Making Electrons Count (part 5 of 11)

207 Let's follow Steve Dodd, Whirlwind's chief engineer, into the room containing the main components of the computer.
208 The computer occupies an area of
209 twenty-five hundred square feet,
210 to permit ready accessibility to all parts.
211 The memory is a device which retains information within the computer
212 and makes this information readily available.
213 Whirlwind's primary storage, or memory, consists of thirty-two planes of magnetic cores.
214 The computer can read or write a number in this memory in eight millionths of a second.
215 The planes are stacked in pancake fashion, sixteen planes in each of the two memory units.
216 Each plane consists of a thirty-two by thirty-two array of cores.

A core may be magnetized by passing current through the vertical and horizontal wires intersecting at that core, and a state of magnetization may be read out along the diagonal wire.

The control element selects previously stored instructions, such as multiplication or addition, from the memory, and directs the computer to carry them out. The arithmetic [pronounced as an adjective, accent on "met"] element, where the arithmetic [pronounced as the noun, accent on "rith"] is performed, consists of sixteen racks. Each rack handles one of the sixteen binary digits comprising a word. Since all sixteen digits are handled simultaneously, Whirlwind is a parallel machine.

218 The magnetic drums provide almost 25,000 words of additional storage.
219 The reels of magnetic tape used for secondary storage are even slower than the magnetic drum, offer a means of storing a half MILLION words.

Credits and Notice:

The MIT Museum has kindly granted permission for me to reproduce these extracts from the 1953 film on MIT Project Whirlwind,"Making Electrons Count." The permission is governed by an agreement between Daniel P. B. Smith and the MIT Museum, and covers publication at this Web site only. Individuals may view this material at this Web site, Any other use requires permission from the MIT Museum, 265 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139-4307.

The original film credits contain no date or copyright notice and reads, in full:

The Digital Computer Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Presents "Making Electrons Count: Solving a Problem on M.I.T.'s Electronic Digital Computer 'Whirlwind I.' Sponsored by: Office of Naval Research. Physicist played by Dean N. Arden. Script by Edwin S. Kopley. Photographed and Directed by Lloyd G. Sanford.

--Daniel P. B. Smith,