Lost little nodeshell, don't
Back in the early days of computing, it was often common to have computers
that took up whole rooms and even entire buildings.
A recently declassified US Army Intelligence document tells of a secret
computer installation, long since destroyed, at Fort Daniel Boone in
East Catfish Holler in eastern Kentucky.
This installation consisted of a single large building resembling a
coal mine head. However instead of conveyors, tungsten carbide drills
and mine explosions, this was stuffed to the gills with vacuum tubes,
immense electromagnet relays, DIP switches, and miles of cable.
The rest of the installation was designed around the computer. There
were bunks between the relays, hammocks stretched from the cables, and
a parade ground deep inside the building where the main shaft elevator
would normally go. The engineers made sure the ammunition was kept well
away from any vacuum tubes, however.
Now one evening, the officers held a wine and cheese party. A big batch
job1 had been succesfully submitted and everyone wanted to celebrate.
The colonel in charge of punching holes in paper tape had a bit too much
to drink and started dancing on the table, and juggling hole punchers.
As it turns out, a particularly important vacuum tube was situated in
a closet off of the Officer's Mess. This controlled the multiplexing
of processor requests. It was a particularly cold February night, and the
door to the closet was left open to provide warmth.
Sadly, the colonel stepped in a large cheese2 and slipped.
Three hole punchers and a cheese went flying straight into the closet.
A sickening crashing sound was heard.
Pandemonium ensued, but the commanding general quickly restored order3.
A quick look inside the closet revealed an astonishing fact: the cheese
had landed inside the smashed tube. The hole punchers had somehow simultaneously
gotten embedded in the cheese and landed on the main contact plates. Assumedly,
current was running through the cheese, since a kind of ...brown... smoke
emanated from the cheese, and a foul stench wafted out of the closet.
The general called down to the foreman of the night operations shift
to check on the status of the computer.
"Why do you think there might be something wrong with the computer,
Sir?" asked the foreman. "It's working fine!"
"Don't give me that h*rs*sh*t, Major! Colonel Klutz just broke the multiplexer-controller
"Doesn't seem to have hurt the thing, Sir. In fact, it seems to be running
"Well get one of the engineers up here to look at this thing, and send the chef up with some more (blacked out)! We need to get this batch job done, and I don't want
to lose three weeks' worth of work to an out of cheese error!"
Eleven miles of paper tape.
The type of cheese was blacked out of the document.
I guess that's why he was a general.
And thus was born semiconductor