More classic computer footage from the MIT Vault

I’ve been poking around some more in the film archive at MIT that I found “Making Electrons Count” and a few other items caught my attention.

First is a news report from 1951 showing the WHIRLWIND computer being used to solve some differential equations that would be very tedious to compute by hand (e.g. determining remaining fuel, height and velocity of a rocket as it is launched). Output to an oscilloscope and a flexowriter is shown, as well as some very early electronic music. 6 minutes long.


Then there is a talk from 1985 reflecting on 40 years of computing, covering the transition from computers being batch-mode number crunching machines, where any single programmer would be allowed a short window every few days in which they could attempt to run their program, into “time-sharing” data processing machines, in which multiple users could be constantly interacting with, allowing for (amongst other things) ‘on-line’ programming. It is hard to comprehend what the act of developing and debugging a program would be like when you would only be allowed 1 attempt to run it every 3 days.

This film is 90 minutes long, but the main speaker (who appears about 7 minutes in, after a somewhat boring introduction from the MC) is very engaging and uses photos and other props to entertain and inform.