Retroist Access Monday (RAM) – The IBM 704

Introduced in 1954, the principal advanced feature of the 704 was its high-speed magnetic core storage or memory. This replaced the electrostatic or cathode ray tube storage used in the earlier machine systems, the 701 and 702. An individual magnetic core was about the size of a pinhead and was shaped like a doughnut — with a hole in the center. In a 704, thousands of cores were strung on a complex of wires in such a fashion that several wires passed through the center of each core. In addition to this high-speed memory, the 704 had a magnetic drum storage unit. The drum could be used for storage of parts of the program, intermediate results, rate tables, or other information. Finally, the tapes themselves acted as bulk storage, each holding up to 5 million characters.

In 1962 physicist John Larry Kelly, Jr created one of the most famous moments in the history of Bell Labs by using an IBM 704 computer to synthesize speech. Kelly’s voice recorder synthesizer vocoder recreated the song Daisy Bell, with musical accompaniment from Max Mathews. Arthur C. Clarke of 2001: A Space Odyssey fame was coincidentally visiting friend and colleague John Pierce at the Bell Labs Murray Hill facility at the time of this remarkable speech synthesis demonstration and was so impressed that he used it in the climactic scene of his novel and screenplay for 2001: A Space Odyssey, where the HAL 9000 computer sings the same song.

And if you would like to know how to run this thing of beauty, head over here to see the Manual of Operation

Kill Screen 256

I am a professional geek with years of training, do not try this at home.

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One thought on “Retroist Access Monday (RAM) – The IBM 704

  1. Scott Lund says:

    I can’t help but wonder who the guy in the photo is. If he is still around, he has over 50 years of programming experience.

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