The Harwell Dekatron WITCH has been rebuilt and rebooted at The National Museum of Computing in England, making it the world’s oldest working digital computer.
The 2.5 tonne, 1951 computer from Harwell with its 828 flashing Dekatron valves, 480 relays and a bank of paper tape readers will clatter back into action in the presence of two of the original designers, one of its first users and many others who have admired it at different times during its remarkable history.
If you’re a computer geek and get the chance to visit Bletchley Park, make sure you don’t overlook the museum. I had the opportunity to visit a couple years ago — I had no idea it was there, and probably could’ve devoted another day to it.
How to construct a 4-bit computer, see how computing works at a base level.
The harddrive in my MacBook decided to die on Saturday afternoon. Wasn’t doing much — had a few programs open and was in the process of checking out some books from the British Library. Tried to load up some bibliographic software, got the spinning beachball and most of the programs locked up. So, I did a hard reboot. After turning it back on, I received a grey screen with a blinking folder containing a question mark.
It would have been nice if it was some sort of minor system glitch, but the harddrive is making that ticking death-rattle. Apparently, this kind of failture seems to be a somewhat common problem with MacBook users. The laptop is still under warranty for another month, so I should be able to get a free replacement. Although, there is the problem of the sales receipt being physically located in Canada. I have a Genius Bar appointment Monday morning at the London store, hopefully all goes well.
I had a complete system backup from a few weeks ago, so I’ve only lost two week’s worth of dissertation research. It could have been much worse. My computer is currently operating via the backup on my external drive. SuperDuper is a godsend and is well worth the expense, it allowed me to make a bootable clone of my harddrive. Senuti is also a handy little utility if you want to retrieve music from your ipod.
Let this be a warning to all of my fellow masters students (and everyone in general), make sure you have reliable backups. At least it happened now and not in two months when the dissertation is due.
Update: The Apple Store was willing to replace my harddrive, but I would’ve had to leave the laptop with them for 3-10 days because they didn’t have any 60gb drives in stock. Couldn’t really afford to be without my machine for that length of time, so I decided to replace the harddisk myself.
I picked up a Hitachi Travelstar 160gb drive, installed it in about 15 minutes, and restored from the three-week-old full backup. Everything is up and running again, but I’m now completely paranoid. In the process of making sure that I have copes of photos, music and school files on my web host.