Looking back at computer history

Via Scoble, a humorous look at 2004 from 50 years ago:


I love the dual steering wheel thingie – I wonder if that is one of the technologies “not yet invented”

That picture make me remember a portion of the original ENIAC they have on display at the Smithsonian.  I distinctly remember seeing the hand-wired circuits inside of it and a bank of switches that was the memory.  I was in my Junior year of a Computer Engineering degree at MSOE and was visiting the DC area for my cousin's wedding.  Looking at that piece of history, I was completely blown away. 

That year I had a number of classes that basically took my knowledge of how a microprocessor works from a simple line of code, down through how instructions were parsed from machine code to tell the processor what to do, to how construct a 32-bit accumulator out of logic gates, to how that all gets implemented at the physical layer via NPN and PNP junctions and CMOS.  I distinctly remember having a moment that year where the stars aligned and “got” how computers worked.  Everyone always says it’s just ones and zeros – and it is, but it took seeing it at a base level and then seeing how that could scale out to billions of logic gates.  I’m sure most of the people who walked through that exhibit saw this massive metal box as some relic, but I remember looking into the box label "accumulator" and being amazed. It's hard to see the billions of transistors on a CPU die, even in those blown up layouts, but to see everything all wire out by hand was truely awe inspiring.

UPDATE: Even though the photo is a hoax, it still took me back.