Replicating 1960s-era computer hardware can be a daunting task. Components can be hard to find, schematics thin on the ground, and software near-unobtainable. Of course, not every computer from the decade consisted of expensive high-end electronics – CARDIAC was built out of common cardboard, and making your own is a cinch!
CARDIAC stood for Cardboard Illustrative Aid To Computation. Consisting of a series of sliding cardboard parts, it acted as a basic guide to the principles of computation. Through the use of a pencil and the associated guidebook, students could run simple programs to learn how to program computers at the barebones level.
Finding the paper-based computational learning tool highly valuable in their youth, [megardi] wanted to bring it back for a new audience. Thankfully, there are plenty of resources on the web that made it easy to whip up art files to reprint the device. [megardi] then also wrote up the instructions on how to accurately reproduce a CARDIAC, with helpful tips on how to best put it together. For a quick test, any old paper will do, while using 110 g cardstock and a laminator makes a sturdier build that can be used with dry-erase markers.
CARDIAC remains an excellent tool for teaching the basics of Von Neumann architecture computing. We’ve discussed similar teaching tools before, too – from the days when “real” computers were too expensive to let students anywhere near them. How times change!