More computing history

I linked to the apple-history site just the other day, and if you followed the additional links in that blog entry, you would have already seen this tidbit in the GUI pages. I like all this stuff… it’s fascinating how things we think of as being “new” ain’t necessarily so.

In many ways, the computing world has made remarkably small advances since 1976, and we continually reinvent the wheel. Smalltalk had a nice bytecoded multi-platform virtual machine long before Java. Object oriented programming is the hot thing now, and it’s almost 30 years old (see the Simula-67 language). Environments have not progressed much either: I feel the Smalltalk environments from the late 1970s are the most pleasant, cleanest, fastest, and smoothest programming environments I have ever used. Although CodeWarrior is reasonably good for C++ development, I haven’t seen anything that compares favorably to the Smalltalk systems I used almost 20 years ago. The Smalltalk systems of today aren’t as clean, easy to use, or well- designed as the originals, in my opinion.

This part of the discussion is entitled “On Xerox, Apple, and Progress” and is written by Bruce Horn.

Seamless link alert! I do like to hear about old computing stuff. In fact, just this weekend, I was given an incredibly detailed model of a computer that dates back to 1959. The model belonged to my late grandfather, and is of a system he implemented for Barclays around 1960.

The computer in question was developed by EMI Laboratories in the UK, and had the Joe 90-style moniker “EMIDEC-1100.” From Shakin’ All Over: Rockin’ Rollin’ Diaries:

August 5: To enable its West End branches to deal with a larger number of accounts, Barclays Bank has ordered a £125,000 Emidec 1100 electronic data processing system. It is scheduled for delivery by the manufacturers in mid-1961. The bank’s staff organisations have been assured that the computer’s installation will not entail any foreseeable redundancy. It will enable more accounts to be kept at each branch.

The EMIDEC-1100 was the first large all-transistor computer to be built in the UK, and the model was presented to my grandfather upon his retirement. A cursory search reveals plenty of links. I like this one about the man who led the design team at EMI Laboratories in the late 1950s, Professor Sir Godfrey Hounsfield. Quite a chap — his pioneering work with radar, X-Ray, and wot-not led to the development of CAT scanning. This stuff is amazing. Here, another link: the complete text of Early English Computers by Simon H. Lavington.


  1. Makes me pine for thum thar olden days - did some project work at uni (1982) in Simula. We got to choose the language - our team chose Simula - the rest struggled with COBOL. All on a Vax 11/780 - a whole MIP for all of second year to share. BTW - I married a girl on my team. She had good taste even then.Justin Knol#
  2. Hey, thanks for that Justin! Coincidentally, I was at James Gosling's site this morning, and he mentions Simula.

    He even provides a link to The History of Simula by Jan Rune Holmevik.

    Geek on!Ben Poole#
  3. Just been reviving memories of working on Emidec 1100 in the sixties - see - Is my representation anything like your model?? Any pics of the model?Ian Smith#

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