Geekly Update - 11 July 2018

Category: Tech-News

Can you name the computer so massive that it required a one-acre building, four stories high? If you're worried about bugs in your software, how would you feel about snakes in your hardware? And what really happens when you eat a Kit Kat bar the wrong way? This issue is guaranteed to make you 146% smarter -- you'll see why. Read, think, and, comment!

The AskBobRankin Geekly Update

SAGE, an IBM computer built in 1956, is still the largest computer in history. SAGE consoles appeared in many sci-fi movies, but what you might have seen was just the tip of the electronic iceberg. Each of the 25 SAGE installations was housed in a four story, one-acre square concrete building, and consisted of 60,000 vacuum tubes and other gadgetry. SAGE didn't catch any Russian bombers, but it was the first computer to use cathode-ray-tube (CRT) monitors, magnetic core memory, and transistors. Some of the IBM engineers who worked on SAGE moved on to other notable projects, such as SABRE (the airline reservation system still used today), and ARPANET (the forerunner of the the Internet).

Everyone knows that the proper way to eat a Kit Kat bar is to break off one piece at a time. Everyone, that is, except Evan Wilt, who achieved Internet shame-fame in May, when his girlfriend tweeted a photo of him carelessly biting into one without separating the individual pieces. But the Hershey company helped him save face by 3D-printing a fake Kit Kat bar with a secret compartment to hide the ring for his marriage proposal.

But not all proposals come off better with the help of technology. A grandpa who had struck up a conversation with fellow tourists was asked to film the couple's marriage proposal. But he accidentally took iPhone video of himself observing the event.

Geekly Update 07-11-2018

The fashionable web design these days features lots of whitespace that can be hard on the eyes. Deluminate is a Chrome extension that makes bright white backgrounds dark while preserving contrast for easier reading.

Snakes On a Plane, Part Deux. TSA agents at Miami International Airport must have suspected something was a little odd about an external hard drive which was checked inside one passenger's luggage. They were right, it contained a live python.

An embarrassing miscount of hot dogs during the traditional Coney Island Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest has the company considering a digital counting solution for future contests. Are we overly reliant on technology enough yet?

Fans of the music group Insane Clown Posse have discovered that face recognition tech is hopelessly confused by their Juggalo makeup. Privacy has a price.

Ultrathin, flexible electronic circuitry can be applied to skin like a kid’s temporary tattoo.

Some tech startups are turning down lucrative government contracts and funding from CIA-backed venture capital firms due to concerns about how their inventions might be used to spy on citizens.

Two weeks after Net Neutrality rules were revoked, Comcast is the first large ISP to renege on its promise not to throttle certain types of data or charge extra for carrying it.

The IT infrastructure of the Baltimore Police Department is so badly neglected that there are no plans or funds to replace its antiquated communications system, which Motorola will soon stop supporting.

Fitness app Polar leaked the home addresses and live locations of military and intelligence officers even when their profiles were set to “private.”

Researchers found that ownership of an iPhone or iPad is the best predictor of whether a person is rich or not. I always thought its was an intelligence test.

Your thoughts on these topics are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Geekly Update - 11 July 2018"

Posted by:

Michael Brose
11 Jul 2018

I have actually walked through a computer. Rows and rows of vacuum tubes. Very hot and orange.

Posted by:

11 Jul 2018

How does one hide a python snake in an external hard drive? Me thinks TSA can't tell a hard drive from a computer case.

Posted by:

Beth R
11 Jul 2018

Re: iPad, iPhone ownership as an indication of wealth... Ridiculous. Additional "predictors" of wealth include: owning an android phone (so I guess owning ANY phone counts??). And of course we all know that only the rich buy Kikkoman soy sauce or Ziploc bags or Cascade Complete.

Posted by:

Ed Phillips
11 Jul 2018

Probably one of your few readers who knew the answer was SAGE. I was scheduled for training on it and at the last minute the Air Force changed me to the 412L, a GE system used in Germany.
So I go to Germany instead of Omaha. Tough break.
BTW SAGE computer itself was mainly tubes and I don't believe any transistors. 412L did have transistors. :)

Posted by:

Skip Braden
11 Jul 2018

I worked with the SAGE system at Malmstrom AFB, Great Falls, Montana from 1978 to 1980. I sat at one of those consoles, using a light gun, that acted like a mouse does today. You depress the 'barrel' on a radar return blip, and pull the trigger, which caused the system to gather flight data such as height and azimuth bearing, then track the blip, to determine course and speed. It displayed this info next to the radar track, on the screen.
Other teams could remotely vector USAF interceptors to the targets.
It was pretty remarkable, even then, after almost 20 years after initial deployment.

Posted by:

12 Jul 2018

It didn't take Comcast long and the others will probably be following suit as quickly as they can now the brakes are off.

Posted by:

Michael Brose
12 Jul 2018

SAGE is an acronym for: SEMI AUTOMATIC GROUND ENVIRONMENT. The follow up system was BUIC III. The acronym for: BACK UP INTERCEPT CONTROL, third iteration. It was a much smaller and faster computer than SAGE because it used transistors.

Posted by:

12 Jul 2018

I actually had a pretty good idea that Bob was talking about the SAGE computers just from the description. I grew up within sight (at times-- at other times not quite so close) of one of them. The one at Stewart AFB.

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