How did we get computers to have a “memory”? I mean, if computers are just made up of chips of metal and electricity, how can they store information?
Asked by anonymous
Computers have been around for quite some time— perhaps not in the way we typically think of them, but they have been there. At first, it was easy to conceive a mechanical way to store information, the problem came when we began demanding more out of computers, switching into electronic and magnetic components.
The main principle is storing information in one of two states: either 1 or 0. In terms of electrical components, this is simple: you either have a component in the “on” state or “off” state. The ways to process that information, save it, optimize the process, and make it fully automated vary immensely.
Back in the good old days of computing, memory worked through purely mechanical means. How exactly did we achieve this? Well, one fairly well known method was using punched cards, or Hollerith cards. These were pieces of stiff paper with holes in them. This holes were punched in predefined positions, allowing for early computers— and I mean 1800s computers, not your grandma’s computers— to be able to process data and run automated processes. Note how the concept is fundamentally the same as our system: you still have a set of two distinct states. Several other mechanical ways of accessing and storing information also arose during the early periods of computing, methods which included valves and gears, but these processes were still slow and tedious.
Eventually, we began to need faster, more efficient, and less bulky ways for storing and accessing information.
The first attempt was using electrical valves, which are basically circuits wired so that one valve can be turned on and the other one off. This posed several problems in terms of space efficiency and was incredibly expensive, not to mention highly inefficient in terms of energy consumption. Another concern was how to make these system “non-volatile”, so that you could restart your machine and still have your information there.
Another idea was to place a long tube of mercury with one end on a loudspeaker. Ideally, you would have waves travel through the tube and would be able to detect pulses at the end of the tube. The problem was that you had to constantly circulate these waves, and you could only detect the pulse for a very brief period, right when the wave was “bouncing back”.
Eventually, we got to the point where we managed to create “cores”, which are basically magnetic rings threaded on wires. Bits of information were stored using the direction of the magnetization of the cores. The first cores were huge— storing 1Mbyte required the space of a small car, but we got around to making them smaller and more efficient.
To further optimize our computers, we shifted from magnetized cores toward electronic components. Namely, we’re using transistor chains, which apply a precise voltage to the circuit to produce a pattern of 1’s and 0’s depending on whether or not the current is conducted.
Nowadays, chances are your computer has either a Hard Disk Drive (HDD) or a Solid State Drive (SSD). HDDs are the most common way of storing information on your average computer. The’re basically metal platters with a magnetic coating that stores your information. The platters are spinning rapidly in an enclosed space from which a read/write arm accesses the data. SSDs are a bit more of a novelty for your average PC user, but are faster and more reliable. Instead of having your data stored in a magnetic coating, data in a SSD is stored in an interconnected flash memory chip, much like your USB. Since they do not rely on magnetic coatings, nor do they depend on mechanical parts (like moving arms), SSDs are more reliable and faster, but the drawback is that they are, at least for now, more expensive than HDDs.
In the end, the history of computers revolves around the same central theme: how do we make information readily available and easy to process? Over time, we’ve been demanding more and more out of our computers. As we do so, we of course face increasingly difficult challenges and are forced (or encouraged, if you like) to reinvent our ways in order to keep up with the demand for power and efficiency.
So how did we do it? We say: ingenuity, that’s how.
Answered by Demian L, Expert Leader.
Edited by Margaret G.
Today over 300,000 people marched in ‘The Peoples Climate March’ in New York City; many more thousands marched in cities around the world.
We need to take action for the future.
(Source: twitter.com, via sagansense)
atg115 said: Are there any other futuristic blogs like you that you would reccomend?
Hey, thanks for asking!
Most of the stuff comes from a variety of sources, so I can’t say read this and that and you’re good to go. There would be too much noise around the things you’re looking for.
(Honestly, I lost count of blogs, tumblrs, university websites and tech magazines. It’s one big stream, controlled by some amateurish filters & algorithms incl a lot of needlework.)
But a good start is the futurology subreddit, tumblrs from futurists like emergent futures, fuckyeahfutureshock or magazines like Tech Review, Wired, Technologist, Motherboard and BBC Future. And, of course, you should follow some futurists & scifi writers on twitter.
Here are a compilation of recordings made in space, recorded by either NASA or SETI. I don’t know, I just really like space and the sounds can be soothing. I hope that you will agree. +more masterposts
Recordings Of Earth: Recorded by NASA.
Jupiter sound waves: This is the sound Jupiter emits via electromagnetic waves.
Wow! signal: The Wow! Signal is a signal of unknown origin found by SETI. The signal surpirsed the founder so much, he wrote WOW! right on the paper.
Jupiter’s radio Waves: These sounds, recorded by the Cassini space probe, are recordings of the radio waves of Jupiter.
Saturn’s Radio Emissions: This audio was recorded by the Cassini spacecraft picked up in April of 2002.
More Saturn’s Radio Emissions: This audio was recorded by the Cassini spacecraft picked up in April of 2002.
Uranus: Voyager recording of Uranus.
Mercury: These sounds were captured from an orbiting satellite from back in 1999 - 2001 I think.
Pluto: Sounds of the lonely planet.
Neptune: Recorded by Voyager II August 24-25, 1989.
Saturn’s rings: Recorded by Voyager 2 on 25 August 1981.
Sounds of the Sun: From the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) which was launched February 11, 2010.
Outside the Solar System: NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft captured these sounds of interstellar space. November 2012
The Sounds of Earth: The full five hours of the mixtape we sent out on both the Voyager probes.
Voyager Photo Album: Images voyager took.
USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D): Engine hum for 24 hours.
Cyber harassment study reveals the unsurprising!
It still amazes me that I talk to guys who still think they get harassed just as much as women online. Like even from people who aren’t clearly and totally gross dumbasses. It kinda makes me think that, even in the best cases, it might be hard to really understand the sheer difference in frequency. You see a woman get harassed on a game and you go “Oh well I’ve been harassed” without understanding that there is seldom a session for her where that doesn’t happen or understanding what her inbox might look like…
That is a sort of stunning degree of difference.
"The data’s in! Women were lying about online harassment!”
"Aha! We knew it!"
“Yeah, they’ve been severely underreporting how bad things are for them, turns out.”
'Invisibility cloak' uses lenses to bend light
A device called the Rochester Cloak uses an array of lenses to bend light, effectively rendering what is on the other side invisible to the eye.
One of the problems with the cloaking devices developed to date — and it’s a big one — is that they really only work if both the viewer and whatever is being cloaked remain still. This, of course, is not entirely practical, but a difficult problem to solve. For the first time, researchers have made a cloaking device that works multidirectionally in three dimensions — using no specialised equipment, but four standard lenses.
Read more @CNET
Technology is rad