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Re: [Girl Genius] Steam?

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  • Anthony J. Albert
    ... Well, arguably, many of the computers in the world are partially steam- powered, as the electricity they use is in large part from coal-, oil- or
    Message 1 of 23 , May 23, 2003
      On 22 May 2003 at 15:18, Richard Hoaglund wrote:
      >So...has anyone actually built a steam-powered computer?
      >Cerrberus

      Well, arguably, many of the computers in the world are partially steam-
      powered, as the electricity they use is in large part from coal-, oil-
      or biomass-powered generators.

      However, to speak more to your probable intention, I don't think that
      anyone has built a computer running directly from a steam-powered
      piston or turbine, since the last conversion of a steam-powered,
      programmable loom to electrically-driven. While not a general-purpose
      computer, I think that card-programmed looms are as close as you're
      going to find to a steam-powered computer.

      It would have been possible to run most of the mechanical computers,
      such as Babbage's, from a steam-power source, but I don't believe that
      any actually were.

      Anthony J. Albert
      ===========================================================
      Anthony J. Albert albert@...
      Systems and Software Support Specialist Postmaster
      Computer Services - University of Maine, Presque Isle
      "This is only temporary, unless it works."
      --- Red Green
    • gaertk
      ... ObGirlGenius: Mr. Tock s Jacquard-280 CPU (see essay at end of issue #2) is a direct reference to the inventor of these looms.
      Message 2 of 23 , May 23, 2003
        --- In girlgenius@yahoogroups.com, "Anthony J. Albert" <albert@p...>
        wrote:
        > On 22 May 2003 at 15:18, Richard Hoaglund wrote:
        > >So...has anyone actually built a steam-powered computer?
        > >Cerrberus
        >
        > However, to speak more to your probable intention, I don't think
        > that anyone has built a computer running directly from a
        > steam-powered piston or turbine, since the last conversion of a
        > steam-powered, programmable loom to electrically-driven. While not
        > a general-purpose computer, I think that card-programmed looms are
        > as close as you're going to find to a steam-powered computer.

        ObGirlGenius: Mr. Tock's Jacquard-280 CPU (see essay at end of issue
        #2) is a direct reference to the inventor of these looms.
        http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/SCjacquard.htm

        > It would have been possible to run most of the mechanical
        > computers, such as Babbage's, from a steam-power source, but I
        > don't believe that any actually were.

        I don't think his Difference Engine used steam (and it was just a
        special calculator really). His Analytical Engine was a true
        computer (IIRC he and Ada Lovelace are credited with developing the
        first true computer language) and intended to be steam powered, but
        he only finished a small part of it.


        --KG
      • Erik Von Halle
        ... Indirectly all powerplants heat steam to run their turbines. Indirectly all computers are steam powered? Here in Colorado we get a percentage of our power
        Message 3 of 23 , May 23, 2003
          --- gaertk <no_reply@yahoogroups.com> wrote:
          > --- In girlgenius@yahoogroups.com, "Anthony J.
          > Albert" <albert@p...>
          > wrote:
          > > On 22 May 2003 at 15:18, Richard Hoaglund wrote:
          > > >So...has anyone actually built a steam-powered
          > computer?
          > > >Cerrberus
          > >
          > > However, to speak more to your probable intention,
          > I don't think
          > > that anyone has built a computer running directly
          > from a
          > > steam-powered piston or turbine, since the last
          > conversion of a
          > > steam-powered, programmable loom to
          > electrically-driven. While not
          > > a general-purpose computer, I think that
          > card-programmed looms are
          > > as close as you're going to find to a
          > steam-powered computer.
          > ....

          Indirectly all powerplants heat steam to run their
          turbines. Indirectly all computers are steam powered?

          Here in Colorado we get a percentage of our power from
          wind.

          If your local power company has a nuke facility does
          that mean your computer is Atomic Powered?

          Erik Von Halle
          Golden, Colorado

          __________________________________
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          The New Yahoo! Search - Faster. Easier. Bingo.
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        • Dan O'Carroll
          ... ... not ... are ... issue ... While Babbage may not have completed any of his computing machines, the Science Museum of London did build a
          Message 4 of 23 , May 24, 2003
            --- In girlgenius@yahoogroups.com, gaertk <no_reply@y...> wrote:
            > --- In girlgenius@yahoogroups.com, "Anthony J. Albert"
            <albert@p...>
            > wrote:
            > > On 22 May 2003 at 15:18, Richard Hoaglund wrote:
            > > >So...has anyone actually built a steam-powered computer?
            > > >Cerrberus
            > >
            > > However, to speak more to your probable intention, I don't think
            > > that anyone has built a computer running directly from a
            > > steam-powered piston or turbine, since the last conversion of a
            > > steam-powered, programmable loom to electrically-driven. While
            not
            > > a general-purpose computer, I think that card-programmed looms
            are
            > > as close as you're going to find to a steam-powered computer.
            >
            > ObGirlGenius: Mr. Tock's Jacquard-280 CPU (see essay at end of
            issue
            > #2) is a direct reference to the inventor of these looms.
            > http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/SCjacquard.htm
            >
            > > It would have been possible to run most of the mechanical
            > > computers, such as Babbage's, from a steam-power source, but I
            > > don't believe that any actually were.
            >
            > I don't think his Difference Engine used steam (and it was just a
            > special calculator really). His Analytical Engine was a true
            > computer (IIRC he and Ada Lovelace are credited with developing the
            > first true computer language) and intended to be steam powered, but
            > he only finished a small part of it.
            >
            >
            > --KG

            While Babbage may not have completed any of his computing machines,
            the Science Museum of London did build a working model of the
            Difference Engine #2 in 1991, working from the original plans and
            using only 1880s technology. Then, in 2000, the printer (fully as
            complex as the rest of the machine) was completed.

            However, you are correct. The Difference Engines are highly
            sophisticated calculators, rather than what we, today, would consider
            general purpose computers. The Difference Engine #2 has the ability
            to solve any 7th order polynomial (which is more than I can do), and
            can calculate numbers upto 30 digits long.

            Babbage wanted to print large mathmatical tables accurately,
            something that would be useful in fields ranging from ballistics to
            astronomy to navigation.

            And as stated above, this was not steam driven; the crank was hand-
            turned. Still, since it required so little power to run, it could
            easily have been converted to steam.

            Here are a coule of articles:
            http://news.com.com/2009-1001-839530.html
            http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/710950.stm
            http://hoc.co.umist.ac.uk/storylines/compdev/earlymechanical/diffengin
            e.html

            And some nice pictures:
            http://neil.fraser.name/writing/london-paris/05.html
            http://www.4-winner.com/computers/babbage1822.htm
            http://scaletrix.com/nuno/babbage.html
          • Karrion
            Well, to me a steam computer would be more than simply steam powered. It would use some sort of pressure controled binary registers. Sort of steam versions of
            Message 5 of 23 , May 25, 2003
              Well, to me a steam computer would be more than simply steam
              powered. It would use some sort of pressure controled binary
              registers. Sort of steam versions of bits. Steam 'relays' in place
              of transistors. Pressure regulators in place of resistors. Pressure
              tanks filling the place of capacitors. Nearly all digital
              electronics could be replaced with something pressure related. Keys
              would be valves, of course. I imagine using a comp like this would
              be a lot like playing a pipe-organ. A printer wouldn't be a serious
              problem but I'll have to think on how a display could be built.


              Karrion



              --- In girlgenius@yahoogroups.com, "Dan O'Carroll" <docarrol@c...>
              wrote:
              > --- In girlgenius@yahoogroups.com, gaertk <no_reply@y...> wrote:
              > > --- In girlgenius@yahoogroups.com, "Anthony J. Albert"
              > <albert@p...>
              > > wrote:
              > > > On 22 May 2003 at 15:18, Richard Hoaglund wrote:
              > > > >So...has anyone actually built a steam-powered computer?
              > > > >Cerrberus
              > > >
              > > > However, to speak more to your probable intention, I don't
              think
              > > > that anyone has built a computer running directly from a
              > > > steam-powered piston or turbine, since the last conversion of
              a
            • Geoff Engel
              Steam-operated rotating flaps, each corresponding to a pixel. Black on one side, white on the other. Color would be a problem, but you d get an image. -Geoff
              Message 6 of 23 , May 26, 2003
                Steam-operated rotating flaps, each corresponding to a pixel. Black on one
                side, white on the other. Color would be a problem, but you'd get an image.

                -Geoff

                At 06:59 AM 5/26/2003 +0000, you wrote:
                >I'll have to think on how a display could be built.
                >
                >
                >Karrion
              • Michael Bakula
                Flaps!? Surely you jest! If you must resort to using calorific vapor to drive your display, a simple matrix of single-acting/self-return cylinders, advancing
                Message 7 of 23 , May 26, 2003
                  Flaps!? Surely you jest!

                  If you must resort to using calorific vapor to drive your display, a
                  simple matrix of single-acting/self-return cylinders, advancing color
                  bands or discs (your choice) through ratchets would suffice. If your
                  computing engine is insufficiently powerful to retain the current state
                  of the display, a simple pneumatic lock-and-cancel circuit on each
                  display module (or "dis-mod") would permit direct access to any color.
                  With custom bands, resolutions higher than the display matrix
                  array-spacing could be achieved.

                  Personally, I prefer an mechano-electrical system of the type pioneered
                  by Nipkow, although my system is, of course, proprietary, and vastly
                  superior....

                  Respectfully submitted,

                  Michael J. Bakula
                  The Infernal Engineering company of Urbana Illinois,
                  Proprieter

                  On Monday, May 26, 2003, at 09:03 PM, Geoff Engel wrote:

                  > Steam-operated rotating flaps, each corresponding to a pixel. Black on
                  > one
                  > side, white on the other. Color would be a problem, but you'd get an
                  > image.
                  >
                  > -Geoff
                  >
                  > At 06:59 AM 5/26/2003 +0000, you wrote:
                  >> I'll have to think on how a display could be built.
                  >>
                  >>
                  >> Karrion
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
                  > girlgenius-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to
                  > http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
                  >
                  >
                • Karrion
                  Probably the most realistic solution would be a ticker-tape type output. The GG-type solution however would a large frosted glass ring with a rotating device
                  Message 8 of 23 , May 26, 2003
                    Probably the most realistic solution would be a ticker-tape type
                    output. The GG-type solution however would a large frosted glass
                    ring with a rotating device using magnetic rings with character
                    embossed around the edge and iron-filings to produce scrolling black
                    letter across a narrow curved screen. Hmm...maybe if I mounted the
                    ring unit a rollerchain I could build a flat screen
                    instead....'course I'll need to recycle the iron filings back to the
                    start.....and the mimmoth treadmills could go in the back..oh wait,
                    that's for the coffee grinder.....


                    Karrion



                    --- In girlgenius@yahoogroups.com, Michael Bakula <mike.bakula@e...>
                    wrote:
                    > Flaps!? Surely you jest!
                    >
                    > If you must resort to using calorific vapor to drive your display,
                    a
                    > simple matrix of single-acting/self-return cylinders, advancing
                    color
                    > bands or discs (your choice) through ratchets would suffice. If
                    your
                    > computing engine is insufficiently powerful to retain the current
                    state
                    > of the display, a simple pneumatic lock-and-cancel circuit on each
                    > display module (or "dis-mod") would permit direct access to any
                    color.
                    > With custom bands, resolutions higher than the display matrix
                    > array-spacing could be achieved.
                    >
                    > Personally, I prefer an mechano-electrical system of the type
                    pioneered
                    > by Nipkow, although my system is, of course, proprietary, and
                    vastly
                    > superior....
                    >
                    > Respectfully submitted,
                    >
                    > Michael J. Bakula
                    > The Infernal Engineering company of Urbana Illinois,
                    > Proprieter
                    >
                    > On Monday, May 26, 2003, at 09:03 PM, Geoff Engel wrote:
                    >
                    > > Steam-operated rotating flaps, each corresponding to a pixel.
                    Black on
                    > > one
                    > > side, white on the other. Color would be a problem, but you'd
                    get an
                    > > image.
                    > >
                    > > -Geoff
                    > >
                    > > At 06:59 AM 5/26/2003 +0000, you wrote:
                    > >> I'll have to think on how a display could be built.
                    > >>
                    > >>
                    > >> Karrion
                    > >
                    > >
                    > >
                    > >
                    > > To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
                    > > girlgenius-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
                    > >
                    > >
                    > >
                    > > Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to
                    > > http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
                    > >
                    > >
                  • Karrion
                    Probably the most realistic solution would be a ticker-tape type output. The GG-type solution however would a large frosted glass ring with a rotating device
                    Message 9 of 23 , May 26, 2003
                      Probably the most realistic solution would be a ticker-tape type
                      output. The GG-type solution however would a large frosted glass
                      ring with a rotating device using magnetic rings with character
                      embossed around the edge and iron-filings to produce scrolling black
                      letter across a narrow curved screen. Hmm...maybe if I mounted the
                      ring unit a rollerchain I could build a flat screen
                      instead....'course I'll need to recycle the iron filings back to the
                      start.....and the mimmoth treadmills could go in the back..oh wait,
                      that's for the coffee grinder.....


                      Karrion



                      --- In girlgenius@yahoogroups.com, Michael Bakula <mike.bakula@e...>
                      wrote:
                      > Flaps!? Surely you jest!
                      >
                      > If you must resort to using calorific vapor to drive your display,
                      a
                      > simple matrix of single-acting/self-return cylinders, advancing
                      color
                      > bands or discs (your choice) through ratchets would suffice. If
                      your
                      > computing engine is insufficiently powerful to retain the current
                      state
                      > of the display, a simple pneumatic lock-and-cancel circuit on each
                      > display module (or "dis-mod") would permit direct access to any
                      color.
                      > With custom bands, resolutions higher than the display matrix
                      > array-spacing could be achieved.
                      >
                      > Personally, I prefer an mechano-electrical system of the type
                      pioneered
                      > by Nipkow, although my system is, of course, proprietary, and
                      vastly
                      > superior....
                      >
                      > Respectfully submitted,
                      >
                      > Michael J. Bakula
                      > The Infernal Engineering company of Urbana Illinois,
                      > Proprieter
                      >
                      > On Monday, May 26, 2003, at 09:03 PM, Geoff Engel wrote:
                      >
                      > > Steam-operated rotating flaps, each corresponding to a pixel.
                      Black on
                      > > one
                      > > side, white on the other. Color would be a problem, but you'd
                      get an
                      > > image.
                      > >
                      > > -Geoff
                      > >
                      > > At 06:59 AM 5/26/2003 +0000, you wrote:
                      > >> I'll have to think on how a display could be built.
                      > >>
                      > >>
                      > >> Karrion
                      > >
                      > >
                      > >
                      > >
                      > > To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
                      > > girlgenius-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
                      > >
                      > >
                      > >
                      > > Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to
                      > > http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
                      > >
                      > >
                    • Erik Von Halle
                      Steam power! How Impressive! I m using the old fashioned, full color, theater of the mind calculator powered strictly by the imagination. It s very spectacular
                      Message 10 of 23 , May 26, 2003
                        Steam power! How Impressive!

                        I'm using the old fashioned, full color, theater of
                        the mind calculator powered strictly by the
                        imagination. It's very spectacular but the system does
                        tend to get overwelmed easily and the crashes are
                        rather frequent. The computing speed is a little on
                        the slow side and I have great difficulty in trying to
                        run other opperating systems, but at least it's cheap
                        to maintain and very portable.

                        Erik Von Halle
                        The Maddest Scientist (That's my company name on all
                        those warranty forms I fill out.)
                        Golden, Colorado

                        __________________________________
                        Do you Yahoo!?
                        The New Yahoo! Search - Faster. Easier. Bingo.
                        http://search.yahoo.com
                      • Santiago
                        ... That s roughly what they used for displays in _The_Difference_Engine_ (the novel by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling about an alternate world where
                        Message 11 of 23 , May 27, 2003
                          On Monday, May 26, 2003, at 10:03 PM, Geoff Engel wrote:

                          > Steam-operated rotating flaps, each corresponding to a pixel. Black
                          > on one
                          > side, white on the other. Color would be a problem, but you'd get an
                          > image.
                          >
                          > -Geoff

                          That's roughly what they used for displays in _The_Difference_Engine_
                          (the novel by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling about an alternate
                          world where Babbage is Prime Minister and a gear-based computing age
                          started in the 1800s). You don't really want steam going to each
                          individual pixel. That's silly. have each pixel controlled by a taut
                          wire going to a controller bank, whose actions can then be powered by
                          steam.

                          -- Santiago
                        • Geoff Engel
                          That would pretty much be where the concept came from. I leave the engineering details to as an exercise for the reader. I m a (_very_ loosely interpreted)
                          Message 12 of 23 , May 27, 2003
                            That would pretty much be where the concept came from. I leave the
                            engineering details to as an exercise for the reader. I'm a (_very_
                            loosely interpreted) jackleg biotech*, not a mech engineer.

                            -Geoff

                            *well, at least, in the sense of using microorganisms as part of
                            manufacturing processes. OK, I make beer. Close enough.

                            At 11:30 AM 5/27/2003 -0400, you wrote:

                            >On Monday, May 26, 2003, at 10:03 PM, Geoff Engel wrote:
                            >
                            > > Steam-operated rotating flaps, each corresponding to a pixel. Black
                            > > on one
                            > > side, white on the other. Color would be a problem, but you'd get an
                            > > image.
                            > >
                            > > -Geoff
                            >
                            > That's roughly what they used for displays in
                            > _The_Difference_Engine_
                            >(the novel by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling about an alternate
                            >world where Babbage is Prime Minister and a gear-based computing age
                            >started in the 1800s). You don't really want steam going to each
                            >individual pixel. That's silly. have each pixel controlled by a taut
                            >wire going to a controller bank, whose actions can then be powered by
                            >steam.
                            >
                            >-- Santiago
                          • Anthony J. Albert
                            ... [AJA, quoting from my first message on this topic] ... [end quote] ... Yes, when looked at from a certain direction. While it s tempting to use all , and
                            Message 13 of 23 , May 27, 2003
                              On 23 May 2003 at 22:37, Erik Von Halle wrote:
                              >--- gaertk <no_reply@yahoogroups.com> wrote:
                              >> --- In girlgenius@yahoogroups.com, "Anthony J.
                              >> Albert" <albert@p...>
                              >> wrote:
                              >> > On 22 May 2003 at 15:18, Richard Hoaglund wrote:
                              >> > >So...has anyone actually built a steam-powered
                              >> computer?
                              >> > >Cerrberus
                              >> >
                              >> > However, to speak more to your probable intention,
                              >> I don't think
                              >> > that anyone has built a computer running directly
                              >> from a
                              >> > steam-powered piston or turbine, since the last
                              >> conversion of a
                              >> > steam-powered, programmable loom to
                              >> electrically-driven. While not
                              >> > a general-purpose computer, I think that
                              >> card-programmed looms are
                              >> > as close as you're going to find to a
                              >> steam-powered computer.
                              >> ....
                              >
                              >Indirectly all powerplants heat steam to run their
                              >turbines. Indirectly all computers are steam powered?

                              [AJA, quoting from my first message on this topic]
                              >Well, arguably, many of the computers in the world are partially steam-
                              >powered, as the electricity they use is in large part from coal-, oil-
                              >or biomass-powered generators.
                              [end quote]

                              >Here in Colorado we get a percentage of our power from
                              >wind.
                              >
                              >If your local power company has a nuke facility does
                              >that mean your computer is Atomic Powered?
                              >
                              >Erik Von Halle
                              >Golden, Colorado

                              Yes, when looked at from a certain direction. While it's tempting to
                              use "all", and can produce some humorous results, you can't, in all
                              fairness, use it, since it invalidates the first supposition, that all
                              powerplants heat steam to turn their turbines. Not all do, and not all
                              computers are connected to the grid that most large powerplants are
                              connected to. There are a great many battery-powered computers, and
                              greater numbers of them are entirely fuel cell-, solar- or wind-
                              powered, as "alternative" energy sources gain in popularity.

                              Using "most" and "many" is a good thing - leaves plenty of weasle room,
                              especially when writing grant and research proposals. *grin*

                              ObGirlGenius:
                              I'm sure that the downfall of at least a few of the various sparks,
                              over time, has been clouds moving between the sun, and their latest
                              solar-powered death-ray-of-doom.

                              Anthony J. Albert
                              ===========================================================
                              Anthony J. Albert albert@...
                              Systems and Software Support Specialist Postmaster
                              Computer Services - University of Maine, Presque Isle
                              "This is only temporary, unless it works."
                              --- Red Green
                            • Anthony J. Albert
                              ... Believe it or not, such display systems actually exist - I ve worked on them. While not steam-powered, billboard-sized displays of this type have been
                              Message 14 of 23 , May 27, 2003
                                On 26 May 2003 at 19:03, Geoff Engel wrote:
                                >Steam-operated rotating flaps, each corresponding to a pixel. Black on one
                                >side, white on the other. Color would be a problem, but you'd get an image.
                                >
                                >-Geoff
                                >
                                >At 06:59 AM 5/26/2003 +0000, you wrote:
                                >>I'll have to think on how a display could be built.
                                >>
                                >>
                                >>Karrion

                                Believe it or not, such display systems actually exist - I've worked on
                                them. While not steam-powered, billboard-sized displays of this type
                                have been built, with various "pixel" sizes from half-centimeter to
                                half-dozen centimeter. The displays at horse racing tracks are often
                                constructed from yellow/black pixel elements. And color displays have
                                also been built, using four-sided rotators for each pixel, red-green-
                                blue-black.

                                There are some tasks for which those itty-bitty LEDs are just not as
                                cost-effective.

                                Anthony J. Albert

                                ===========================================================
                                Anthony J. Albert albert@...
                                Systems and Software Support Specialist Postmaster
                                Computer Services - University of Maine, Presque Isle
                                "This is only temporary, unless it works."
                                --- Red Green
                              • Santiago
                                ... Quite right. I d previously noticed that the signs on the busses here in PIttsburgh work that way, but it hadn t come to mind during this discussion. --
                                Message 15 of 23 , May 27, 2003
                                  On Tuesday, May 27, 2003, at 01:47 PM, Anthony J. Albert wrote:

                                  > Believe it or not, such display systems actually exist - I've worked on
                                  > them. While not steam-powered, billboard-sized displays of this type
                                  > have been built, with various "pixel" sizes from half-centimeter to
                                  > half-dozen centimeter. The displays at horse racing tracks are often
                                  > constructed from yellow/black pixel elements. And color displays have
                                  > also been built, using four-sided rotators for each pixel, red-green-
                                  > blue-black.

                                  Quite right. I'd previously noticed that the signs on the busses here
                                  in PIttsburgh work that way, but it hadn't come to mind during this
                                  discussion.

                                  -- Santiago
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