Join 3,495 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


ARPANET gets audited
December 26, 2012 8:21 AM   Subscribe

An early tale of the Internet
posted by msalt (37 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
I keep my bits in a bucket. I call it /dev/null
posted by Fferret at 8:32 AM on December 26, 2012


Sometimes, when dealing with government types, you just gotta know the drill.
posted by radwolf76 at 8:42 AM on December 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


The man was just doing his job. Can't be wasting packets after all.
posted by thelonius at 8:45 AM on December 26, 2012


I don't even know what I would do with two and a half billion packets of bits.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:52 AM on December 26, 2012


I love that story.
posted by Area Man at 9:00 AM on December 26, 2012


This makes me want to read Where Wizards Stay Up Late again.
posted by absalom at 9:03 AM on December 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I hadn't actually seen that story before. That's wonderful.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:04 AM on December 26, 2012


What, no kibbles?
posted by tommasz at 9:20 AM on December 26, 2012


I'm off to polish my tarnished packets.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 9:21 AM on December 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is that what's meant by the word "checksum"?
posted by chavenet at 9:22 AM on December 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can't tell if this is nerd humour or accountant humour, but I approve.
posted by Yowser at 9:36 AM on December 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's funny, but I can see why the auditor would think, in 1966, that a bunch of engineers were getting packets of bits of the mechanical kind.
posted by linux at 9:42 AM on December 26, 2012


That boy was born to be a bureaucrat!
posted by hot_monster at 10:21 AM on December 26, 2012


What, no kibbles?

In the industry you tend to not mix kibble with bits, but with bytes, and they're called Kibibytes.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:37 AM on December 26, 2012


Well in the early eighties, when I was playing VMS sysadmin, I had a visit from someone from accounting who wanted to put a capital equipment tad on the FORTRAN compiler.
posted by rjnerd at 10:43 AM on December 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


As somebody who has worked in both programming and accounting, this was exactly the right way to field these questions. A government auditor's goal is not to question why, but to make sure the right boxes are checked off so that the accounting records reflect reality (in order to avoid fraud and embezzling). If it had been 2,493,786,916 packets of ketchup, the conversation would probably not have gone any differently.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:18 AM on December 26, 2012


I don't think tarnish is a concern for ketchup.
posted by radwolf76 at 11:21 AM on December 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Spoken like someone who has never spent an entire weekend polishing his ketchup.
posted by slkinsey at 11:22 AM on December 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


I have, however, spent many a weekend polishing my bits.
posted by xbonesgt at 11:23 AM on December 26, 2012 [13 favorites]


Heyoooooo!
posted by msalt at 11:29 AM on December 26, 2012


What, no kibbles?

They are called Nibbles
posted by DreamerFi at 11:32 AM on December 26, 2012


If the auditor thought these packets were physical, didn't he wonder at the remarkably large number? If he realized they were virtual, why did he use the words "corroded" and "tarnished"? Maybe the lesson here is that we now juggle the physical-vs-virtual duality every day, but that most people didn't have to do that in the 1960s. Anyway, great story!
posted by Triplanetary at 11:39 AM on December 26, 2012


My carrot has not a spot of tarnish on it.
posted by Splunge at 11:58 AM on December 26, 2012


I once visited a remote field station full of scientific equipment and the vintage computers that ran it. Carefully stashed in one corner was a 55-gallon drum filled to the brim with...bits. Many years' accumulation of the little pieces of cardstock punched out of punchcards.

This thread inspired me to finally calculate just how many of them there were. Assuming each scrap of cardstock was about 2x4x0.18 mm, and that they filled about 80% of the volume, it turns out that a 55-gallon drum holds about 110 MB of data.
posted by fermion at 12:01 PM on December 26, 2012 [17 favorites]


Or, if you fill the same 55-gallon drum with 64GB microSD cards, it will hold about 55 petabytes. MicroSD cards still kind of freak me out. They're like data neutronium.
posted by fermion at 12:08 PM on December 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


This thread inspired me to finally calculate just how many of them there were. Assuming each scrap of cardstock was about 2x4x0.18 mm, and that they filled about 80% of the volume, it turns out that a 55-gallon drum holds about 110 MB of data.
Alternatively, it contains one bit of data with a metric fuck-ton of redundancy.
posted by Freon at 12:09 PM on December 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


I once visited a remote field station full of scientific equipment and the vintage computers that ran it

I was just showing my daughters the song "Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This" on YouTube and was reminded of the the sweet vintage computer gear in that 1983 video.
posted by msalt at 12:16 PM on December 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Your tax dollars at work. Or, in the parlance of our times: You didn't build that!
posted by gertzedek at 12:44 PM on December 26, 2012


Awww
posted by rossmeissl at 1:23 PM on December 26, 2012


the sweet vintage computer gear yt in that 1983 video.

I believe that's the drum machine -- the very one you're listening to.
posted by dhartung at 2:07 PM on December 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


The chips in the 55-gallon drum represented more than a single bit each.

Most 80-column punched cards contained alphanumeric data--a decimal digit would be a single chip from a column in the 0-9 position (usually printed with 0 ... 9) and a letter would be 2 chips per column, one 1-9, and one from rows 0, 11, or 12. The cards had 12 rows.

Other cards represented binary data. The 12*80=960 possible holes in a card represented 960 bits (or 864 bits if only 72 columns were used for data as was customary--the last 8 columns held a card sequence number so the deck could be sorted into correct order after you clumsily dropped it on the floor. Why did you do that?)

So how many bits per chip is that?
Decimal numbers: 1 chip per decimal digit= 3.33 bits per chip (log210)
Alphanumeric: 2 chips per character (40 or so characters)=2.61 bits per chip (½log240)
Binary data--only 1-bits get punched out, so about 2 bits per chip.

So--lots more bits.
posted by hexatron at 2:19 PM on December 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I recently cleaned out a few decades of bits in the bit bucket and pulped bits in the mechanics of an IBM 129 card data recorder. (More details)
posted by autopilot at 3:22 PM on December 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm just going to come out and say it. I think there's a good chance that this is a funny story that didn't actually happen.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 3:55 PM on December 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Next you're going to tell us there's no Easter Bunny!
posted by Pudhoho at 4:25 PM on December 26, 2012


Boy, check out the expert trolling by Catherine Whatshername in the comments.
posted by RustyBrooks at 5:38 PM on December 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


... and that's the origin of the meme, "Don't believe everything you read on the internet."
posted by Ardiril at 7:18 PM on December 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have to concur with Rumpole that this has just a ... bit ... of the flavor of, say, classic Navy pranks played on newbies.
posted by dhartung at 10:29 PM on December 26, 2012


« Older Education is becoming less and less of an equalize...  |  (MLYTgawkerPost) PUPPIES (and ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments