Good grief. Since I posted Part 1 of my Heath Robinson Rube Goldberg (HRRG) Steampunk Computer project a couple of days ago, I’ve been buried in messages asking as to what is to come…
Well, I don’t want to give the game away, but I’m happy to share a few tempting teasers. Just in case you didn’t see the main article, the idea is to create a computer presented in a collection of glass-fronted wooden cabinets mounted on the wall.
Each cabinet will contain a different portion of the computer, such as the System Clock, the ROM, the RAM, the ALU, the CPU's status and control logic, the CPU's addressing logic, and so forth. Also, the contents of each cabinet will be realized in a different implementation technology, such as relays, vacuum tubes, transistors, silicon chips, and much, much more.
A few potential examples are as follows (and remember that this really is only scratching the surface of what’s possible):
- ROM (Using switches)
- ROM (Using a plug panel)
- RAM (Pneumatic)
- RAM (Fluidic)
- RAM (Delay Line)
- RAM (Core Store)
- ALU/CPU (Relays)
- ALU/CPU (Vacuum Tubes)
- ALU/CPU (Transistors)
- ALU/CPU (Silicon Chips)
Just how crazy can we go? Well, since this is our project, the sky’s the limit. As one simple example, consider a cabinet containing the System Clock. How might we implement this? What about a cabinet containing a Jacob's Ladder
. You know what we're talking about – you see them in the mad scientists' labs in every black-and-white Frankenstein-type horror film ("It's alive... It's alive..."
). That is, the two metal rods with a series of electric "lightning" arcs rising up between them.
In this case, we could use some sort of photo-detector to sense the arcs as they reach the top of the wires. For myself, I would probably include a sound system to slightly amplify the "buzz-hiss-crackle"
effect of the electric arcs. Each arc would equate to a single beat of the system clock. And each beat of the clock could be transmitted to the other cabinets using some sort of wireless mesh.
What do you mean “Overkill?”
Of course it’s overkill. That’s the whole point.
And it really doesn’t matter if this machine is slow – it will be nice to see the computations wending their way across the various cabinets. Plus, I have all sorts of ideas as to the optional frequency multiplying of the main clock, or maybe just using each main click to trigger a complete instruction… the possibilities are endless.
Well that’s enough for now. I just wanted to wet your appetite for what is to come, and also to get your creative juices flowing (make sure you’re sitting on something absorbent).
Remember to keep on coming back to Programmable Logic Designline
to see the latest ideas and developments in HRRG Space (where no one can hear you scream).