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38

Partial answer: This article describes one flavour in more detail: While the specific tasks a computer did varied according to need and her department, the majority of computing work involved three components: reading film, running calculations, and plotting data. During wind tunnel tests, manometer boards measured pressure changes using liquid-filled tubes....


32

Every ship at sea carried such a human computer, in the person of the navigator. He followed a number of such "programs", properly termed algorithms, taken from Nathaniel Bowditch's seminal work The [American] Practical Navigator. Here is a two-page spread from a 1940 edition of that work: This is a worksheet, containing labelled spaces as an ...


25

According to the Jargon File: chrome: n. [from automotive slang via wargaming] Showy features added to attract users but contributing little or nothing to the power of a system. “The 3D icons in Motif are just chrome, but they certainly are pretty chrome!” Distinguished from bells and whistles by the fact that the latter are usually added to gratify ...


15

Here is a brief description of the task carried out by one human computer, Sylvia Asquith: After joining in 1947, I received instruction on running a tidal machine, stopping at the correct moment and reading off the time showing at the zero point, and noting down high and low waters in succession. Times done first and the high and low to correspond. Also, ...


12

Human computers did execute "programs". The programs were written (typed up) instructions that included a sequence of steps, such as what numbers to take off which line on a worksheet, what operations to perform, where to put results back on a worksheet, what to do next (including "loops", e.g. repeat n time, or for the number of items in ...


10

I don't have a definitive answer (I doubt anybody can--any citation is subject to others finding older citations), but the first time I heard it pointed out frequently was when Ada 83 was being designed. Although it doesn't say it quite the same way, the Ada 83 Language Reference Manual (LRM) does say: The need for languages that promote reliability and ...


10

The human computers did not follow "programs" when carrying out their computations. However, they probably followed established algorithms for deriving results. If they weren't all following consistent algorithms, it would have been next to impossible to aggregate the work of multiple computers together. The human computers would have thought ...


7

William "Bill" Mensch exclusively designed the chip to Nintendo, and the interview of Bill Mensch leaves lots of question marks, but his motto was that both sides would benefit from the deals. Quote: "Ricoh supplied the Nintendo. It's the only exclusive agreement I ever gave anyone, exclusively for Ricoh to supply Nintendo 8/16-bit chips for ...


6

Personally I think this is a side effect of a much more general issue: the more access you have to "free stuff" the less people value it. I'm too old to have any first hard knowledge of the school system in the 1980s, but when I learned about computers you had to make an effort to borrow or buy books (and later, magazines) and then put in the time ...


6

Warning, Subjective & Location-based This is a poor question in two ways - it is both subjective (how do you "value" learning about different computer languages, different types of hardware, etc.) and very much location based - even within the USA, the level of computer/IT education provided varied tremendously in the 80s - a typical school ...


4

A chapter in Richard Feynman's autiobiography, "Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman describes a room full of computers working for the atomic scientists at Los Alamos. I don't remember all of the details, but part of the "program" involved cards that were passed from station to station, and the person at each station had specific instructions ...


3

My final idea how to check solvability of the landing problem is the following. Let's assume the initial position of a lander: height is 120 miles above the surface, vertical speed is 1 mile per second downwards, purely 1D problem. The most extreme way to land is to fall freely until some point, where the full burn is applied until touchdown at zero ...


2

(Extending my previous comments into an answer...) I'm not sure about "most people". I'm Gen X and I'd expect most people from my generation and before think of "chrome" as a bright shiny "silver" or "mirror-like" metal, mostly used on car exterior trim before the '80s but also on other metals that should both look ...


1

The DEC PDP-8, a 12-bit machine with 4k words of memory, had 8-bit direct addressing (7-bit offset and a 1-bit Page Zero selector). However, an Indirect bit in the order code caused the contents of the directly addressed location to be used as a 12-bit address of the real operand. Later models of the PDP-8 family could have up to 7 more "Fields" ...


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