GLASNOST Is A Computer That Makes Transparency A Priority

We live in a world where most of us take the transistor for granted. Within arm’s length of most people reading this, there are likely over ten billion of them sending electrons in every direction. But the transistor was not the first technology to come around to make the computer a possibility, but if you go to the lengths of building something with an alternative, like this vacuum tube computer, you may appreciate them just a tiny bit more.

This vacuum tube computer is called GLASNOST, which according to its creator [Paul] means “glass, no semiconductors” with the idea that the working parts of the computer (besides the passive components) are transparent glass tubes, unlike their opaque silicon-based alternatives. It boasts a graphical display on an oscilloscope, 4096 words of memory, and a custom four-bit architecture based only on NOT, NOR, and OR gates which are simpler to create with the bulky tubes.

The project is still a work in progress but already [Paul] has the core memory figured out and the computer modeled in a logic simulator. The next steps are currently being worked through which includes getting the logic gates to function in the real world. We eagerly await the next steps of this novel computer and, if you want to see one that was built recently and not in the distant past of the 1950s, take a look at the Electron Tube New Automatic Computer that was completed just a few years ago.

7 thoughts on “GLASNOST Is A Computer That Makes Transparency A Priority

  1. It freaks me out that you can make tons of electronics, even a whole computer, just from different configurations of wire. Think about it, a resistor is just a more resistive wire, a capacitor is just two flat wires next to each other, an inductor is just a coil of wire. So there’s the passives. Then for active components, you can do rectification and amplification through vacuum tubes, which are just a grid and a coil of wire in glass. Light bulbs are of course just a coil of wire in glass. It’s just weird to me that you can basically trick really precisely arranged wire into doing math for you.

    1. I’m kind of with you up until the active components. I suppose you could say that an internal combustion engine is actually just different arrangements of metal wire, forged into non-wire shapes, plus gaseous oxygen-carrying wire coming in through the intake, and very old liquid dinosaur wire dripped through the carburetors. Everything is wire, man.

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