Monday, October 05, 2009

50 Years ago: IBM 1401

I never programmed the IBM 1401, although I used mainframes that used a 1401 to do their input and output spooling. An article by John Murrell in the San Jose Mercury News notes that today is the 50th anniversary of the 1401. Among its characteristics, the 1401:
  • Occupied a large, air-conditioned room,
  • Weighed two to four tons (depending on configuration),
  • Had a CPU clock speed of .000087 GHz (87 kilohertz),
  • Had up to .000016 GB of RAM (1.4K-16K characters)
  • Rented for $45,000/month (in today's dollars),
  • Sold for $3,400,000.
  • As IBM put it, "Speed: In one minute, the 1401 Processing Unit can perform 193,300 additions (eight-digit numbers) or 25,000 multiplications (six-digit numbers by four-digit numbers)."
We've come a long way in 50 years.

By the mid-1960s, half the computers in the world were members of the IBM 1400 series.


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Did Churchill deliberately sacrifice Coventry?

There is a controversial, but widely accepted, belief that on Nov. 14, 1940 Winston Churchill decided not to have the RAF defend Coventry against a major German bombing raid (500 bombers), despite having been informed of the target by Ultra (decrypted Enigma messages), in order to avoid alerting the Germans to the fact that their code was broken.

The Bletchley Park Trust says that this was not so.
There are numerous examples of Churchill not hesitating to suppress valuable intelligence derived from Bletchley Park decrypts, when there was no other plausible source for that Intelligence, in order to preserve the vital secret that BLETCHLEY PARK was breaking the major German codes such as Enigma. The raid on Coventry on 14th November 1940 (Operation Moonlight Sonata) was NOT one of them.