Tag Archives: real time

The largest computer ever built

Locklin on Science has posted a fascinating piece about cold war computers.
Originally built to coordinate radar and missile defence across the US, the SAGE system could even control airborne “drones”!
This system was built in 1958 and didn’t go offline until 1984 (!!).

The SAGE system had many firsts: it was the first nation wide networked computer system. While it used special leased telephone lines and some of the first modems (at a blistering 1300 baud), it was effectively the internet, long before the internet. It was the first to use CRT screens. The first to use a “touch screen interface” via the use of light pens on the CRT. It was the first to use magnetic core memory. It was the first real time, high availability computer system. It was the first computer system to use time sharing. Many people attribute the genesis of computer programming as a profession to the SAGE system. Modern air traffic control, and computer booking systems of course, descend from the SAGE system.


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Kinect Projects Update

Wow – so I got Slashdotted. Very unexpected but still counts as one life goal down 😉
First of all thanks for the comments and the feedback. There’s some really interesting discussion going on here and I plan to follow-up on some of the ideas raised. This is exactly why I posted this stuff.
As I’m sure everyone can see this is a pretty rough proof-of-concept. I just thought I’d share some pics and a bit of code once I got something working.

I’ll just address a few quick points while more than 6 people per day are reading my blog :).
1. Phone GPS quality – yes the GPS accuracy I can expect from my phone is pretty poor compared to professional solutions – I work with some pretty expensive kit myself. I was hoping to make a hack that could be replicated without people spending a lot of money and so if I get my hands on a newer phone I’ll see if I can get some inertial sensing going too.

2. Advanced techniques for combining pointclouds – yes there is so much more that could be done with all this. To be honest I just posted this after I spent a bit of time hacking and got something working.

The original concept was to enable low-cost vehicle based mapping using commodity hardware and open-source software. Imagine a crowdsourced 3D map of the world that everyone can contribute to a la OpenStreetMap. Obviously just logging depth frames from the Kinect is a long way from such a dream, but hopefully at some point I will be able to put more time into it and progress the project. I’m calling it Dramatic Mapping.

However I have a few other projects that might take away my attention at least temporarily:

A commenter mentioned using the Kinect with a 3D printer and I can tell you that I already have plans for such.
In fact, the parts to construct a RepRap have been on their way for 2 weeks now (but appear to be stuck in Australian customs). Once I get it printing I intend to use the Kinect as a 3D scanner to create a nice workflow for duplicating real world objects. I will blog about this so don’t worry.

I also want to explore ROS and it’s packages (and learn a lot!). To this end I think an iRobot Create might be a planned purchase :).
I do have some experience with dealing with large pointclouds in my day job and so some more advanced techniques as suggested by commenters are also possible – if I get the time. ROS also seems like an awesome jumping off point – many awesome hackers have built a really impressive system.



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