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How Computers Work
December 22, 2011 2:13 AM   Subscribe

How Computers Work. Recently recovered & scanned in by the good folks at BoingBoing, this was an early textbook explaining the fundamental concepts & inner workings of modern computing systems. I believe a slightly different edition of this book was my own introduction to computers when I was in 6th grade or so, which explains a lot about my approach to using them.
posted by scalefree (44 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
Great find, great snapshot of the early days of computing and some of the information is still relevant. I always wondered about the exact interaction between kittens and bees in early Computer Control Units. Anyone know why only women can feed computers though?
posted by Ad hominem at 2:27 AM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Because computers used to be fragile, expensive things, and men's rough hands would damage them. It was a major achievement in the early days of Silicon Valley that they devised computers that could stand up to boisterousness. Even then, they had to be kept out of the hands of mischievous boys, in favour of their sickly indoors-loving counterparts, who would be less likely to damage them in boyish games.

How far we've come in so short a time!
posted by Grangousier at 2:39 AM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Faster mainframe computers are painted red.

It's true.
posted by ceribus peribus at 2:41 AM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


OFFICE ROMANCES DISPLEASE COMPUTERS

HU-MANS WILL OBEY

END OF LINE
posted by GallonOfAlan at 2:44 AM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anyone know why only women can feed computers though?

Because feeding things that think and are useful is women's wourrkglgghlkghhkkkghgkghhgghg...*
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:02 AM on December 22, 2011


Why is Scientology near the meat OR the kittens? ("Main parts of a computer")
posted by readyfreddy at 3:30 AM on December 22, 2011


If computers are not regularly fed with programs, they become listless and unhappy
The women are not doing their jobs!

/sarcastic
posted by defcom1 at 3:32 AM on December 22, 2011


What on earth is going on with this? ???

It seems like a joke, but huh?? Note: French cannot be converted to electronic form and Data can be permanently inscribed on platinum disks by the Church of Scientology and stored in vaults in New Mexico
posted by BigCalm at 3:38 AM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


BigCalm: It's because Scientologists are really into genealogy. There was a big scandal when it became known that the names of Holocaust victims were being "cleared" by Scientologists and stored on disks, which would later be dropped into a volcano.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:46 AM on December 22, 2011


Ahh, I remember this! It was a workbook in GCSE Science that we used along side the Look Around You videos. Those were the days...
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:47 AM on December 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


The Church of Scientology stores all the platinum disks from your computer at Trementina Base along side the archive of the complete works of L. Ron Hubbard. I think you may need compatible kittens and bees though.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:48 AM on December 22, 2011


Programmers, being human. are always liable to make mistakes. Computers, being machines, never make mistakes.

Just what do you think you're doing, Dave?...Dave... I really think I'm entitled to an answer to that question...I know everything hasn't been quite right with me, but I can assure you now, very confidently, that it's going to be alright again...I feel much better now, I really do...Look, Dave, I can see you're really upset about this...I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill and think things over..
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:50 AM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Recently recovered & scanned in by the good folks at BoingBoing

Weirdly, they've actually just taken it directly from one of my old sites (which is linked at the bottom of their page) that's been around since 2004 or so. The complete thing (there's two slightly different versions of the book, and a few more pages) is here, if self-linking isn't too rude.
posted by dng at 3:54 AM on December 22, 2011 [16 favorites]


Yours lacks puppy though dng.
posted by ciderwoman at 3:58 AM on December 22, 2011


In case it's not painfully obvious, these scans have been photoshopped to make them "funnier" -- I have a copy of this book somewhere and (for a start) all the text in yellow boxes has been altered. (dng's self-link looks like the original though.)

Kind of pointless when the book's so bizarre to start with...
posted by puppygalore at 3:58 AM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, now that I look at it they've changed all the text. I'm pretty slow and stupid today, although my excuse is I'm still in bed. And have a cold.
posted by dng at 3:59 AM on December 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


"You should do what scientists tell you to"
posted by Tom-B at 4:32 AM on December 22, 2011


dng, the fact that you're ill makes the fact that you pointed out they lifted your scans without being a dick about it all the more impressive.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 4:45 AM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Kind of pointless when the book's so bizarre to start with...

Absolutely pointful! I believed that the statement about fast computers painted red really was in that book. (And I'm a former PDP-11 user - albeit involuntary). Maybe the book was a little naïve.
posted by hat_eater at 4:48 AM on December 22, 2011


Why is Scientology near the meat OR the kittens? ("Main parts of a computer")

Pretty sure they corrected that in a later edition.
posted by Nattie at 4:56 AM on December 22, 2011


This brought rise to the old computer adage : "Puppy in, Garbage out."
posted by crunchland at 5:27 AM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


"No one will ever need more than 640 bees"
- William T. Gates
posted by ~ at 5:42 AM on December 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Perhaps one of the greatest advantages is that data can be changed without anyone noticing."
posted by MtDewd at 5:47 AM on December 22, 2011


Oh come on, this can't be for real.
Some of them can even play music. On the other hand, we are inclined to be intimidated by their complex mechanisms and large arrays of blinking lights. You should do what scientists tell you to.
One of these sentences is not like the other! Can you spot it!?
posted by odinsdream at 5:51 AM on December 22, 2011


dng, I hope you aren't upset that I swiped your scans. If you'd like more prominent attribution (it's currently way down at the bottom), I'd be delighted to add it.

Out-take: "Green computers are often ostracized by the others, due to the ineffable hatefulness of their instruction sets"
posted by beschizza at 5:55 AM on December 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't know, OdinsDream -- I kind of wish modern popular science writing had this kind of dry wit. Besides; it's all basically right. The bee programming language preceded the c programming language from which your modern JavaScript, Objctive-C and C Octothorpe derived. 
posted by ~ at 6:02 AM on December 22, 2011


The original was my favourite book ever ever ever. My dad's computer bureau had just got a new ICL 2900, the "red" (actually the hyper-70s orange "hot tango") computers in the book. About the same time I was sat down in front of the console and typed in a program that printed my name on the huge line printer. That was the best thing ever!
posted by scruss at 6:09 AM on December 22, 2011


ONLY WOMEN MAY FEED COMPUTERS
posted by dig_duggler at 6:21 AM on December 22, 2011


Green computers feel only hate.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:31 AM on December 22, 2011


Mods should replace the link with dng's. The attempted lulz by boingboing fail miserably.
posted by Big_B at 6:35 AM on December 22, 2011


Either I'm not fully awake, or the boingboing détournement is very well done.
posted by benito.strauss at 6:41 AM on December 22, 2011


Oh my god. Things are very quiet here at the library, and I'm snickering like an idiot.

Why is the word meat so funny when it doesn't belong?
posted by General Tonic at 7:08 AM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ha! I clicked the link on my phone this morning and didn't get why this was funny. Then I finally took a look on my monitor...
posted by JoanArkham at 7:10 AM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Computers, being machines, never make mistakes.

Technological advances have fixed this problem.
posted by localroger at 7:19 AM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


dng, I hope you aren't upset that I swiped your scans.

Nah, its fine, and I like it. I was just momentarily confused by the deadpan wording of the post. I feel embarrassed that I mentioned it, really.

Cheers.
posted by dng at 7:29 AM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


One of these sentences is not like the other! Can you spot it!?
Some of them can even play music. On the other hand, we are inclined to be intimidated by their complex mechanisms and large arrays of blinking lights. You should do what scientists tell you to.
Once you know what to look for, it's rather obvious. One is declarative but the other is imperative.
posted by scalefree at 7:33 AM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was just momentarily confused by the deadpan wording of the post.

I did a bad bad thing.

;)
posted by scalefree at 7:34 AM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


WHERE IS MY DESK OF THE FUTURE?
posted by Kabanos at 7:36 AM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


0 new comments, show

I see I'm not the only one with a sense of humor.
posted by scalefree at 9:23 AM on December 22, 2011


WALL
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:54 PM on December 22, 2011


A triumph of niceness by dng, whose talents and virtues are infinite. I urge you all, should you ever have the opportunity to buy the man a drink, to do so.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 2:02 PM on December 22, 2011


I will, of course, being politeness personified, accept graciously and thirstily.
posted by dng at 2:55 PM on December 22, 2011


scalefree: Recently recovered & scanned in by the good folks at BoingBoing...

dng: Weirdly, they've actually just taken it directly from one of my old sites...

beschizza: dng, I hope you aren't upset that I swiped your scans...


Over the last several years I've developed a sneaking suspicion that literally every single person on the internet is a mefite.
posted by mkdg at 5:28 PM on December 22, 2011


Over the last several years I've developed a sneaking suspicion that literally every single person on the internet is a mefite.

Just the interesting ones.
posted by scalefree at 9:00 PM on December 22, 2011


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