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Infographic: Datacenter History In Lego

A DATACENTER HISTORY: THROUGH THE AGES IN By Stephen Foskett | sfoskett As part of Tech Field Day, I've been lucky enough to hold parties at the Computer History Museum in Palo Alto, and I have previously written in this blog about my visit to Bletchley Park. I also recommend the NSA's National Cryptologic Museum in Washington DC; although T haven't written about it here, I did post a number of photos to Flickr. Therefore, I decided to focus on the history of computing in my Lego datacenter. Specifically, I would re-create key historic machines to contrast them with a modern view. EARLY 1940's COLOSSUS: THE FIRST PROGRAMMABLE ELECTRONIIC DIGITAL COMPUTER Perhaps the most important computer in history is the first to be built. Colossus was used by British codebreakers during World War II. Although it was programmable, Colossus was not a general-purpose machine: It was only suitable for cryptologic computation involving counting and Boolean operators. Since the transistor had not yet been invented, Colossus was constructed entirely of valves (vacuum Colossus Computer tubes, to us Americans), and this was its key feature. LATE 1940's ENIAC: THE FIRST GENERAL-PURPOSE COMPUTER Although sometimes disputed, ENIAC is certainly the most famous "first general-purpose computer". ENIAC consisted of a number of "panels" that were programmed by a “function table". Unlike the secret Colossus computer, ENIAC was widely publicized and became a worldwide sensation. Even today, the ENIAC name is commonly known even to those with little interest in computer history. ENIAC 1950 1960 DEC PDP-11: THE FIRST SERVER We now jump forward quite a bit, landing in the 1970's to view Digital Equipment Corporation's iconic PDP-11. No computer shaped today's datacenter more than this minicomputer: Its CPU design influenced today's microprocessors, it served as a platform for development of the C programming language and UNIX operating system, and its operating system influenced the design of CP/M and MS-DOS! Most importantly, the PDP-11 was the first datacenter computer I used. I learned BASIC programming on a teletype connected to a PDP-11 while in high school. DEC PDP-11 XEROX ALTO: THE FIRST PERSONAL COMPUTER? Although not a PC, the Xerox Alto made computing personal. This was the first computer with a “desktop" GUI, and featured a mouse along with the familiar teletype keyboard. Xerox did not produce the Alto for sale, but it was built in volume and provided to educational institutions across the United States. It became the inspiration for the wave of GUI-driven personal computers that appeared in the 1980's, from the Apple Macintosh to the Sun workstation. The Alto was also the platform for the first "WYSIWYG" applications and the Smalltalk programming environment. Xerox Alto THE LEGENDARY CRAY Y-MP We now transition to the 1980's and the legendary supercomputer, Cray's Y-MP. Like the X-MP, Cray designed unique curved "wings", complete with a "bench" at the base. This unusual look, a cross between a computer and living room set, captured my imagination and became the iconic supercomputer in my mind. I have been thrilled to spot Cray X-MP and Y-MP machines at a number of computer history museums, Cray Y-MP Model D suggesting that the rest of the world remembers these machines as well. THINKING MACHINES CONNECTION MACHINE 5 If any supercomputer challenged the Cray Y-MP in the category of coolness, it was Thinking Machines' black monolith, the Connection Machine. Featuring alternating corrugated and smooth black sides and impressive red LED lights, this was the image used to illustrate computing power in Jurassic Park and Mission: Impossible. The NSA used a fully tricked-out 512-node CM-5 for cryptanalysis throughout the early 1990's, and this system is now on display at the National Cryptologic Museum. 512-node CM-5 THE MODERN DATACENTER My Lego datacenter tour ends here, with two racks of modern equipment. At the rear is an EMC Symmetrix VMAX which, like the CM-5, calls attention to its black monolith shape with a light bar. At front is a Juniper T-Series router (white vertical cards with a blue top) rack-mounted with a number of gold servers. Our technician holds an iPad while walking across a smooth raised floor. I even used a stress-reducing blue color for The Modern Datacenter the walls! Our modern datacenter evolved from the history shown here: We retain the same 19-inch rack mount system used for Colossus way back during World War II. All of our machines are “Turing Complete" like the ENIAC. We run UNIX and Windows Server on CPUS spawned from the PDP-11, and our Windowed GUIS reflect the Xerox Alto. Today's multi-core servers and multi-threaded operating systems carry the lessons learned by Cray and Thinking Machines. LEGO®is a trademark of the LEGO Group of companies which does not sponsor, authorize or endorse this site. PRESENT

Infographic: Datacenter History In Lego

shared by cohodata on Jan 14
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The Datacenter History: Through the Ages (by Stephen Foskett) in Lego. Now it’s available as a handy infographic!


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Elysia Chu


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