You probably don’t even think before composing a one-line email message and sending it. But it wasn’t always so easy. There’s an interesting clip on YouTube: “How to send an Email – Database – 1984”. This was from a tech TV show called Database and the presenters demonstrated what it took to actually send an email back in those days.
You had to use a computer and a rotary telephone to connect to a service called Micronet. This was pre-WWW, so there were no URLs, just numbered webpages. For emails, the webpage number was 7776.
There are actually two theories to this. The first one starts to make sense when you look at manual typewriters. If someone typed too fast, the keys would jam. QWERTY placed common alphabets at a distance from each other and slowed typists down.
Another theory is that telegraph operators designed the QWERTY layout because it was easier (and faster) to decipher Morse code.
Either way, there was no reason to keep using the layout, but it stuck and there was resistance to change. You can actually change your keyboard layout to the faster Dvorak layout in the language settings (or just buy a new Dvorak keyboard).
It was 1956 when IBM launched RAMAC, the first computer with something like a hard drive that we use today.
By hard drive, we mean something that used magnetic disks – a moving head was used to access and write that data. At the time, it was considered a massive leap in mass storage technology because it signified a shift: from punch cards and magnetic tape (which stored data sequentially) to randomly accessible hard drives.
RAMAC itself stood for Random Access Method of Accounting & Control. The whole cabinet weighed over 1000kg and the 5MP data was spread over 50 huge aluminum disks, coated with magnetic iron oxide. The disks rotated at a speed of 1200rpm and the machines were leased for $3,200 per month back in the day.
Russia built a computer that ran on water: in 1936
Before the miniaturization of transistors, computers had a much more visible system of counting: things like gears, pivots, beads and levers were often used and they needed some sort of power source to function.
Vladimir Lukyanov built something like this in 1936 but he used water to create a computer that solved partial differential equations. In images of the Lukyanov computer, you’ll see a complex system of interconnected tubes filled with water.
Adjusting taps and plugs altered the flow of water (and changed variables) while the end result was seen by measuring the level of water in certain tubes. It was also called a Water Integrator and was originally designed to solve the problem of cracking in concrete. It’s now found in Moscow’s Polytechnic Museum.