Thursday, October 1, 2009

In the Beginning was the CRT

In the Beginning was the CRT
George Dyson | Make Vol. 10- 2007 | Pdf | 3 pgs | 1 mb
Introduced in 1897, the cathode-ray tube brought us oscilloscopes, television. radar. computer terminals, the electron microscope. and, 110 years later, YouTube. But the hum of flyback transformers, by which so much code was written, is at an end. As the last generation of armblooded monitors vacates our desks, let us remember that the cathode-ray tube's contribution to digital computing began as internal memory, not external display.

Conventional CRTs display the state of a temporary memory buffer whose contents are produced by the central processing unit (CPU). Once upon a time, however, cathode-ray tubes were the core memory, and they stored the instructions that drove the operations of the CPU. This was one of those sudden adaptations of pre-existing features for unintended purposes by which evolution leaps ahead.

By 1953 there were 53 kilobytes of random-access memory in the entire world, with 5kB in the original IAS machine.

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