for the computer requires an entire building - "Each module in the RAM Building has railroad access across its entire length, with a large, industrial crane to quickly lift replacement modules or crates of fresh tubes to any part of the facility within minutes."

Since science fiction authors have been imagining the future of computing since the 1940’s, it’s easy to find examples of really "big iron" in their works.

From Robert Heinlein's The Star Beast:

The universal dictionary in the British Museum was not more knowledgeable than the one in the Under Secretary's office; it's working parts occupied an entire building in another part of the Capital, and its staff of cyberneticists, semanticians and encyclopedists endlessly fed its hunger for facts.
(Read more about the universal dictionary)

From Watchdog by Jack Haldeman:

...the earth shook and the sky split as the giant rockets lifted the soul and body of man to Pluto and the distant stars.

Only he stayed behind.

Basically he was six hundred square miles of squat building, with control over a world-wide network of smaller stations and probes.

A babysitter.
(Read more about Watchdog)

From The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams:

"I speak of none other than the computer that is to come after me," intoned Deep Thought, his voice regaining its accustomed declamatory tones. "A computer whose merest operational parameters I am not worthy to calculate and yet I will design it for you. A computer which can calculate the Question to the Ultimate Answer, a computer of such infinite and subtle complexity that organic life itself shall form part of its operational matrix."

"And you yourselves shall take on new forms and go down into the computer to navigate its ten-million-year program! Yes! I shall design this computer for you. And I shall name it also unto you. And it shall be called The Earth."
(Read more about Deep Thought)

Find out more about the Vacuum Tube Supercomputer Centre; thanks to Dan for the tip on this story.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 7/21/2005)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 2 )

Related News Stories - (" Computer ")

AI Worms That Spread
'...there were so many worms and counterworms loose in the data-net now' - John Brunner, 1975.

Great. Now AIs Have Access To Hacking Tools
'... when you and the Flatline punch through that ice and scramble the cores.' - William Gibson, 1984.

Tongue-Controlled Tong Wearable Mouth Computer
'Griff found the white and pink map distracting and switched it off using his tongue mouse.' - Greg Bear, 2007.

Interpol Launches Metaverse For Law Enforcement
'CopSpace sheds some light on matters, of course. Blink and it descends in its full glory.' - Charles Stress, 2007.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

Science Fiction Timeline
1600-1899
1900-1939
1940's   1950's
1960's   1970's
1980's   1990's
2000's   2010's

Current News

Live Stream With Meta-Ban Multimodal Smart Glasses
'...the bug-eyed, opaque gape of her True-Vu lenses.'

'Autonomous' Waymo Improves Driving With Remote Human Operators
'...some bored drone pusher in a remote driving centre has got your life... in his hands.'

Will Whales Be Our First Contact?
'He had piloted the Adastra to its first contact with the civilization of another solar system.'

Heinlein’s Controlway - Connected and Automated Vehicle (CAV) Corridor In Michigan
'Well, that's us,' said Lazarus.

SliceIt! Why Not Teach Robots To Use Knives?
'One building now gushed forth smoke and another stench that was unmistakable.'

NYC/Dublin Portal Fails To Meet 'Guardian Of Forever' Standards
I am the Guardian of Forever.

FLOAT Levitating Train On The Moon ala Clarke
'The low-slung monorail car, straddling its single track, bored through the shadows on a slowly rising course.'

Singapore Writers Push Back On LLM Training
'...we've promised him a generous pension from the royalties.'

SpaceX Intros Extravehicular Activity Suit
'Provision had been made to meet the terrific cold which we knew would be encountered the moment we had passed beyond the atmosphere.'

Athena Smart Security Guard Robot With Face Recognition
'You are who we say you are, Dr. Dakin,' Turner said.'

The FLUTE Project - A Huge Liquid Mirror In Space
'It's area, and its consequent light-gathering capacity, was many times greater than any rigid mirror...'

Robot Preachers Found To Undermine Religious Commitment
'Tell me your torments,' the Padre said, in an elderly voice marked with compassion.

CyberCab - Tesla Renames The Robotaxi
'A cybercab dogged their heels...'

SpaceHopper Microgravity Robot Lands On Its Feet
'...a slender-legged tripod surmounted by a spherical body no larger than a football.'

Brin's 1990 Novel Earth Still Full Of Predictions
'... making the point that their likenesses, every move they made, were being transmitted.'

'Whisper Mode' ala Blue Thunder Researched At Bristol
'Forest Lawn.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.