Category Archives: Computer Engineering

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IBM Announce the Model 650 Computer

In July 1953 IBM announced the release of the IBM 650 Magnetic Drum Data-Processing Machine, and such was its success that nearly 2,000 units were produced earning it the title of the world’s first mass-produced computer.

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Introduction to Apple’s Swift – New Coding Language

As well as unveiling iOS 8 at the Worldwide Developers Conference this month, Apple also introduced us to Swift, its new programming language for iOS and OS X app development which is set to replace Objective-C – the object orientated programming language, making it easier and faster to develop API’s.

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Congratulations to Francis Gurry

Francis Gurry has 2 reasons to celebrate at the moment, as well as turning 63 on the 17th May the Australian national has also just been confirmed as the reappointed Director General of the WIPO, with Gurry now embarking on this his second 6 year term in the post.


Gurry began working for the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 1985 when his first role was for the Development Cooperation and External Relations Bureau for Asia and the Pacific.  Notable work by Gurry whilst at the WIPO has included the development of the WIPO’s Arbitration and Mediation Center and the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy for which he was also responsible.


Gurry progressed to Assistant Director General in 1997 before taking up the position of Deputy Director General at WIPO in 2003, at which point Patents and the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) System also became a key focus.  On the 1st October 2008 Gurry became Director General and following his success in the role he has led the WIPO in an extensive program of change to meet and manage the increased demand and rapidly changing technologies that are evolving in relation to IP.


Prior to his work at the WIPO Gurry studied Law at the University of Melbourne and following his graduation worked in the Supreme Court of Victoria as well as a Solicitor for a top Australian law firm.  Gurry later also worked at the University of Melbourne and the University of Dijon, and gained a PhD from the University of Cambridge.


The World Intellectual Property Organization has offices around the world with its Headquarters found in Geneva.  With 187 Member States the United Nations agency was founded in 1967 and provides Governments and businesses with a range of IP services from the development of global policy and infrastructure to IP protection and dispute resolution, as well as acting as a world reference source for information relating to IP.


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Anniversary of the EDSAC’s First Calculations

With early and significant breakthroughs being made in computing during the 1940’s, the Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator (EDSAC) earned its place in the history books as this first example of a stored program computer, which performed its first calculations at the University of Cambridge on 6th May 1949 in the form of a list of prime numbers and table of squares calculations.

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IBM 370/135

42 years ago today IBM installed the first IBM 370/135 mainframe computer,  just one of the models included in the S370 series which IBM ran for nearly 20 years, achieving significant market share in the process.


Both developed and manufactured by IBM in the UK, the IBM 370/135 and 145 were the mid to lower end of the mainframe range, following on from the high end machines released in 1970 which superseded the System/360 family of computers.


Key features of the IBM 370/135 included:


  • 240,000 bytes of main memory capacity, four times greater than the S360/30 with Microcode reloadable control storage (RCS) supplementing this with a further 24,000 bytes.  The option was also available to increase the RCS to 36,000 or 48,000 bytes if required.
  • Monolithic circuitry that increased internal operating speeds, exceeding those of the S360/30 over four fold, resulting in speeds of 275 to 1,430 nanoseconds for one microinstruction completion.
  • ICAs – Integrated Communications Attachments allowing terminals to be linked to the central processor via up to 8 communication lines, without the need for separate control units.   The 370/135 also offered compatibility with virtually all of IBM’s terminal devices.
  • Expanded Channel capacity that enabled block multiplexing and increased system throughput.
  • Advanced self-checking features and console critical points status displays.
  • Increased disk storage, with optional integrated file adapter together with additional disk storage features were available, removing the need for separate disk control units.
  • Backward compatibility with the S/360 models, offered as standard with all 370/- models allowing customers easy migration to the 370/- mainframes.
  • OS/DOS program compatibility support.


With a starting price of nearly $500,000 ranging to over $1,000,000, rentals also proved popular with monthly contracts upwards of $10,000. Later additions to the 370/- portfolio saw the inclusion of full virtual memory before the range was finally superseded in the 1990’s by the IBM System/390.


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A Movie in the Making – Steve Jobs


Whilst speaking at the Tribeca Film Festival, Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin hasn’t given too much away about one of his latest projects, whereby he focusses on the life of Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple.  Although his screenplay is based on the biography written by Walter Isaacson, Sorkin has confirmed that he has achieved his goal in creating something that is very different and doesn’t take the form of a biopic.


The Sony production was originally expected to be directed by David Fincher, however Danny Boyle is now the favourite to direct this movie which is due to begin filming later in the year.  Rumours are also rife that Leonardo DiCaprio could be in line to play Jobs in the movie.


It will be very interesting to see how the film develops, especially as in only 2013 Ashton Kutcher played the Apple co-founder in the film entitled Jobs, which focussed on Jobs’ early life and the journey of Apple’s creation and success.  Prior to this in 1999, Pirates of Silicon Valley starred Noah Wyle as Steve Jobs and explored the challenges faced together with Steve Wozniak, played by Joey Slotnick, in founding what would later become one of the biggest ever global brands.


So what could be covered in the latest film about the incredible life of the Father of the Digital Revolution?, it will be difficult to tell the tale without reflecting on so many of the significant events that took place in one person’s lifetime.  From his early adopted life and eventful college experiences to the 1st Apple Computer developed by Jobs and Wozniak in 1976, and the amazing technology and growth of the company that followed. It may include Jobs’ shock departure from Apple in 1985 whereby he later founded NeXT, followed by the surprising acquisition of NeXT by Apple and Jobs return to the company which he would then led to bring us the iconic and revolutionary technology of the iMac, iPod, iPad, iPhone, iTunes and iCloud, technology that is used globally on a daily basis by us all.


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Intel Pentium Processors


March 22nd marked the anniversary of Intel’s release of fifth generation microarchitecture with the Pentium processors making their first appearance in 1993. X86 compatible, the Pentiums superseded Intel’s 486 technology and became a global brand which has extended over 2 decades.

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A Look at the Sinclair ZX80


1980 bought us the Sinclair ZX80, offering the first computer with a price tag of less than £100, made by Science of Cambridge Limited, (Sinclair Research).  Proving hugely popular, the ZX80 weighed in at just 340 grams, and was small enough to carry in a briefcase measuring just 21 x 17 x 5cm.  The price of £99.95 opened up the market completely, with more people now able to afford a home computer resulting in over 50,000 unit sales and a waiting list for the ZX80 of several months.


Designed by Jim Westwood, Sinclair’s Chief Engineer, the ZX80 was hailed as a remarkable device by BYTE at the time, it had the ability to outperform many of its competitors, and yet was built using readily available components.  Taking a mere nine months to develop, the ZX80 consisted of a Z80 CPU with 1K of RAM, with an additional external RAM pack later available to expand the memory to 16K. The machine featured the Sinclair BASIC operating system and had 4 kB of ROM, it could be connected to buyer’s own televisions, with a cassette recorder providing for program storage.


The ZX80 was also available to users in kit form for the reduced price of £79.95 for those with an interest in building their own computer, with good soldering skills essential.


The appearance of the ZX80 was the design work of Rick Dickinson, featuring a white case with the distinctive blue keyboard which included the word Newline instead of Enter.  Whilst there appears to be several ventilation slots in the unit, these were just black stripes added for cosmetic purposes.  The lack of ventilation would see overheating a common problem that developed in these machines.


Closely followed by the release in 1981 of the ZX81, and the ZX Spectrum in 1982, an example of the ZX80 can be found at the Science Museum in London, featuring in the Making of the Modern World collection, reflecting the significance of the machine in home computing history in terms of a low cost yet high performance personal computer.


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Happy Birthday Hewlett Packard

On the 1st January 1939, in a garage in Palo Alto, California, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard founded a company, the name of which was agreed on the flip of a coin and Hewlett Packard was the result.  The organisation would come to be recognised globally as an industry leader in the field of information technology, through its continuous invention and pioneering design.


Having met whilst studying at Stanford University, the first product offered by the Electrical Engineering graduates was the HP Model 200A, a resistance-capacitance audio oscillator to enable the testing of sound equipment.  Within a year, the company had moved from the rented garage to new premises as the business began to grow and the first employees joined HP.  During the Second World War Bill saw active service in the US Army, whilst Dave continued to run the business with the focus shifting to include microwave technology with signal generators set to follow.


During the 1950’s with Al Bagley heading up the Frequency and Time Division Team, HP introduced the HP 524A, their high speed frequency counter solution. The decade also saw HP develop oscilloscopes to facilitate testing and measurement, with continued business success necessitating new headquarters to accommodate its staff, with plants also established in Germany and Switzerland.  Steps would be taken to acquire F.L. Moseley Co. who produced graphic recorders, a move that would be crucial in the development of the printing side of HP’s offering.  1961 would then see the company listed on the New York Stock Exchange.


With a keen focus on pioneering design and innovation, HP Laboratories was established and the HP 2116a, HPs first computer was launched in 1966.  This would be followed in 1968 by the HP 9100A the first example of a desktop scientific calculator, offering unrivalled speed in problem solving with the term personal computer used for the first time in its advertising campaign.


The 1970’s would see the introduction of the HP 3000, facilitating distributed data processing for businesses, as well as the HP-35 a hand-held scientific calculator, a product later recognised by Forbes for its significant impact on the world, as well as being identified as an IEEE Milestone in Electrical Engineering.  During this decade the HP interface bus became an international industry standard.


Throughout the 1980’s HP continued to dominate the industry with the additions of the HP-85 its first personal computer, and the HP 9000 desktop technical mainframe solution, together with the HP-75C a handheld computer which allowed users peripheral connection.  It was at this time that China also becomes a focus for HP, with an office opening in Beijing. The 1980’s would also see the first appearance of HP-150 a Touchscreen PC, the introduction of HP’s LaserJet printers, and after extensive research and development HP’s RISC based architecture, allowing for increased speed and reduced costs.


With revenues reaching $20 billion in the early 1990’s HP continued to develop their extensive offering with deskjet colour printing via its HP Deskjet 500C, and also introduced a programme of recycling for its toner cartridges.  The HP Omnibook 300 was launched in 1993 providing users with a portable pc solution.  Continuing to revolutionise the market, the HP OfficeJet combined a fax, copier and printer for the first time and enjoyed huge success within the market.  1994 would also see HP develop the world’s brightest LED, allowing for new products and markets to make use of the lighting solution.  Work was also ongoing at this time with HP and Intel focussed on the development of a 64-bit microprocessor.  The HP Pavilion 5000 series of home computers was launched in 1995, and by 1996 HP’s programme for toner cartridge recycling had reached 10 million.


2003 saw HP move into the SMB market launching products and services focussed on small and medium sized businesses, and digital entertainment products also on offer included plasma TVs, Photosmart Printers and Personal Media Drives through its HP Entertainment Centre portfolio.  Continually reaching new milestones, by 2005 HP had shipped 10million ProLiant Servers as well as introducing new printing technology allowing for even faster photo printing.  At this time HP also acquired Snapfish.  TouchSmart PC and tablets were available for the first time in 2007, closely followed by the HP 2133 Mini-Note PC in 2008, with acquisitions taking place at this time including EDS and 3Com, and in 2010 Palm Inc. would also be added to the list.   Web connected home printer solutions were added to the portfolio in 2009, and the extensive recycling programmes operated by HP saw over 1 billion pounds worth of equipment recycled, and 1 billion ink cartridges produced using recycled materials at this time.


2011 would see Meg Whitman join HP, taking over from Leo Apotheker as President and CEO, with further innovations by HP resulting in the first wireless mouse with the use of wi-fi rather than a USB dongle.


Most recent developments by HP include Cloud solutions, with a focus on security and big data in their software solutions, and they continue to dominate in areas such as networking and storage solutions and server applications.  Each year HP Discover is held, a conference which takes place in Europe and the USA, where HP showcase their latest developments and advancements as they remain a leading force in the industry.


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Charles Babbage’s Mechanical Computers


Today, December 26th, marks 222 years since Charles Babbage was born in London, and little did his parents know that by bringing him into the world, they had given birth to a little boy who would grow up to become known as “the father of the computer”.

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