Retro Memory Hack Chat – Hackaday Leave a comment

Join us on Wednesday, November 3 at noon Pacific for the Retro Memory Hack Chat with Andy Geppert!
With how cheap and easy-to-integrate modern memory chips have become, it’s easy to lose track of the fact that it wasn’t too long ago that memory was the limiting factor in most computer designs. Before the advent of silicon memory, engineers had to make do with all sorts of weird and wonderful technologies just to provide a few precious bytes of memory. Things like intricate webs of wires spangled with ferrite cores, strange acoustic delay lines, and even magnetic bubbles were all tried at one time or another. They worked, at least well enough to get us to the Moon, but none would prove viable in the face of advancements in silicon memory.
That doesn’t mean that retro memory technology doesn’t have a place anymore. Some hobbyists, like Andy Geppert, are keeping the retro memory flame alive. His Core 64 project puts a core memory module in the palm of your hand, and even lets you “draw” directly to memory with a magnet. Andy learned a few tricks along the way to that accomplishment, and wants us all to appreciate the anachronistic charm of retro memory technologies. Stop by the Hack Chat to talk about your memories of memory, or to just learn what it used to take to store a little bit of data.
join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, November 3 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have you tied up, we have a handy time zone converter.
My all time favorite obsolete memory type is the William’s tube, an electrostatic memory that stored bits as tiny charges on the face plate of a cathode ray tube. In the pioneer days of computing (1940’s thru early 1950’s) this device held sway by being the only practical random access memory. It had a reputation for flakiness that was the stuff of legends. IBM managed to get their version of device working well enough that they used it in their 701 36-bit computers. Due to its proclivity for flipping bits, early 701 users would run important calculations twice and compare the results. The 72 CRTs that made up the 2K x 36-bit memory were visible through the glass doors of the enclosure. During its inaugural demonstration to the press, photographers’ flash bulbs disturbed the memory, so the glass doors had to be covered with sheets of paper.
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