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Computing

## 1837: The Analytical Engine

While working on the Difference Engine, Babbage had a better idea for a machine that could calculate anything – not just numbers for mathematical tables. The Analytical Engine was composed of a store (equivalent to memory in a modern computer) and a mill (like a CPU in a  modern computer).…

## 1822: The Difference Engine

English mathematician Charles Babbage was tired of typographical errors in his books of mathematical tables. These books had lists of pre-computed numbers, which were used in navigation, astronomy, and statistics. Babbage drew up the design for the Difference Engine, a mechanical calculator that could produce these tables automatically.…

## Early encryption

A transposition cipher changes the position of the letters in a message using a specific rule, called a key. The recipient, who also knows the  key, reverses the process to get the original text. Writing a message backwards is a transposition cipher, although it is not a secure one, as it is relatively easy to break the code.…

## A history of data

Developed in 1956, the IBM RAMAC 350 was the first computer to have a magnetic disk drive similar to those used today. It weighed 1 tonne (1 ton) and had  50 disks that stored a total of 5 MB of data.…

Most people find binary numbers difficult to work with. The hexadecimal system is based on multiples of 16 and uses the digits 0 to 9 followed by the letters A to F. A 24-bit binary number defining a colour can be written as six hexadecimal digits, making life easier for
programmers.…

## Braille

Braille, developed by French inventor Louis Braille (1809–1852), is a famous example of binary code. It allows blind people to read by converting text into a pattern of raised dots embossed on paper. Each character is represented by a group of six dots, which can have the binary values of “raised” or “not raised”.…

## ASCII Art

It is possible to create images using long lines of ASCII characters. Often called ASCII art, these images were popular in the early days of the internet, as computers lacked the processing power to show proper images.…

## Pareidolia

The human brain is constantly searching for familiar patterns. So much so that people often see patterns that aren’t there. This phenomenon, where a person might think a cloud looks like a particular object, or see a face in a cup of coffee, is known as pareidolia.…

## D-wave quantum chip

The D-wave quantum supercomputer has the same processing power as 100 million regular computers.
If 100 million computer chips were stacked on top of each other, they would be the same height as 23 Mount Everests.

## Napier and Schickard

Scottish mathematician John Napier (1550-1617) created a manually operated calculating device called Napier’s bones. A set of square rods carved from bone inscribed with numbers, it made multiplication, division, and finding square roots much easier. Napier based his device on an Arabic method introduced to Europe by the Italian mathematician Fibonacci (1175-1250).…

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