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.
(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 |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 2 )
Related News Stories -
Kelly Clarkson Show Like Black Mirror '15 Million Merits'
'These people are pieces of software called avatars.' Neal Stephenson, 1992.
Neuralink Will Land A Chip In Your Brain
'What are you talking about? Do you mean a neural lace?' - Iain M. Banks, 2010.
100 Terabyte Exadrive SSD Also Has Biggest Price
'A man could carry AIs or complete planetary dataspheres in a Schrön loop.' - Dan Simmons, 1989.
Google Now Expects Chips To Design Themselves
'What lay down there? Energy, tubes and pipes, wiring, transformers, self-contained machinery...' - Philip K. Dick, 1960.
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.
Jet-Powered Flying Suits Tested By Navy
'With his motor in operation, he moves like a diver, head foremost...'
Pub Installs Electrified Fence Around Bar
'I start twelve immensely strong wires--naked, not insulated --from a big dynamo...'
What Does A Tesla Full Self-Driving Car See?
'All objects within my panoramic gaze trembled and vibrated like quick motion pictures...'
BioVYZR Is Ready, Anti-Covid19 PAPR Lovers
'Some clad in the insulated space-suits, with their transparent glassite helmets.'
Tesla Will Have Metal Gear Snake Autocoupler, Musk Confirms
'Its motion was so swift, complex, and perfect that at first I did not see it as a machine, in spite of its metallic glitter.'
Starlink Satellites Leading Edge On-Orbit Debris Mitigation
Propulsion-assisted orbital decay, brought to you by SpaceX.
Healight Ultraviolet Endotracheal Device Has Covid-19 Treatment Potential
'He applied the tip of the instrument to the interior of the wound...'
Parents Use AI To See One Last Message From Their Deceased Son
'...what's to keep me from showing face, Man?'
Satoshi Tomizu Creates Pocket Universes And Worldcraft Bubbles In Glass
'The Worldcraft bubble glittered, catching the light...'
Space Hero Inc. Offers Trip To ISS As Reality Show Prize
'This is Elmer Schmitz, presenting to you the finalists in our Aviation Quiz Program...'
I Love Ceiling-Mounted Robots
'Immediately an enormous apparatus fell on to her out of the ceiling...'
Armano Remote Control Excavator
'The bulldozer moved through the... mine... '
OK, NASA 3D Printer Of Food Not Yet Star Trek Food Synthesizer
Maybe not, but we're seeing definite progress.
Kelly Clarkson Show Like Black Mirror '15 Million Merits'
'These people are pieces of software called avatars.'
Salto Jumping Robot Now Sticks Landing!
'Lucky touched the leap knob and the hopper's leg retracted.'
Gyroscopic Median-Straddling Mass Transit Vehicles
'It was among these leviathans that the little gyrocar was daring to thrust its puny self...'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories