Archive for June, 2007

Jun 18 2007

Americanization of Benjamin Franklin

Published by under Books

by Gordon S. Wood.

This book was a surprise. A gift for a weekend without a book. Turned out to be an interesting biography of an interesting man. A person that I probably hadn’t read about since my high school days (a long time ago). The ‘Americanization’ of the title refers mainly to the creation of Franklin as the stereotypical hard working, self made man of Poor Richard’s Almanac. That persona reflects the early Franklin as he made his way from almost nothing to a “Gentleman”. The 18th century’s definition of and role for Gentleman is one of the interesting aspects of the book. But, Franklin was much more complicated and conflicted than his stereotype. A committed royalist for many years, he worked to extend the English King’s authority and control of the Pennsylvania colony, but late in his life worked vigorously to further the American revolution. But when supporting the revolution by bringing the French to the side of the revolution, he was not trusted by many of his American associates and only kept his role at the insistence of the French royalty.

He was a generation older than the other founders and a well established natural philosopher (scientist) before the revolutionary period. He lived for many years in London as a supporter of the King and could have been described as a “roaring” Anglophile. But he was also an ardent democrat in the original sense of that word; In favor of a weak executive and a strong legislature for Pennsylvania. Despite those democratic leanings, he worked long and well withe French court and King as an emissary of the rebellion. In fact he loved life in Paris as he had loved London. When he eventually returned, America was an almost strange place and he was somewhat suspected due to his long stays in Europe.

The current stereotypical image of Franklin was manufactured by the following generations as fit to there needs for ‘educating’ the young men and has become a part of the American dream of a self made man.

Well written, easy to read.

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Jun 05 2007

Magnetic “Beads”

Published by under retro

This blog page has a beautiful close up shot of early magnetic core memory in an IBM 704 built in 1954. The text which is presumably from the accompanying 1954 text refers to the cores as “beads”. In the photo you can make out the two perpendicular wires going through each of the cores on what is a hand made board which contains an array of 6 by 12 cores or 72 bits.

Silly calculations:

  • Were one to build a one gigabit memory board with the same density, it would need to be about 24,000 sq. ft. or approximately half a football field. Can’t imagine the power consumption.
  • Computational capability from the 10 Million ops/hour to today’s CPU chips has grown at an average of about 30%; a doubling in a little less than three years. Slower than Moore’s law predicts. Reflecting the inclusion of a period of this older technology that preceded integrated circuits.

Thanks to a correspondent further west for the link.

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