maddog pulls out his old HP-35, brushes up on reverse Polish notation, and takes the measure of modern storage on old technology.

Taking Measure

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People with long grey beards often talk about the systems they used to work on, how those systems had only “four kilobytes of memory,” and the wonderful things they used to be able to do with them.

Recently I came across a small (44.5-inch/ 113-cm) segment of paper tape that I used to store programs on one of the first computer systems I ever used: a PDP-8 computer from Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). That system had four thousand 12-bit words of memory and no disk or magnetic tape drive. All data had to be read in and punched or printed out to an ASR-33 teletype at the blinding speed of 10 bytes (i.e., 10 printed characters) per second.

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