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"Electronic Computer Brain?"

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Someone posted this on Badmovies.org; it's from 1965. Anyone know what that "Electronic Computer Brain" is?

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I found a few more links:

 

This fellow claims he owned one, but was not impressed.

https://www.tomcuthbert.com/blog/looking-for-the-perfect-christmas-gift-how-ab

 

This page says it was a gimmick from a Marvel comic, probably wrong conclusion.

https://www.metv.com/stories/these-vintage-ads-prove-1967-was-far-more-hi-tech-than-you-remember

 

Frank Kozik on Pinterest mentions an advertisement in 1968's Silver Surfer 3 for the Digi Comp I Electronic Computer Brain (just like cjherr just pointed out it is), hawked a psychic computer that used for telling the future and "studying space age miracles." Oh, 1960s copywriters, unencumbered the laws of reality.

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My dad got it for us as kids, in hope we'd get interested in computers. I'm not sure why they say "Electronic", because it's completely mechanical, but I guess you say what you think will get it to sell.

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Was the word "computer" used for other purposes too, so "electronic" was added to illustrate that this device simulates the computations than an electronic computer would accomplish?

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Well, the ad says "A real digital computer designed to demonstrate the apparatus behind the circuits of an electronic brain." Maybe stretching, but they're not lying. You could make it do simple math, count up, count down, etc. It's an interesting toy, although obviously not for everyone.

 

Here's a replica if anyone is interested.

http://www.mindsontoys.com/kits.htm?dc1_main.htm

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2 hours ago, cjherr said:

My dad got it for us as kids, in hope we'd get interested in computers. I'm not sure why they say "Electronic", because it's completely mechanical, but I guess you say what you think will get it to sell.

It's like asking for a Pac-Man machine as a kid and getting this:

 

28abee189ab65ce8874f3801a10e1be3.thumb.jpg.893ec29d82364c22eb379f93a6bfe3c5.jpg

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There could be some benefits to having the unit be all-mechanical, vs "Genuine transistor electronic", in terms of learning aids.

 

For starters, the conception of logic as switches is real, and actual-- not implied logical, like with a transistor; You can actually see/hear/feel the switches engage

Additionally, it is slow enough for a human to keep pace with what it is doing. Transistor devices do what they do so fast, that unless you add breakpoints to your code, events will come and go so much faster than you can accommodate, that it might as well be magic.

 

 

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10 hours ago, cjherr said:

Well, the ad says "A real digital computer designed to demonstrate the apparatus behind the circuits of an electronic brain." Maybe stretching, but they're not lying. You could make it do simple math, count up, count down, etc. It's an interesting toy, although obviously not for everyone.

 

Here's a replica if anyone is interested.

http://www.mindsontoys.com/kits.htm?dc1_main.htm

I believe the first practical computers in the 50's 40's consisted of a bunch of levers placed in 0 or 1 position, these were saved and then basic math functions like triangulating a battleship or sub position were performed. So, the method of entering the "byte" is vaguely similar.

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23 hours ago, Billy Beans said:

It's like asking for a Pac-Man machine as a kid and getting this:

 

28abee189ab65ce8874f3801a10e1be3.thumb.jpg.893ec29d82364c22eb379f93a6bfe3c5.jpg

This was before you could get any sort of "personal computer", so no disappointment there, but I'd sure love to know how that thing works.

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Speaking about computing in the 1960's in general, something that stuck me earlier this week was when I looked up The Sumerian Game (1964-67) by Mabel Addis, which was the inspiration for the better known game Hamurabi a.k.a. The Sumer Game (1968) by Doug Dyment, which was ported by BASIC by David H. Ahl and eventually ported to pretty much every micro and still to this day is kind of playable in an emulated online version.

 

Mabel Addis was a fourth grade teacher and supposedly the game she designed with help from programmer William McKay and IBM, was played by a group of 30 sixth grade students connected to a teleprinter connected to a mainframe. That sounds very much ahead of time for being 1964-66. I'm sure a few well equipped schools may have had a teleprinter for the students (or perhaps rather the teacher) to use but it can't have been standard practice, making the game generally available to play in electronic form? In principle the logic probably could have been implemented in mechanical form in one way or another but then it would barely have been a computer game.

 

Now the MeTV link I posted above with various advertisements that supposedly were from 1967 indicate that the world perhaps was a tad bit more digitalized than us younger generations may have thought, but on the other hand I suppose those items advertised like the RCA computer, were state of the art items for the really progressive people, not something the mainstream would buy. Perhaps like a VR set 10 years ago.

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https://thejournal.com/Articles/1997/06/01/Computers-in-Education-A-Brief-History.aspx?m=1&Page=1 is an academic overview of the entrance of computers into education. The key section would be on page 4 

Quote

By 1975, 55% of the schools had access and 23% were using computers primarily for instruction.

That is only 10 years after the IBM sponsored initial experiments that led to the Sumerian Game. In less than another 10 years, Billboard magazine was tracking sales of educational software. The move into the mainstream was fast.

 

RCA was a special case. Their computer line was failing against IBM so they pivoted to the educational market by creating a unit* for that purpose in 1967 (including the ad seen previously) following a successful launch for Vo-Tech schools in Oklahoma in 1966. Didn't help RCA move machines; the entire computer division was sold off by 1971. 

 

https://www.nytimes.com/1967/03/14/archives/rca-develops-education-system-computer-unit-for-schools-dedicated.html describes what RCA was doing in 1967. 

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On 4/30/2021 at 1:17 PM, cjherr said:

This was before you could get any sort of "personal computer", so no disappointment there, but I'd sure love to know how that thing works.

Here: 

 

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Actually, pretty clever idea. Not bad for a completely mechanical toy. 

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On 4/29/2021 at 12:39 PM, cjherr said:

My dad got it for us as kids, in hope we'd get interested in computers. I'm not sure why they say "Electronic", because it's completely mechanical, but I guess you say what you think will get it to sell.

They should have used LEDs or bulbs instead of plastic plates with 1 and 0 on them. Turning a switch on and off probably would have been just as easy. Instead of flipping the plate it could just hit a toggle switch.  At least then you could (remotely) claim it to be electronic.

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On 5/7/2021 at 6:15 AM, pacman000 said:

Here: 

 

That Pac Man game is better than it looks. Among other things, it would encourage kids to think ahead about actions and consequences. (If I tilt the board this way, the ghosts and Pac Man will both move this way . . .) And the reconfigurable board would give it a couple extra days of playtime.

 

It's also a reminder of how HUGE Pac Man was in the 1980s. Literally anything Pac Man would sell. I was a kid and collected Pac Man stickers because Pac Man. Erasers, music, clothes, books, toys, games . . . if it had Pac Man on it, kids bought it, or parents bought it for their kids.

 

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Posted (edited)
On 5/15/2021 at 7:46 AM, christo930 said:

They should have used LEDs or bulbs instead of plastic plates with 1 and 0 on them.

The first LED with visible light (red) was demonstrated in October 1962, soon to be followed by green LEDs and in the 1970's other colours. Until 1968, LEDs were extremely costly, up to $200 per unit (quote from Wikipedia) so for the first few years those were mainly used in expensive labs and test equipment. Between 1962 and 1968, HP put a lot of R&D into the LED which probably yielded both a better product and lower prices.

 

The Digi-Comp 1 was launched in 1963. I'm not sure it was $4.99 to begin with, but a quick calculation from the above numbers indicate that a version using three LEDs would have cost at least $300 with some massive volume discounts (half price LEDs) rather than $5... Not to mention it would have required at least a few batteries to operate, something that definitely was found in transistor radios but I don't know how common it was to have battery operated toys by the early to mid 60's.

 

Sure they could have used small light bulbs instead of LEDs, it probably had brought down the price a bit but still required batteries and other electronic components. It is easy to think that 1965 was like 1975 but ten years earlier.

 

Also note that while the Digi-Comp I (1963) was programmable as has been demonstrated above, the follow-up Digi-Comp II (1965) was not.

Edited by carlsson
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On 5/17/2021 at 1:32 PM, carlsson said:

The first LED with visible light (red) was demonstrated in October 1962, soon to be followed by green LEDs and in the 1970's other colours. Until 1968, LEDs were extremely costly, up to $200 per unit (quote from Wikipedia) so for the first few years those were mainly used in expensive labs and test equipment. Between 1962 and 1968, HP put a lot of R&D into the LED which probably yielded both a better product and lower prices.

 

The Digi-Comp 1 was launched in 1963. I'm not sure it was $4.99 to begin with, but a quick calculation from the above numbers indicate that a version using three LEDs would have cost at least $300 with some massive volume discounts (half price LEDs) rather than $5... Not to mention it would have required at least a few batteries to operate, something that definitely was found in transistor radios but I don't know how common it was to have battery operated toys by the early to mid 60's.

 

Sure they could have used small light bulbs instead of LEDs, it probably had brought down the price a bit but still required batteries and other electronic components. It is easy to think that 1965 was like 1975 but ten years earlier.

 

Also note that while the Digi-Comp I (1963) was programmable as has been demonstrated above, the follow-up Digi-Comp II (1965) was not.

I figured as much.  That's why I mentioned just using bulbs. I just wasn't precisely sure on the cost at that point. I guess it would have sucked to have to have batteries to power the bulbs, given the bulbs really wouldn't have done anything other than look cool.  Thanks for the explanation. Much appreciated.

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No problem. I was quite surprised reading up on the first LEDs and how pricey those were in the early years. Also it is possible that the device could have been powered by mains. I don't know how common it was to have extension cords and alike in the mid 1960's, or electrically powered toys (if the Digi-Comp was advertised as a toy) at all. For its purpose, the all mechanic design seems to have served well, but it is a bit of a drawback that the sequel didn't make an even better simulation of a programmable computer. Probably access to actual computers still was such a distant dream that the demand really wasn't there.

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