Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Remarkable relay computer - The TIM-8

Computers don't really make very impressive noises now-days. Hard drives whir and cooling fans exhale white noise, you might detect the quite chatter of disk access or the groan of a failing fan but that is about it.

Rewind a few tens of years and computers used to make really impressive noises that matched their impressive size. A virtual symphony of noise told you that things were really happening in there, things that could probably take a finger off it you happened to stick it in the wrong place!

1955 computer engineer. Popular Mechanics in 1949 confidently declared: "Computers of the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons"
Every now and then someone gets the urge to recreate a piece of history, a computer that makes the right kind of noises along with other essential prerequisites like blinkenlights and a paper tape reader.

The latest creation I have seen was built by Rory Mangles and christened TIM-8. It is the 8th in a series of increasingly complex and refined builds the last of which qualifies as a complete computer with input/output and processing abilities.

The TIM-8 8-bit relay computer using on 152 relays.
Check out the YouTube video below for an example of TIM-8 executing a program from papertape.