Control panel and plugboards of the British Colossus computer, 1944. It was not programmable, had 2500 vacuum tubes, and it had only one hardwired purpose and algorithm: to crack the encryption of Germany’s Enigma machines, processing up to 5000 characters per second. Based on the work of mathematicians and cryptographers such as Alan Turing at the top secret Bletchley Park facility, the ability to break German codes was one of the factors that eventually turned the Second World War in favour of the Allies.
Another notable thing about this photograph is the strangely timeless/time traveller style of the woman on the left. I think she could walk down the street anywhere in the developed world at any time between about 1930 and 2030 and look like she belongs there.
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The TRS 80 home computer, USA, 1978. In these thrilling advertisements, a man does the household budget (on paper, while looking at the numbers on the screen) and some kind of prepubescent Oedipal classroom psychodrama is played out through the medium of multiplication tables.
Basically it’s a jumped-up pocket calculator, only much less convenient.
Don’t worry, puritans of America, you can’t do anything fun or interesting with these computers!
Brace yourselves, nerds. This week it’s an onslaught of vintage computer images from Computers: An Illustrated History by Christian Wurster, published by Taschen. Honestly it’s so interesting and visually arresting (and virtually wordless, as the title suggests) that I could scan almost every page of it, but I’m not going to. I strongly recommend that you buy this splendid book if you like the images I’m posting, just as I suggest you do for the work of any other authors, artists, musicians, or film makers whose efforts I feature here or that you see on other blogs, and just as I also gently suggest that you support me in a small way by buying one of my books if you enjoy this blog.
Anyway, commercial message over, here’s an inexplicable image from a 1984 German ad for the Atari 800 XL.
The text on the screen describes what I initially…
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