[SIGCIS-Members] Fwd: CCS News - 2016 Tony Sale Award winner

Mark Priestley m.priestley at gmail.com
Fri Nov 18 08:36:12 PST 2016


Hello list,

That looks like a nice exhibit, but I must admit that the video leaves me
wondering just what insight it gives into programming ENIAC, as opposed to
operating it. It looks like the demonstrator is setting up operations on
the exhibit one at a time, and then executing them by hand. Actual ENIAC
usage, of course, involved setting up a whole series of instructions at
once (including loops, conditional branches etc) and then letting them
execute automatically.

ENIAC "programmers" - more properly, perhaps, the machine's developers, the
scientists who used it, and the operators who helped them - used a variety
of graphical notations to plan these set-ups. An simple example is at
http://markpriestley.net/akg.pdf - this diagram shows exactly how to set
the switches and plug the wires to calculate n, n^2 and n^3, stopping
before an overflow happens. Even with a simulator, this is quite hard to
follow ...

The same goes for other reconstructions, in my experience. For example,
watching the Colossus rebuild working at Bletchley Park is a wonderful
experience, but gives little insight into many aspects of what the machine
was doing, or what it was capable of. Does anyone know of museum exhibits
that successfully convey something about programming, or it is just too
abstract an activity?

Cheers,
Mark


On 18 November 2016 at 11:39, Brian Randell <brian.randell at newcastle.ac.uk>
wrote:

> Hi:
>
> Here’s an interesting news release that has just reached me:
>
> Computer Conservation Society news release:
>
>
> *When programming was physical*
> *Interactive 1950’s computer programming reconstruction from Germany wins
> 2016 Tony Sale Award *
>
> 18 November 2016
>
> The 2016 Tony Sale Award for computer conservation has been won by the
> Heinz-Nixdorf MuseumsForum (HNF) for its evocative and educational
> reconstruction showing how ENIAC, one of the first electronic computers,
> was programmed. The Tony Sale Award, managed by the Computer Conservation
> Society and sponsored by Google, recognises achievements in the growing
> area of computer conservation.
>
> ENIAC was programmed by plugging wires and turning knobs, a physical
> skillset quite different from those deployed today. The reconstruction of
> part of the huge 1946 American computer has the look and feel of the
> original, but has been simplified to make it readily understood and even
> programmable by non-specialists.
>
> *Photos and video of the reconstruction here: **http://www.tnmoc.org/news/news-releases/tony-sale-award-2016
> <http://www.tnmoc.org/news/news-releases/tony-sale-award-2016>*
>
>
> Chers
>
> Brian Randell
>
> --
> School of Computing Science, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne,
> NE1 7RU, UK
> EMAIL = Brian.Randell at ncl.ac.uk   PHONE = +44 191 208 7923
> FAX = +44 191 208 8232  URL = http://www.ncl.ac.uk/
> computing/people/profile/brianrandell.html
>
>
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