Stunningly beautiful photos of old timey computers

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While we probably carry their processing power around on the smartphones
in our pockets now



Yeah, their processing power as the USB controller only.


And this was all back when internet comments required much less processing. Yes, there was a time before the invention of Youtube comments accusing people of homosexuality (at the time considered to be as bad as being new at something), posting “Ron Paul 2012!” on pages about neither Ron Paul nor 2012, and the poop emoji. Sure, the poop emoji technically existed, but only in punchcard form.

Truly we live in amazing times.



They look like voting machines. Not old-timey ones, but the ones we have now.


These pictures are very pretty. They look like photos from the original brochures, minus the programmers in high heels.

Amusingly, the thing they call the CDC 6600 computer is just the operator’s console. The computer itself fills a room.


My wristwatch has that much processing power, and it’s not a smartwatch.


They are achingly beautiful.

In our smart watches I bet.

Yeah I actually don’t think its possible to buy a microcontroller with equivalent processing power and storage as those early machines.

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You might be able to knock one up on an FPGA

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Oh for sure. I could simulate one on an AVR. I mean that there is nothing on the market today which has as little storage and which normally runs as slow as these machines.

edit: If I was going to simulate anything it would be the Apollo Guidance Computer.


The 8051 series is alive and well, as well as the PIC series. They are not quite the same thing being only 8 bits, but their RAM and ROM sizes and CPU speeds are in the right ballpark.

Turing’s Manchester Baby computer was actually a marvelous early binary microprocessor of the von Neumann architecture. True, it only had 32 words of RAM and 8 instructions, but it was basically the prototype of the 6502 that was used on the Apple ][.

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Mid century modern design and computers seem like things that don’t go together, but judging by these photos they really do.

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Paywalled Implementation of Enigma machine using verilog on an FPGA, so can’t tell, but …

The inside of the oldest computers could be pretty stunning, too. Here’s one of my prized possessions. (I wish I knew exactly what it is. What I do know is that it was taken from the trash at Yale University in the early to mid 1960s and that the person who took it understood it to come from a then-obsolete general purpose computer. )


They look rather Mondrianish, don’t they? Since a lot of the guts of the machine were exposed, I guess it was a way of trying to reduce the complexity of the exterior for the sake of the operators. Now – so retro! Well, they were building them in the middle of the 20th century, when Mondrian’s influence was at its height, so it’s not surprising.


Indeed. And a current generation smartphone has more computing power and memory than a Cray-2 supercomputer from the 1980s.

I did a PhD about 1980. We found a stack of punched cards on a shelf that had the words for Eskimo Nell on them. But the deck and been dropped, and some cards were missing. I sorted through them, and tried a repair. I have since compared this with the original and I preferred my repair…

…'till they looked like balls
that you find on walls
either side of a wrought-iron gate.

…to the original.

So, I remember digital porn when it was in text on punched cards. Man, I’m old.