Archive for November 21st, 2010


Down to the metal

November 21, 2010

I’ve come across a couple of clips recently about hand-made computers, a topic that’s always interesting to me. I’ve done only a little hardware work myself so I’m always a little in awe of people who can design and build working machines.

Paul sent a link to this page about Zusie, a machine built with relays instead of transistors (or vacuum tubes). Fredrik Andersson bought a bunch of obsolete telephone switching boards and de-soldered 1500 relays from them to build this beast.

Zusie is still a work-in-progress; this isn’t the finished computer. (See the notes at the site.) But here’s a clip of it running a program Frederik wrote in the assembly language he designed for it. He did his own microcode too, of course.

And here’s another one I really enjoyed. Mike Davey built this working Turing machine. I was really impressed by his design, or I should say by his implementation of Turing’s design.

Here it is in action.

Now if only he could find an infinite tape.


A liberal calls for less government

November 21, 2010

Here’s an interesting opinion piece from The Washington Post that’s worth your time to read.

Strangling innovation with red tape
By Morris Panner
Friday, November 19, 2010

As a Democrat whose politics are undeniably liberal on social issues, I lamented the outcome of the midterm elections. But as an entrepreneur with two software start-ups under my belt, I couldn’t help but celebrate – and more than a little. As the fall campaigns wore on, I had found myself listening closely to the Tea Party, nursing the hope that its message would push both major parties to change the way they do business.

To understand my motivation, pick up the November issue of Washingtonian magazine. The annual Salary Survey notes on Page 81 that top trade association leaders (industry lobbyists) make multimillion-dollar salaries to “keep tabs on what the federal government was doing or might do.”

These outsize earnings are symptomatic of a disease that is slowly killing the American economy. We are creating so much regulation – over tax policy, health care, financial activity – that smart people have figured out that they can get rich faster and more easily by manipulating rules on behalf of existing corporations than by creating net new activity and wealth. Gamesmanship pays better than entrepreneurship.

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