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Odd and Awesome Computer Facts, Part IV


     This week, we continue our “Odd and Awesome Computer Facts” blog series to bring you more fascinating factoids about the digital age. Next time there’s an awkward silence to fill, use one of these to save the day and restart the conversation! (That’s assuming you can find a way to work it in without making things even more awkward. Us computer nerds aren’t always very good at this.)

DID YOU KNOW … programmers compete to see who can create the best tiny computer program?

     That’s right, it’s not just jocks who like to compete. Programmers have a competitive streak too! One of the hardest types of competitions in the computer world is the 64k intro. Intros are a type of demo — snippets of graphics and music that show off a programmer’s skill — but with strict size limits.

     Most modern software takes up about a full DVD (about 4GB or 4,000,000 KB). But in a 64k intro, programmers can only use 64KB of disk space to create a program that has advanced features like 3D animations. These programs are written assembly language (also known as machine language). The talented people who create these intros also belong to some of the most popular hacker groups (e.g., Razor 1911).

     Check out some of the animations created for popular 64k “demo parties”:

     Chaos Theory

     The Scene Is Dead

     Panic Room

DID YOU KNOW … the first tablet computer dates back to 1963?

     Though it bears very little resemblance to an iPad or Kindle Fire, the RAND tablet, introduced by the RAND Corporation in 1963, was one of the first handheld computerized devices.

     A grid of wires under the surface allowed it to capture handwriting and drawings via a stylus. The tablet connected to an input of a computer display, which would register the input and display it on the screen.

     The RAND tablet claimed to be the first low-cost digital graphic device and was among the first to use a stylus.

     Check out close-up pictures and specs of the RAND Tablet here.

DID YOU KNOW … some people still use dial-up internet?

     While most people in North America and around the world use high-speed broadband internet, as of 2013, an estimated 3 percent of Americans still used dial-up Internet — that’s more than 9 million people. But depending on how old you are, you might not remember ever using dial-up!

     Dial-up internet means internet delivered over a telephone line. Twenty years ago, it wasn’t unusual to pick up the phone and hear a strange sound on the line while someone was trying to send an email.

     Today, we are usually talking of Mb/s of transfer speed, but it all started at 100 bit/s, or if you prefer, 0.009% of current internet speeds. Here’s what this means:

     - Loading the Google homepage on a 2400 baud (2.4 kbit/s) modem would take 2 hours and 30 minutes.(Yes, just the Google image and search box.)

     - Loading the Microsoft home page would take up to 12 minutes.

     While you’re thanking your lucky stars for high speed internet access, learn more about the history of dial-up modems.

DID YOU KNOW … the internet started out as a single URL?

     At one time, the entire internet consisted of a single page, at the URL http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html.

     The page was about the “WorldWideWeb” project, and how you too could create an internet page!

     While the original page sadly no longer exists, you can see how it looked after two years of revisions here.

     In case you missed the first blog posts of this series, view them here:

     Odd and Awesome Computer Facts, Part I

     Odd and Awesome Computer Facts, Part II

     Odd and Awesome Computer Facts, Part III