Hackaday Links: June 4, 2017

Quick question: what was the first personal computer? We love pointless arguments over technological history, so let’s just go down the list. It wasn’t an IBM, and the guy who invented the personal computer said he didn’t invent the personal computer. The Apple I is right out, and there were some weird Italian things that don’t quite count. Here’s an auction for, “The first personal computer”, a MICRAL N, released in 1974. There’s an 8080 running at 500kHz with 16kB of RAM and ‘mixed memory’. This is an important bit of history that belongs in a museum, and the auction will start at €20,000. The starting price might be a bit high; recently an original Apple I sold at auction for €90,000. This is a pittance for what these things usually go for. Is the market for vintage retrocomputers dropping out from underneath us? Only time will tell.

In Upstate NY? There’s a Hacker con going on June 16-17. You can get 20% off your ticket to ANYCon by using the code ‘HACKADAY’.

Colorblind? Hackaday readers suffer from colorblindness at a higher rate than the general population. [João] created this really neat tool to differentiate colors on a screen. Windows only, but still handy.

Everyone’s excited about the $150 3D printer that will be released by Monoprice sometime this summer. Here’s a $99 3D printer. Yes, it’s a Kickstarter so the standard warnings apply, but this bot does have a few things going for it. It uses actual NEMA 17 motors, and the people behind this printer actually have experience in manufacturing hardware. The downsides? It’s entirely leadscrew driven, so it’s going to be very, very slow.

What do you call the dumbest person with an EE degree? An engineer. It’s at this point where you should realize the value of a tertiary education is not defined by the most capable graduates; it’s defined by the least capable graduates.

Here’s your Sunday evening viewing: [Bunnie] gave a talk on RISC-V and the expectations of Open Hardware.

Hey, OpenBuilds has a new Mini Mill. It’s a basic CNC router designed for small ~1HP Bosch or Dewalt laminate trimmers. Small, but capable.

Kerbal Space Program, the only video game that should be required study materials at the Air Force Academy, Embry-Riddle and for everyone working at NASA, has been acquired by Take-Two Interactive. By all accounts, this is good news. According to reports, the original dev team left for Valve a few months ago, reportedly because of terrible conditions at Squad, the (former) developer of KSP.

The Stratolaunch carrier aircraft has rolled out of the hangar. It’s two 747s duct speed taped together.

49 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: June 4, 2017

  1. The Imgur comments on the “dumbest person with an EE degree” link actually tell a lot more than the picture description does, do expand the comments and everything if interested to know the story behind the picture.

    1. The antikythera mechanism is the first known analog computer, but it is not a personal computer by any meaning of the word. It would likely have been located in a temple or palace and been operated by a group of astronomers.

      1. Too useful for it’s day to be just the one. If just the one, then it required the wizard that created it to be on board too and that’s highly unlikely as they’d have him/her busy making more. We just haven’t found the other ?1,628+ of them that were made for other navigators. It was found on a typical wreck that typically had hundreds or thousands of jars/jugs containing their cargo, but would have only one antikythera mechanism per ship. We’ve uncovered thousands of wrecks, but how many from that same age? We don’t completely recover wrecks that are found, just what’s easy to grab in the first layer and it was a chance find, so how many more wrecks to discover before serendipitously finding another? Finding one does not mean one, it proves one but does not disprove two or more.

        Only way I can imagine just one being made was if the old genius gasped his/her last breath as finishing it.

        1. The Antikythera mechanism was a highly guarded secret. If it was told what it did then it’s creators would surely have been murdered.

          It was created at a time when it was religiously believed that the solar system was Earth centric and to oppose that belief was to oppose the beliefs of the “Gods” and would surely result in death.

          1. You mean there are other ancient references to the Antikythera mechanism saying this? I would be most anxious to find out more! Please give clue to same, I’ll find!

            Your second paragraph is from a later time of Galileo. That’s a much different time as I recall. Very later.

          2. Quote [Biomed]: “You mean there are other ancient references to the Antikythera mechanism saying this?”

            None that I am aware of.

            I have had this problem before. There was a time when we read books about history and these books were by the most part in a chronological order and that meant that when we read about some particular aspect of an ancient societies we read that in the *full* context of other things that were occurring around the same time such as scientific developments, religious beliefs and cultural shifts.

            Now we have the internet and the internet has a very poor record of history prior to the internets inception mid 80’s.

            If you google for “color of South Mongolian hens teeth” then you will probably get some results.

            But when it comes to ancient history then search engines are not a good tool because you need to focus on specific times and not keywords.

            Biomed nailed one aspect of this with the term “wizard”. Have you ever noticed that a wizards’ hat has astronomical images on it.

            What the is a wizard. Well that depends on the era. And the Antikythera mechanism came from the earliest era for this type of device though even the ancient Egyptians had a similar recording system, if not a synthesis device like the Antikythera mechanism.

            The greatest importance for a lot of history was simply crop yield and the best way to optimize this was to be able to understand or predict seasonal cycles and the best way to do that is astronomy.

            In the ancient Egyptian dynasties the rulers were considered GODs because they brought wealth and prosperity through crop yield. They did this by closely guarding astronomical knowledge by keeping the “wizards”. All of this was lost when the last of the Ancient Egyptian dynasties collapsed.

            In later civilizations a GOD was no longer a human being but rather simply an abstraction of belief systems. That meant that there was no “command” of the wish of GOD and the wish of GOD was decided by various authoritative figures. These authoritative figures had a vested interest in defending their authority by destroying competing beliefs, basically, by killing those people that expressed and competing belief.

            Unfortunately may who expressed scientific beliefs fell into this category so those who studies science and particularly astronomy were very cautious of what they relieved publicly lest they were executed.

            The Antikythera mechanism was created in an era when it was a religious belief that the GODs created the sun and known planets such that they all revolved around the Earth (geocentric). To present a belief that may even possibly be interpreted in the scientific (or astronomical) context that the solar system is Sun centric (heliocentric) would have one killed as a witch/wizard/pagan/blasphemist or worshiper of the devil.

            This long post is the reason that I have not previously responded to questions before. Th main argument presented against this interpretation is that the Antikythera mechanism is not necessarily sun centric. However if you evaluate both cases it becomes clear that it was intended to be so. It had to be accurate to be useful so at had to synthesize the real system. There was only ever one found and that supports the hidden characteristics of device that is not religiously acceptable.

            Some of this is probably a bit sloppy now because I studied this from book before we had internet. So Damn the torpedo’s.

          3. Considering there are no surviving textual references to the Antikythera Mechanism *AT ALL*, you have nothing whatsoever to base your claims on.

          4. Quote [Pierce Nichols]: “Considering there are no surviving textual references to the Antikythera Mechanism *AT ALL*, you have nothing whatsoever to base your claims on”

            That could be translated to: Considering there are no surviving textual references to the Antikythera Mechanism *AT ALL*, nobody has anything whatsoever to base any claims on.

            So we are left with hypotheses and conjecture made based on what we do know about that era.

            Why then is it that you are so keen to reject my considerations and yet not offer any of your own?

        1. Analogue is often used as the antonym of digital but it’s not.

          We had motor driven digital clocks long before any digital electronics. Now we have analog clocks made with digital electronics.

          Ancient analog computers could give digital results as well as analog results.

          1. There were Turing complete mechanical computers so would you call them digital or analog.

            The first electronic digital computers were made with analog electronics.

            There were also mechanical computers that made calculations like FFT and inverse FFT and output analog results from digital inputs. Analog or digital (or DSP lol)?

            All I am saying is that analog is NOT an antonym of digital.

  2. “Hackaday readers suffer from colorblindness at a higher rate than the general population.”
    I would expect the opposite to be true, when being color blind is a detriment to electronics work. (Or is it some joke I’m not getting?) Of which, isn’t a possible workaround glasses that have switchable color filters or color filters that cover only part of the field of view?

    1. There are commercially-available glasses with a notch/comb/something filter that are apparently very helpful.

      At the risk of being labelled a shill, search for “enchroma”.

  3. Can we get past the whole “leadscrews are slow” crap? Please?
    It’s quite simply about travel per turn of the motor. Yes, there was a time when 20 thread per inch (or finer) all thread was used – often with L-R stepper drives – and the result was quite slow. Now we can multistart ACME rod quite commonly at 8mm, or more, per turn. Well designed leadscrew driven machines are not inherently slow.

      1. In 1986 in the United States, the American jury of an international competition, of which Steve WOZNIAK was a jury member, awarded a price and officially recognized at the “Micral N” the title of “Earliest commercial non-kit computer based on a micro processor”

        The Intel 8008 was the CPU for the very first commercial non-calculator personal computers.Use first time on pre-built computer by Micral N.

        It was also the first to use MOS memories components.

        1. It all depends on how you specify the title.

          The Micral N deserves the title “the first commercial non-kit computer based on a microprocessor” because it was commercial and microprocessor based and it was introduced in 1973.

          The KENBAK-1 wasn’t a commercial product and it wasn’t microprocessor based as it even predates microprocessors. The very first commercial microprocessor (Intel 4004) was introduced in 1971.

          However the KENBAK-1 deserves the title “the world’s first Personal Computer” because it was introduced in 1971.

  4. The first personal computer? Time to broaden your horizons–
    How about

    the astrolabe;
    the sextant;
    the orrery;
    the pre-Phoenician clock;
    the Jacquard Loom;
    the Analytical Engine;
    the Difference Engine;
    the typewriter;
    the Comptometer;
    the Marchant calculator;
    the Enigma machine;
    the turing ‘Bombe’;
    …ad nauseum.

    What’s that? You meant a device which is small, low-powered, performs rapid mathematical calculations, and changed–one way or another–the landscape of every facet of our society forever?

    No problem–

    THE FOUR-FUNCTION CALCULATOR.

    1. Lest anyone rush to include the slide rule–an admirable example of an extremely low-power, extremely powerful personal computer–in the foregoing list, your haste needs to be tempered by the fact that the slide rule can not perform certain very basic, very fundamental mathematical operations.

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