Liberté, égalité, Fraternité: France Loses Its Marbles On Internet Censorship

Over the years we’ve covered a lot of attempts by relatively clueless governments and politicians to enact think-of-the-children internet censorship or surveillance legislation, but there’s a law from France in the works which we think has the potential to be one of the most sinister we’ve seen yet.

It flew under our radar so we’re grateful to [0x1b5b] for bringing it to our attention, and it concerns a proposal to force browser vendors to incorporate French government censorship and spyware software in their products. We’re sure that most of our readers will understand the implications of this, but for anyone not versed in online privacy and censorship  this is a level of intrusion not even attempted by China in its state surveillance programme. Perhaps most surprisingly in a European country whose people have an often-fractious relationship with their government, very few French citizens seem to be aware of it or what it means.

It’s likely that if they push this law through it will cause significant consternation over the rest of the European continent. We’d expect those European countries with less liberty-focused governments to enthusiastically jump on the bandwagon, and we’d also expect the European hacker community to respond with a plethora of ways for their French cousins to evade the snooping eyes of Paris. We have little confidence in the wisdom of the EU parliament in Brussels when it comes to ill-thought-out laws though, so we hope this doesn’t portend a future dark day for all Europeans. We find it very sad to see in any case, because France on the whole isn’t that kind of place.

Header image: Pierre Blaché CC0.

Random Access Memory From A Rotating Drum In A Bendix G15

When it’s the 1950s and you are tasked to design a computer system that features not only CPU registers but also a certain amount of RAM, you do not have a lot of options. At this point in time, discrete logic was the rule, and magnetic core memory still fairly new and rather expensive. This is where the rotating drum comes in, which is somewhat like a cross between an old-style cylinder record and a hard drive. In a recent [Usagi Electric] video, a 1950s Bendix G15 system is demonstrated, which features such a rotating drum device, alongside both tube-based circuits and newfangled diode-based circuitry.

Simplified diagram of a rotating drum random access memory unit, showing the read-erase-write process as the drum spins.
Simplified diagram of a rotating drum random access memory unit, showing the read-erase-write process as the drum spins.

This particular unit was borrowed from the System Source museum, with the intent to restore it to a working condition. Part of this process involved figuring out the circuitry, which was made easy by the circuit schematic drawings that came with the original machine. According to the official brochure by the manufacturer, the ‘short lines’ that are intended for the CPU registers, the access time was less than 1 millisecond, which is pretty darn fast considering the era and the discrete CPU’s clock speed.

For the drum itself, however, popping the cover off the unit showed that it had suffered some damage that had resulted in the multiple heads contacting the surface. Despite this disappointment, it’s not the end of the restoration, however. The museum has one more Bendix G15 standing around, with a rotating drum unit that looks to be in mint condition. The damaged magnetic coating on the other rotating drum may conceivably be resurfaced, which if successful could provide new hope to a lot of retro systems out there that also use magnetic media, whether in drum or disk format.

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