“640K ought to be enough for anybody,” Bill Gates famously once said, referring to RAM in PCs. Or at least he’s rumored to have said—the man himself strenuously denies the attribution and a number of sources who have worked to trace the provenance of the comment have come up short. That said, as this slideshow demonstrates, 640 KB was a stupendous amount of memory for the time. Take a look back at some of the early technologies used for digital data storage—and realize that it would probably take dozens of them to deliver the same capacity as in your average car key.
Hmm. The reference to the 1401 and 36-bit words is wrong. The 1401 was a character machine, with each location consisting of 6 data bits, a word-mark bit and a parity bit. Based on the following reference to the 36-bit words of the 701, perhaps that was what was meant.
Yes, I programmed a 1401 in autocoder. It was my second computer and second assembly language. By the way, it is possible to see a live 1401 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View if you are there at the right time. The smell of the mechanical card equipment sure brings back memories.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.