Ontario's ST&T program for secondary schools (1967-1970) instilled in me a strong working knowledge of vacuum tube based electronics (known as valves to the Brits). Conestoga College provided a strong working knowledge of semiconductor-based electronics (transistors, thyristors, diodes, chips, etc.) I began working for Bell Canada in 1973 where I was surprised to discover Bell's switching equipment was still based upon an electromechanical technology known as step-by-step (SxS).
To be fair, our switching center (a.k.a. "central office") in Kitchener Ontario hosted 70,000 lines of which only 40,000 were based upon SxS. The other 30,000 were based upon a newer electromechanical technology known as number five crossbar (5XB). Crossbar employed one-or-more electromechanical computers, called a marker, to set up a path through the central office by operating various horizontal (select) and vertical (hold) magnets on a crossbar switch (which are connected to other crossbars) or, ultimately, the called customer's line.
blast from the past: I met Gus Lorimer (a descendant of one of The Lorimer Brothers) while working in the Preston C.O. in 1976. I reiterated my usual complaint about how Bell Canada would be better off ditching relays for transistors. He looked at me glaringly then said "Anything you can do with transistors, I can do with relays"
comment: You should have seen the Lorimer call-through test set which was built into a cherry-wood cabinet (looked a lot like a vacuum-tube table-top radio). An electromechanical work of art that was never as good as the all-digital test set which replaced it.
It is not like the phone company didn't know about semiconductor technology (because Bell Labs invented the first working unijunction transistor in 1947 and the bipolar junction transistor in 1948), they only intended to squeeze every invested dollar out of the current technology until they were forced to move to the next generation. So while big central offices in Canada were employing electromechanical technology, PBX (private branch exchanges) in large corporations were introduced to SL-1 (stored logic one) technology where computers were employed as markers to set up a call through a minibar (miniaturized crossbar) switch. Why minibars? In those days, unhardened semiconductor circuits were easily destroyed by "natural lightning" or "accidental contact with commercial power". The cost of hardening the semiconductor circuits was too expensive so mechanical switching of the analog signal was deemed the only way to go. Within a year of the introduction of SL-1, Northern Electric released SP-1 (stored program one) for use in central office switching centers. SP-1 employed minibars as well.
Within a few months of starting at Bell Canada in 1973, I realized my freshly minted electronics skills were going to decline so began searching for an antidote. I landed a part-time job as a repair technician at a local musician retail store by the name of Mother's Music (owned by David Boehm). There was lots of work including:
The handwriting was on the wall (so to speak) for analog technology so I returned to Conestoga College (evening classes) in 1976 to catch up on the continuing semiconductor revolution which included TTL and CMOS technologies in their two Digital Electronics courses. I also learned to program in BASIC and COBOL on their HP-3000 minicomputer. In this field you should resolve to continue your education for as long as you work, or longer.
Bell Canada became more digital in 1978 when they replaced traditional paper-tape long-distance billing recorders with computers ("Interdata Model 70") and industrial controllers ("TeleSciences SRS-1200 Data Recorder"). Both technologies stored digital data on a HP-7970E 9-track tape system and Bell was looking for someone who wanted to maintain this stuff "full time". Since I was attending night courses at Conestoga College, I was offered first crack and the rest, as they say, is history.
Also in 1978, Bell Canada introduced a minicomputer system named TELCON (teletype concentrator) which replaced a room full of thirty-two ASR-35 teletype machines (connected to remote SL-1 and SP-1 switches) with a single PDP-11/04. This led to other projects based upon the PDP-11/23 (ACD for SL-1), PDP-11/44 (BSIMS and CALRS) as well as the PDP-11/73 and PDP/11-84. Then later (over the decades) to projects based upon the VAX-11/730, VAX-11/750, VAX-8550 (MFAS), uVAX-3500, uVAX4300, VAX-6430, AlphaServer-2100, AlphaServer-4100, AlphaServer-DS20e and Itanium rx2800-i2
link: dips-n-certs (involved a huge amount of corporate training provided by: DEC, HP, etc.)
Around 1978 I was contacted by Bits-n-Bytes (a retail computer store in Waterloo, Ontario) to repair a HeathKit-H8 computer along with a HeathKit-H9 terminal with a horrible key-bounce problem. Fred Hoffman (the owner) asked for a quote. I offered to fix it for free provided I could keep both units for a month. That's when I learned Benton Harbor BASIC and Benton Harbor DOS. Thanks Fred (especially for letting me keep it for 6-weeks).
Later that same year, I purchased a 48k Apple][ (Apple2) with a 16k Language Card. Since the Apple][ had INTEGER BASIC (written by Steve Wozniak) in ROM, it would load APPLESOFT BASIC (written by Microsoft) into the language card. Apple][+ machines had APPLESOFT BASIC in ROM so loaded INTEGER BASIC. I used this machine to also learn:
In 2008 I purchased a PS3 game console bundled with a game titled Grand Theft Auto IV which was a bit of a shock. Why? You can drive around Liberty City for hours in various cars, listening to 18 radio stations (playing the music from: ELO, Genesis, Heart, Bob Marley, Queen, Joe Walsh, ZZ-Top, etc.), all the while experiencing different weather conditions including rain, shine, day, night, lightening, thunder, and fog. Your vehicle will actually handle differently depending upon road conditions, weather, weight, technology (front wheel drive vs. rear wheel drive), etc. At certain points you can exit your vehicle to run, walk, buy a hotdog, or board a number of subways. A self-contained digital world on a Blu-ray costing $59. To see what this world looks like, just search for GTA4 at www.youtube.com
comment: PS3 architecture consisted of one 3.2 GHz Cell Broadband Engine with one PPE and six SPEs. This gaming console was so powerful that they could also be used to aid in scientific research (see: folding-at-home). Some universities would buy 25 to 50 then connect them together to produce a PS3-based super computer. Yikes! Not many people saw this coming.
Jump ahead to 2012 when I was playing Batman: Arkham City borrowed from my nephew. This is also a self-contained digital world to support a game which is more like an interactive comic book where you play the role of either Batman or Cat Woman. Most games are only good for 6-10 hours but Batman: Arkham City and Grand Theft Auto IV can require more than 100 hours if you do all the side missions. Okay, so at the original price of $59 dollars this entertainment will cost you 59 cents per hour. Contrast this to a movie you buy for $25 then watch once for 90 minutes. Now I understand why Warner Bros. published this title.
This got me thinking (the epiphany) about my earlier years...
I was in Sam the Record Man when I first heard, and purchased, Switched-On Bach by W. Carlos. At the time, I was misled into believing this was music produced by a programmed computer ("computerized" was the popular phrase). It turned out that this wonderful album from 1968 was painstakingly assembled, note-by-note, on the Moog synthesizer employing keyboard and sequencers running voltage controlled oscillators, voltage controlled filters, and multi-track tape recorders. Electronic: "YES" but computerized: "NO". On top of that remember that this was an analog recording of a machine with an analog audio output. Nevertheless, none of the instruments heard were real, yet the associated harmonics could (when cranked up) blow the output transistors of most solid state audio amplifiers which had been designed for natural instruments.
A similar classical music experience occurred a few years later when I heard, and purchased, the 1974 album Snowflakes Are Dancing by Isao Tomita. If you liked Debussy then this album was a must-have.
In 40 years (1970-2010) humanity has gone from "really good fake musical instruments which a few hundred could play (or afford to play)" to "today's (2012) video gaming industry which employs tens of thousands and rakes in $25 billion ($25,000,000,000.00) annually". The total number of XBOX-360 and PS3 machines sold by 2012 exceeds 145 million and this number doesn't include other gaming consoles or the number of people playing 3d games on high end PCs.
- In 2012, video game development employed ~18,000 Canadians and added ~2 billion to Canada's economy. Impressive since Canada is only the number three country in game development behind Japan and USA. Also remember that video game technology spills over into special effects for the movie industry.
- In 2012, Call of Duty: Black Ops II was released and raked in sales of $500 million (yep half a billion) in the first 24 hours. The publisher raked in a second half billion in the next 17 days. If these numbers ever occurred due to movie box-office sales you would read about it in every newspaper and hear about it in every newscast. Most parents hate video games because they see their kids wasting a lot of time playing them (from a parent perspective, today's "video game console" is synonymous with yesterday's BOOB TUBE) but everyone must admit that video game development employs a lot of programmers and sells a lot of computer hardware. Maybe it is better to think of video games more like interactive movies.
Now I could have also mentioned lots of other technological changes including:
...but I think you've already got the idea.
No serious telephone company employee should ever admit this, but I didn't learn "C" until the summer of 1988. On top of that, I didn't see any value in it at the time, but that would change.
All "C" programming language stories start with the creation of UNIX by employees at Bell Labs in 1969. The original UNIX offering was written using a Macro Assembler and was buggy. To make matters worse, Bell Labs was already working with multiple computers (starting with an 18-bit PDP-7 but intending to soon move to a 16-bit PDP-11/20 which was a completely different processor architecture from Digital Equipment Corporation). They solved the first problem (buggy) by creating languages "B" (based upon BCPL) then "C" which would allow UNIX to be rewritten using a higher level (than macro assembler) language. They solved the second problem (different CPU architectures) by using a CPU-specific code generator in the backend. Now both "C" and UNIX were portable.
Most people already know the story of how ARPA (now DARPA) funded the development of a self-healing digital communications network meant to survive a destructive war. Experiments started in the 1960s (ARPANET starts in 1969) but activity sped up in the early 1970s when Bell Labs began licensing UNIX to educational institutions for an incredibly low price only to recover their costs (under monopoly rules, Bell Labs was "not allowed to be a software vendor" -or- "make any money vending software") which meant that the majority of ARPA-funded work slowly moved to C on UNIX. This also meant that anyone working on the ARPA project in C on UNIX could easily share their work with peers at other universities. By about 1980 it appeared that all these universities (too many chefs syndrome?) were producing something which would soon break. Another reason for incompatibilities was the fact that TCP was implemented before the creation of the OSI Model and DARPA wanted...
At this point the story shifts to a gifted programmer at Stanford by the name of Bill Joy who was working with "C" on another DEC platform known as VAX-11. By 1982, Joy had developed all the software necessary to implement what we now refer to as TCP/IP running on IPv4.
By the early 1980s, many universities had modified UNIX sufficiently that they were able to rebrand/republish/relicense it to others. The University of California at Berkeley was one such group to do this by offering BSD UNIX to other universities for free or corporations for $1000.00 (IIRC) which was incredibly low compared to commercial products. BSD also introduced Berkley Sockets which allows a programmer to read/write an internet connection in the same way programmers read/write file systems. Bell Labs copied this idea then produced the STREAMs libraries (IIRC) for the AT&T flavor of UNIX.
Some people in the IT industry today are still very critical of "C" (or UNIX/Linux) while they simultaneously promote their favorite language (or OS) but they are fighting a losing battle. Why? When universities became financially squeezed in the early 1970s, many were forced to be more frugal and only consider inexpensive or free alternatives. So most universities went with C and UNIX. Now students had access to all the source code (which meant they could improve the product) which had the unintended consequence of creating a "critical mass" of human talent. In this environment it didn't matter which language was better because a choice had already been made; then students entering the workplace stuck with the software skills they already had. Companies selling software to universities probably saw some short term profits but never had a chance of succeeding in the long run. One day soon even COBOL will fall. FORTRAN is still around but nowhere near as popular as it once was although the libraries for doing math in the complex-plane still remains rather unique.
Question: Is "C" a high level language or a low level language?
Answer: Both. It is a low level language (think portable assembler) which becomes a high level language as soon as your program references external libraries via the #include directive.
I knew of many Nortel projects (CALRS was one) where conversion to "C" and UNIX increased stability while reducing licensing costs. Nortel's flagship product at the time was DMS which was written in a Pascal variant called Protel (Procedure Oriented Type Enforcing Language). In those days, Nortel was spending a lot of money each year training freshly minted university grads how to program in Protel. Since many of these people already knew how to program in "C", Nortel embarked upon an internal project to convert DMS from Protel to C. They did a fairly good job of this except that the changeover was done "flash style" rather than "gradually". Bugs and delays meant that Nortel's cash cow delivered virtually no revenue for 18 months. Oops!
We now know that 1988 was the year Dave Cutler left Digital Equipment Corporation for Microsoft. Cutler was responsible for the development of Windows-NT (New Technology) which was meant to (and did for a time) run on multiple CPUs including: IA-32, MIPS, and Alpha, with plans for PowerPC, Itanium, AMD64 and ARM. Because this new OS was meant to run on multiple CPUs and computer platforms, "C" was chosen as the language-du-jour because it was portable. Bill Gates (no idiot) was not convinced that 32-bit Windows-NT would be successful -or- would replace 16-bit Windows anytime soon. So unlike the Nortel FUBAR described, Gates funded both projects then ran them in parallel (DECies vs. Microsofties). Perhaps this is where having a technologist at the helm of a company is better than employing a financial person.
I didn't learn "C" programming until the summer of 1988 during a labor stoppage. I was using Lightspeed C on a Macintosh and I remember thinking "this has got to be someone's idea of job protection". But it always produced really small binaries so I thought it might have some advantages. Also, the concept of reusing your own code, or code written by others (free or purchased), via the #include mechanism seemed an obvious advantage. In subsequent years I noticed professional programmers getting really impressive results using "C" on 80486 and 80586 CPUs so I attended up the following evening classes at Conestoga College:
In 1993, I did some contract work for a local (Kitchener/Waterloo) company described here. I designed the control board which employed a MC68HC11F1 from Motorola. All the software was written using a plain-text editor in 6811 Macro Assembler Notation on an Apple Macintosh. The binaries were generated using the uAsm 6811 cross-assembler from Micro Dialects. This approach worked well until the code exceeded 8K in size which introduced other problems (you always wanted to use branches for improved size and speed but often needed to switch to jumps when the target location was too distant).
Whitesmiths CIn 1995, I rewrote the whole thing for the Whitesmiths 68HC11 C Compiler/Assembler on an IBM-PC. Implementing startup and interrupt vectors was child's play with this package. Although I loved programming in 6811 Macro, Whitesmiths "C" was a much more productive tool. Descendants of this compiler are still available from COSMIC Software ( http://www.cosmic-software.com ) but you can find cross-compilers and cross-assemblers available for every CPU chip still in production. Here are two of many:
C++ introduces object oriented concepts to C which can only result in greater productivity with fewer bugs. For example:
Modern client software, like browsers (especially tabbed-browsers) from all vendors would be impossible without C++. In fact, I suspect the whole client-server paradigm has been taken further with C++ than was possible with C or any other language. Be sure to think about object-oriented technology whenever you see something (JPEG, GIF, Java Plugin, WAV player) sitting in the middle of your webpage.
Staying with Microsoft for a moment, most technology from them is object oriented in order to support COM (component object module) which is the basis for other Microsoft technologies and frameworks, including: OLE, OLE Automation, ActiveX, COM+, DCOM, the Windows shell, DirectX, and Windows Runtime.
Up until 2010, I was able to do all my application programming using HP-BASIC-1.7 Alpha for OpenVMS. But in 2010, I ran into a couple of situations where I had to directly interface with open-source software written in "C". One application involved interfacing an HP-BASIC application to OpenSSL. The second involved interfacing an HP-BASIC application to gSOAP. With most so-called "DEC languages", a developer can supply the compiler with command-line switches to control how variables are written to the symbol table which is used during linking. The appropriate "case control" switch doesn't exist with HP-BASIC-1.7 which means all symbols are up-cased. This means that a programmer needs to write a wrapper in order to facilitate linking. While this is possible, it might be more trouble than it is worth. Add to this the fact that HP-BASIC doesn't have all the data-types available to C/C++ (for example, there are no unsigned variables in HP-BASIC).
For me, it was easier to write the apps in "C" (HP C V7.3-009 on OpenVMS Alpha V8.4) then call the open source software directly.
Now the two C programs I wrote (one client, one server) are fairly ugly because I used pointers to reference the XML structure buried within the SOAP packet. I found a few spare hours in 2013 to go back to gSOAP in order to play with suggestions for a table-walker which can only be done well in C++ (well, you can always do pointer-to-pointer work in C but it looks really ugly; I have also seen table-walkers in C# and Java but those languages are out of scope on this project). Anyway, this time I used HP C++ V7.3-009 for OpenVMS Alpha V8.4 and discovered the resulting source code was smaller and beautiful. Not sure if I will ever be granted time to rewrite the "working" C-based gSOAP apps into C++
This thought continues below: Epiphany-5
As mentioned above, Bell Labs created the "C" programming language with the intent of squeezing the bugs out of Unix. In case you haven't been paying attention, Unix is now only written in "C" which may leave you with a chicken-or-egg nightmare if you happen to think about this stuff before falling asleep
After the US government finished (1983-1984) the breakup of Bell system, AT&T inherited Bell Labs then attempted to turn UNIX into a marketable productcomments:
MIT lifer, Richard Stallman, tried to get around the commercialization of Unix by creating the GNU Project (Gnu Not Unix) which was a total Unix rewrite. Since writing OS applications is a whole lot easier than writing a kernel, it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that GNU wasn't entirely free of Unix until 1992.
Engineering students, specializing in both hardware and software, had studied Bell Labs UNIX kernel "source code" for years and were now worrying about the legality of this practice. Many universities began to look for alternatives and I remember the MINIX kernel (from the "Free University" in Amsterdam, Netherlands) being a popular contender. I might even have a hardcover manual stashed away someplace in my home office.
I sometimes wonder what is in the Scandinavian water supply because
Today, the merger of the Linux kernel with GNU is simply referred to as Linux although some prefer the alternative GNU/Linux (see: GNU/Linux naming controversy)
There are already huge volumes of web information available about Linus Torvolds so let me include one quote from his bio found here:
In 2003, Torvalds left Transmeta to focus exclusively on the Linux kernel, backed by the Open Source Development Labs (OSDL), a consortium formed by high-tech companies, which included IBM, Hewlett-Packard (HP), Intel, AMD, RedHat, Novell and many others. The purpose of the consortium was to promote Linux development. OSDL merged with The Free Standards Group in January 2007 to become The Linux Foundation. Torvalds remains the ultimate authority on what new code is incorporated into the standard Linux kernel.Wow, that is a lot of corporate support (critical mass?).
According to www.archive.org the site www.osdl.org in 2003 mentions these partners (alphabetical order): Alcatel, Cisco, Computer Associates, Dell, Ericsson, Force Computers, Fujitsu, HP, Hitachi, IBM, Intel, Linuxcare, Miracle Linux Corporation, Mitsubishi Electric, MontaVista Software, NEC Corporation, Nokia, Red Hat, SuSE, TimeSys, Toshiba, Transmeta Corporation and VA Software.OSDL is now shut down and everything is referred here: http://www.linuxfoundation.org/ but their corporate member list is still impressive.
Back in 2005, Google wanted to put their Google Talk app on Apple's iPhone but Steve Jobs refused because the app would allow people to make free long distance calls (Jobs was certain this app would cause problems with one of the iPhone's main financial backers, "Cingular Wireless", which was a division of AT&T.
- Even though Apple customers paid big bucks for the iPhone, Apple always controlled what apps the customer put on the customer's phone. They did this by locking the phones so that app installs could only be done through Apple's iTunes store
- This is an example of Karmic Irony because Steve Jobs started off selling Blue Boxes designed by Steve Wozniak and built by both of them to allow people to make free long distance calls over the telephone network.
in 2006, Google made an ultimatum to Apple: either allow Google Talk to be placed on the iPhone or we (Google) will produce a competing product called the gPhone.
Apple refused which caused Google to purchase California Linux vendor Android Inc. Google then created the Open Handset Alliance where member companies would be given the Android OS Software for free provided the manufacturer preset customer modifiable preferences to do searching at Google (where Google makes most of their money).
There isn't much difference between gPhones and tablets (other than the screen size) so it should be no surprise that most tablet manufacturers would power their devices with Android. (er, Linux). Other emerging operating systems, like Chrome OS (which is currently only found in Google's Chromebook) and Firefox OS are also just different Linux variants so you can see that Linux is everywhere.
Back in the late 1980s, I found myself in DEC's Field Service Lab (Training Center) at 12 Crosby Drive, Bedford, Massachusetts. We had lectures in the morning and lab assignments in the afternoon. I was assigned the VAX-8550 in Row-W Bay-4 and was working on it while I noticed visitors occasionally walking through a curtained-off area in the back corner and wondered what was happening. I asked my instructor who informed me that the system hiding behind the curtain featured a new computer module capable of vector processing. He further explained that vector processors were all the rage in various kinds of scientific computing like "computing particle trajectories" or "climate circulation models" because they could perform a single instruction (e.g. multiply or multiply-and-accumulate) on multiple data points. Those data points can represent anything you wish including a location in three dimension (or higher) space. In those days, "vector processing" was available as an expensive option ($$$) but today it is built into all modern CPUs but most people aren't aware of it.
This side of y2k, modern "graphics cards" employ 1000-3000 streaming processors so that numerous vector/tensor operations may be executing in parallel. On top of that, If you also remember that graphics cards typically have between 1 and 4 GB of private memory then you come to the realization that graphic cards actually provide a private protected computing environment within your computer platform. Originally, cheap graphics cards only supported single precision floats while many today now also support double precision floats. In fact, some computer engineers look upon graphics cards as an array of several thousand floating point co-processors (think: several thousand 80387).
Going even further, specialty companies now produce motherboards which can simultaneously host four, or more, graphics cards. Meanwhile, companies like Nvidia also manufacture graphics cards which do not have any monitor connectors because they are only used for number crunching.
Here's a brief snapshot of vector processing development:One final point. In late 2013 Sony released the PlayStation 4 which is based upon an APU from AMD. What's an APU you might ask? It is an Accelerated Processing Unit which consists of CPU integrated with a GPU (something Intel had already been doing for a number of years without the fancy acronym). The PS4 is built around an APU consisting of two 4-core Jaguar x86-64 CPUs coupled to an equivalent HD 7850 graphics chip. Because the PS4 is build around GDDR5 memory which is only found in graphics cards, it appears SONY built a graphics system with a built-in CPU rather than the traditional processor system with a built-in graphics card.
In the early 1990s, Microsoft was smaller so was "looking for problems to solve" and "markets to expand into". Since many people were attempting to develop computer games, Microsoft informally aligned itself with SIGGRAPH to help produce tools. Next, they offered to do a free port of the game Doom (which only ran on DOS) to Doom95 (to run on Windows95) only for the technical experience. Their first Graphics API (application programming interface) was named DirectX and appeared in 1995 for Windows-95 and 1996 for Windows-NT4.
DirectX is neat because it defines a number of hardware devices in software (including a reference graphics card) then replaces those software devices with hardware when compliant hardware is present. This means that game programmers do not need to worry which CPU, or GPU (if any), is present. Just send your commands to DirectX and it will carry out your wishes.While recently poking around a game programmer site, I noticed this caveat:
While I have used Microsoft Visual Studio for a few corporate projects, I am no expert. I was always under the impression that you could set the build-options of all Visual Studio languages to produce either "x86-binary for Windows" or "MSIL for the .NET framework". I still believe this. So is it possible that DirectX expects to be called from C/C++ for some reason? I am not certain but I do know is that COM (component object module) is the basis for other Microsoft technologies and frameworks, including: OLE, OLE Automation, ActiveX, COM+, DCOM, the Windows shell, DirectX, and Windows Runtime. And that COM is written in C++
Here is the opening paragraph of the Introduction from the book "Introduction to 3D Games Programming with DirectX 11". (which I highly recommend to programmers)
quote: Direct3D 11 is a rendering library for writing high performance 3D graphics applications using modern graphics hardware on the Windows platform. (A modified version of DirectX 9 is used on the XBOX 360.) Direct3D is a low-level library in the sense that its application programming interface (API) closely models the underlying graphics hardware it controls. The predominant consumer of Direct3D is the games industry, where higher level rendering engines are built on top of Direct3D. However, other industries need high performance interactive 3D graphics as well, such as medical and scientific visualization walkthrough. In addition, with every new PC being equipped with a modern graphics card, non-3D applications are beginning to take advantage of the GPU (graphics processing unit) to offload work to the graphics card for intensive calculations; this is known as general purpose GPU computing, and Direct3D 11 provides the compute shader API for writing general purpose GPU programs. Although Direct3D is usually programmed from native C++, stable .NET wrappers exist for Direct3D so that you can access this powerful 3D graphics API from managed applications.
DirectX is a collection of other modules. Direct3D and D3DX (Direct3D Extension) are two of many. D3DX is a math library capable of doing math in three (or more) dimensions to support 3d video games but some programmers used D3DX to do scientific work. This led Microsoft to develop XNA (unofficially: DirectX-Nextgen-Architecture) which is a better vector math library.
game vs. non-game
Early in 2013, Microsoft announced that DirectX and XNA will both be folded into Windows-8 and will only be available as a Windows Kernel Service. Oops! Scientific application developers have been told to use move to DirectCompute (but many will move to OpenCL or CUDA)
Most people do not know that the first "X" in XBOX represents DirectX. Yep, the XBOX-360 run a modified version of DirectX-9 (despite what you have read on the web, nothing higher).
Many people do not know that the XBOX-360 is powered via a tri-core PowerPC chip from by IBM rather than an x86 chip from either Intel or AMD.
Now I guess it is no surprise that DirectX is written in C/C++ and is just compiled differently to generate code for different target processors (game console or Windows PC). Doing this in a non-portable language -or- macro assembler would be too labor intensive as well as bug prone.
A few months back (May of 2013) I was trying to learn more about parallel programming so was reading a book titled “CUDA Programming: A Developer's Guide to Parallel Computing with GPUs ” where the author gives evidence that any high-end desktop today (2013) with multiple graphics cards (if your motherboard supports them) can out FLOP anything found at the top of www.top500.org twelve years ago in 2001. Wow! Who knew? One restriction here is that the CUDA technology is only available in C/C++ as a bunch of included libraries. Sure I was aware of vector instructions in VAX and Alpha CPUs but these appeared to only provide pseudo-parallel programming capabilities. But graphics-cards from NVidia and AMD/ATI often provide several thousand streaming processors which are available for whatever you wish; this is true parallel programming on the desktop. You needed CUDA to talk to these cards when you wanted to do math but later discovered that lots of people were using the huge amount of vector math libraries created for DirectX/Direct3d as well as OpenGL. Apparently all the modern games would not be possible without these libraries. Talking about DirectX/Direct3d for a moment, I’ve visited a few of the game programmer sites where most people say “Microsoft allows direct communications with the DirectX/Direct3d API’s from Visual-C++ but for all other languages you need to go through a .NET wrapper (which reduces performance)”. Oops! Another plug for C++
I can only recall three interconnecting technologies that made a large contribution to the computing industry
I hadn't given much thought to clustering or parallel software on microcomputers until I received this recent (2013) advert from Intel for two products:
These products were designed to plug into the Microsoft Visual Studio IDE (Integrated Development Environment) targeted at Windows or Linux. However, after visiting the Intel site on 2013-07-20 it appears that these Windows-based tools now only generate code for Linux targets. I'm not sure if a windows flavor is around the corner or not.
This thought continues below: Epiphany-19
The Last of Us - Is a movie-quality experience about future life after a biological holocaust. In part of the game, YOU play the roll of Joel who is travelling across a post-apocalyptic United States in 2033, in order to escort the young girl, Ellie, to a research facility where it is believed that Ellie may be the key to developing a vaccine. When Joel and Ellie become separated, YOU play the roll of Ellie for a time.
Grand Theft Auto V - is played from a third-person perspective in an open world environment, allowing the player to interact with the game world at their leisure. The game is set within the fictional state of San Andreas (based on Southern California) and affords the player the ability to freely roam the world's countryside and the fictional city of Los Santos (based on Los Angeles). The single-player story is told through three player-controlled protagonists whom the player switches between, and it follows their efforts to plan and execute six large heists to accrue wealth for themselves.
Note: in this game "open world environment" translates into approximately 49 square miles (127 square km).One can only wonder what these games will look like when next-gen consoles (PS4 and XBOX-One) appear later this year.
Everyone reading this will have their own examples. My first memories involve VAXclusters which consisted of multiple VAX computers running the VMS operating system. They could be tightly coupled through a common memory interface, or medium coupled through network communications. Applications were programmed in such a way that the loss of one of the computers does not cause the loss of any storage or transactional data. In fact, the recommended way of performing an OS upgrade was to roll one computer out of the cluster, do the upgrade, roll the computer back into the cluster then repeat the operation on the next VAX.
32-bit VAX evolved into 64-bit Alpha which meant that this technology was referred to by the lesser known name VMS Cluster. Improvements allowed the distance between clustered processors to increase, and such a cluster could be seen in operation during the 9/11 attacks on New York when one VMS Cluster processor was destroyed with one of the twin-trade towers while its partner in New Jersey continued transactional processing without dropping a single transaction. (not something any company with a conscience would want to advertise)
|domain name service
berkley internet name domain
|translates names into I/P addresses||high|
|smtp||simple mail transfer protocol||email OUTBOX||medium|
|pop3||post office protocol||email INBOX||medium|
|http||web server||transfers (usually html) formatted data||low|
Most technical people know that protocols like telnet and ftp are connection oriented, and that connection stays up until it is terminated by the client (via user command) or server (timeout). Most people do not know that http (the protocol to support www and/or web) is connectionless. Yep, you read that correctly; Before Y2K, a browser opened a connection to a web server, retrieved a page of data then closed the connection. If there were multiple pictures on the page, a separate open-close transaction was necessary for each one.
caveat: what I am describing here is HTTP/1.0 which still works that way. A second newer protocol called HTTP/1.1 was added in 1999. The keep-alive feature of this protocol keeps the TCP/IP connection open for a short time (programmable by the server) while the client makes multiple requests of the server.
Experiments in Secure Network Programming beginning in 1993 resulted with Netscape developing SSLv1 in 1994 which was never released. SSLv2 was released in 1995 with a number of security flaws which resulted in the release of SSLv3 in 1996. And now the story takes a strange twist.
- non-secure web transactions usually occur on port 80
- secure transactions usually occur on port 443 using (https = http with security)
One programmer, or perhaps it was a team, wanted to triple encode session keys in SSLv3 and so wrote "C" routines to do so. But they made a mistake in the declaration of one variable making it a "long" rather than a "long long". This had the effect of reducing the resultant key space to a much smaller (and now crackable) size. No one knows how much of this open source code mad it into other products.Two Security Forks
The IETF improved upon SSLv3.0 and might have called their new protocol SSLv3.1 or SSLv4.0 but, since they did not want people to continue to use the old libraries or even accidentally link against them, they named their new protocol TLSv1.0 (Transport Layer Security). They also modified the calling structure to prevent accidental linking. Security improvements continued with TLSv1.1 which morphed into TLSv1.2Conclusions
Not only has security allowed consumers to securely purchase goods from the sites like Amazon an eBay using credit cards and PayPal, it has allowed many companies to put their corporate records into computers located in the cloud. One neat feature of cloud computers is their ability to automatically backup data to other cloud computers located around the world. Companies would only do this if it was secure.
Almost anyone alive today will recognize that Oracle has been very successful in getting their flagship database product connected to communications networks, including the internet. The following timeline may shed some light on Oracle's view of these phrases.
|Oracle 8i||1999||i = internet (implemented by incorporating a built in JAVA VM)|
|Oracle 10g||2003||g = grid computing|
|Oracle 12c||2013||c = cloud computing|
this Epiphany is under construction
solid matter displays
3d display technology
That last item should raise a few eyebrows for several reasons:
In 2013, Microsoft released the XBOX-One and Sony released the PlayStation 4 and both platforms are based upon an 8-core Jaguar APU from AMD. What's an APU? It is a CPU and Video Card Controller integrated into one chip (or chip carrier). I guess I do not need to point out that 8-core chips are not yet available in the retail market. Video consoles still lead the wayIn 2016, Intel released a new core-i7 desktop processor featuring 10 cores (this extreme edition was aimed at the gaming community)
The Integrated Circuit (chip)
|Amazon starts Amazon Web Services||March 2006|
|March 2006; 140-character micro-blogging site|
|starting in 2006, Facebook from campus-wide to world-wide|
|Apple released the iPhone||announced: September 2006; released in 2007|
|Google acquired Android||a stripped-down Linux to run the gPhone (given away to members of the Open Handset Alliance)|
|Google acquired YouTube|
|Google turning up Street View||can anyone remember what life was like before this app?|
|LinkedIn reaches 10 million members|
|GitHub||2008; repository of open source software|
|32||31||2,147,483,648||2011||last square of the first half of the chessboard|
|33||32||4,294,967,296||2013||first square of the second half of the chessboard|
Around 2004 Intel announced a change in direction away from "faster single CPUs" toward "single multi-core CPUs" for which they charged more money. Technically speaking, they avoided Moore's Limit by revising Moore's Law to not include the phrase "costing the consumer the same amount". So now we have an economic Moore's Law as well as a technical one.Advances including FinFET technology, Tri-Gate technology, Gate-all-around (GAA) technology, and 3D IC Stacking have enabled the semiconductor industry to keep innovating. Most people reading this page will already be aware of the fact that the computing industry appears to be shifting from CPUs to GPUs. I was surprised to learn that graphics cards from Nvidia have beat the technical Moore's Law fore the last few product iterations.
|2006-2007 Tesla 1.0|
2008-2009 Tesla 2.0
|90, 80, 65, 55, and 40|
|2010||https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermi_(microarchitecture)||40, and 28|
|2016||https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal_(microarchitecture)||16, and 14|
|year||who||Birth||what||original work location||notes|
|1985||Bjarne Stroustrup||Denmark||C++||New Jersey||was looking to add object support to the C language|
|1987||Andrew S. Tanenbaum||American||MINIX||Netherlands||was looking for an alternative to UNIX®|
|1990||Guido van Rossum||Netherlands||Python||Netherlands||was looking for a successor to BASIC|
|1991||Linus Torvalds||Finland||Linux OS||Finland||was working on a smaller more-efficient kernel|
|MySQL||Sweden||was looking for an inexpensive SQL engine for PCs|
|1995||Rasmus Lerdorf||Denmark||PHP||Waterloo, Canada||was looking for a better CGI tool|
|2009||Michael Widenius||Finland||MariaDB||Sweden||was looking for an alternative to SUN-supported MySQL|
When you talk to people about the Industrial Revolution most only think about one big change beginning some where between 1800 and 1900. But this is a gross oversimplification if you consider that it started with the age of steam, then transitioned to the age of electricity, then transitioned to the the information age. When we talk about technology in the information age should we begin with computers, or should we first start with getting information to people? (scrolls, books, telegraph, radio, television, cable television, internet).
Thinking about locomotives for a moment, they began by burning wood to produce steam which was used to turn the wheels. Europe quickly experienced wood shortages so locomotives switched over to coal (or any fossil fuel) with little difficulty. Now it is well known that humans burned petroleum for over 5,000 years but it wasn't until the mid-1800s that the industrial revolution commercialized petroleum extraction and refinement. Steam locomotives eventually morphed into diesel locomotives where the fuel is burned in combustion engines to directly operate pistons (eg. no intermediate steam is required). But the immense power was difficult to control via a transmission so diesel locomotives morphed into diesel electric systems where a diesel engine runs an electrical generator which is then used to power electrical motors. At this point you can see that if external electricity is available then a locomotive might be made more efficient by doing away with the diesel engine and electrical generator. It would definitely weigh a whole lot less.
|Motorola 6800||8||Altair 8800||1975-01|
|MOS Technology 6502||8||Apple II||1977-06|
|Zilog Z80||8||Radio Shack TRS-80||1977-08|
|Intel 8088||16 (8)||IBM PC||1981-08|
|Intel 8086||16||IBM PC XT||1983-03|
#!/bin/python3 # author : Neil Rieck # created: 2019-08-22 # purpose: demo to show that Python is better than BASIC (and most # other languages) for serious work or noodling around # ------------------------------------------------------------ import math # math library # print("pi :",format(math.pi,'.48f')) print("1/3 :",format(1/3,'48f')) print("2^32 :",2**31) # fails with 32-bit signed int in BASIC print("2^64 :",2**63) # fails with 64-bit signed int in BASIC print("2^128 :",2**128) # difficult in many languages print("2^256 :",2**256) # '' print("2^512 :",2**512) # '' print("2^9999 :",2**9999) # '' print("2^99999:",2**99999) # works in Python
OUTPUT pi : 3.141592653589793115997963468544185161590576171875 1/3 : 0.333333 2^32 : 4294967296 2^64 : 18446744073709551616 2^128 : 340282366920938463463374607431768211456 2^256 : 11579208923731619542357098500868790785326998466... 2^512 : 13407807929942597099574024998205846127479365820... 2^9999 : 99753155844037919244187108134179254191174841594... Note: "..." is where I chopped the line for this display
One measure of any computer language's success is, I think, the number of standardizations. For example, although the BASIC language was once very popular (I am still forced to use VMS-BASIC every day by my employer in 2019) it has gone through a very small number of standardizations. This might have something to do with the fact that many BASIC implementations were so different that standardization was not possible or, perhaps, desirable. On the other hand, languages like C, C++ and Objective-C have gone though numerous standards and continue to be improved.
For example, non-standard "C" first appeared in 1972 and now referred to as K&R C after its authors, Brian Kernighan and Denis Ritchie. Improvements were formalized during then published as C89 in 1989 by ANSI and C90 by ISO. This continued with the names C99, C11 and C18 as described here.
comment: It appears to "C" moves to a new standardization level approximately every 10 years (on average) whilst C++ moves to a new level approximately every 3 years (on average)
Since 50% of all the digital devices on the planet "running an operating system" use some form of Linux, it should be no surprise that it is the Linux community that is pushing newer versions of C and C++
Since gcc is used to build Linux, we should look at this toolset a little closer
|BASH command||RHEL/CentOS executable||comment|
|g++||/usr/bin/g++||can support newer language standards|
FACT: development of the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) was the trigger event for the largest amount of human technological progress. The design work was done by Draper Labs at MIT while manufacturing was done by Raytheon. Why was the AGC necessary? Initially, many astronauts and cosmonauts incorrectly thought that human pilots would be able to directly fly spacecraft much in the same way that pilots flew aircraft. Consider this thought experiment: you are flying the Lunar Module and need to catch-up-to, then dock with, the Command Module. For simplicity, assume that both vehicles have identical orbits and velocities but are separated by a distance of 1000 m (3280 f). Without thinking about life outside of the atmosphere, you fire your RCS thrusters (force: 100 pounds or 444 Newtons) while aiming at the Command Module. This will increase your velocity which pushes you into a higher orbit. Your new orbital velocity is faster but your orbital time is now slower. This causes the Command Module to quickly pass under you making it impossible to dock. One correct solution dictates that you should fire your RCS thrusters away from the target vehicle, which will cause you to drop into a slightly lower orbit; then wait a short period of time; then fire your RCS thrusters in the opposite direction which should return you to the original orbit as the CM but hopefully much closer (BTW, first firing forward then quickly firing backward produces the same result). Remember "F = ma" from Isaac Newton's second law? Since "a = dV/dT" then the second law can be rewritten as "F = m x dV/dT" which becomes "F x dT = m x dV". (the left side of the equation is known as impulse). The instantaneous mass of the LM (which decreases every time you fire your thrusters) determines how long you should fire them in every maneuver (e.g. two one-second thrusts will not produce identical results; a one-second forward burn cannot (exactly) be cancelled by a one-second reverse burn). These real-time calculus solutions are best determined by a guidance computer because fuel is limited so must be conserved.
How did the development of the AGC improve things here on Earth? First off, commercial mainframe computers in the 1960s were manufactured from discrete electronic components, including individual transistors and diodes. So when IBM learned that the AGC computer had to fit into a volume the size of a bread-box (one cubic foot or 28,316 cc) many IBM engineers didn't think it was possible. The Draper/Raytheon solution employed "integrated circuits" (semiconductor chips containing numerous transistors) which they were already using in a more primitive way inside Polaris missile guidance systems. The high per-component prices meant that the American government was their primary customer (Apollo consumed 60% of the IC developed by America in 1966). Because of high cost, government contractors developed semiconductor test methods to ensure that the government would only pay for components that met design specifications. These testing methods eventually migrated from the customer (government) back to the manufacturing industry which resulted in affordable chips for the rest of us. That revolution in chip manufacturing produced things like:
comment: Apollo used 3-input NAND gates manufactured
Semiconductor. Engineers leave to form
Intel then later,
Software jobs also changed drastically during this time. While it is true that high-level programming languages like FORTRAN (1957) and COBOL (1959) existed, the phrase "computer programmer" did not yet exist as computer programming was primarily done by mathematicians. High-level languages required more memory and CPU power then what was available on the AGC, but they were employed on mainframe computers used "to run AGC flight simulations" then "generate the necessary binary code" for the hand-made read-only core rope memory used to hold AGC programs. The level of redundancy built into the AGC programs (see reference-1) should inform that these people were doing "computer engineering". Click Margaret Hamilton to see what I mean.
Critics of Apollo mention that the program was too expensive in that it was consuming too much of the national budget with 4% being the oft quoted number. Let me remind everyone that cold-war concerns at the time mandated that the Defense budget was kept secret. On top of that, no American citizen knew how much money was being used to support the Vietnam War. Today we know that the total cost of Apollo (in 1968 dollars) was $25 billion whilst the cost of the Vietnam War (also in 1968 dollars) was $168 Billion dollars. Now everyone knows that it is way harder to create something than it is to destroy something so allow me to state the obvious: America got no return on the $168 billion investment. Check out the next chart then advise your political representatives accordingly:
(return on investment)
|Apollo Manned Spacecraft Program||$25 Billion
|3 astronauts||advances in metallurgy
advances in semiconductor technology
advances in computer engineering
advances in software engineering
invention of the internet
admiration of the whole world
|During the peak years, the
Apollo program employed approximately
400,000 scientists, engineers and technicians across 20,000 companies. Much
of this work was done by, or managed by, defense contractors.
Many Americans continue to bang on about the USA being a Christian nation but I wonder if they will ever turn their spears into pruning hooks as is mentioned in Isaiah 2:3–4
|Vietnam War||$168 Billion
contempt of the whole world
|During some peak years, more than 400,000 American soldiers were
committed to Vietnam (almost the same number of people tied to the
manned spaceflight effort).
Despite hearing crazy political justifications like "the domino theory", America lost this war but no literal or metaphorical dominos were ever observed.
|First Gulf War||$61 Billion||382 US military
|American defense contractors do well||first use of "depleted uranium" by the Americans|
|Middle-East Wars||$5.9 Trillion||???||American defense contractors do well||Hopefully everyone reading this knows that "1 trillion" = "1,000
First use of: Extraordinary rendition
American companies and schools in the 1980s found themselves in the Reagan era of "minimal government" which now goes by the name austerity. This might have translated into greater economic problems, including unemployment, except for the actions of China's leader, Deng Xiaoping, who favored "maximal government" so was paying to send 1 million Chinese students to the USA every year to be educated.
I personally experienced this in 1985 Boston: we had morning lectures and afternoon labs. An English-speaking Chinese student sat one row ahead of me in the lecture hall accompanied by two minders who could not speak English but were required to pay for student slots (these minders were there to ensure the student would return to China; they passed the day in class by reading little brown books of political dogma). Back then, Americans correctly welcomed these foreign students (it was a business opportunity) but no one ever thought that China would eventually compete head-to-head with the USA. I applaud the Chinese students who were able to acquire an education in a foreign country speaking a foreign language but wonder how many Americans would be willing, or able, to do the same by travelling to China.Comments:
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Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.