Technology

Why study ancient technology? | Hackaday

Why study ancient technology?  |  Hackaday

Why study ancient technology? | Hackaday

The inner orbits of the Hackaday Solar System vibrate with Hackaday Supercon 2022 Badge Announcement. The short version of the story is that it is a “retro computer”. But I think that’s kind of selling it short. A badge really is an introduction to machine language or maybe a programming puzzle, a bunch of cute blinking lights and clicking buttons, and what I consider an invitation to hack the whole stack.

Voja Antonić designed a virtual 4-bit machine that lives inside. What sets this machine apart from real old computers is that everything you might want to know about its state is broken down into LEDs on the front, from the outputs of the low-level logic elements that make up the ALU to the RAM, to the decoder LEDs that perform double function as a disconnector. You can see it all and that makes it an unparalleled learning aid. Or at least gives you a fighting chance.

So why would you want to learn a fictional machine language from a non-existent CPU? Tom Nardi and I discussed our experiences on the podcast, and we both agreed that there’s something inexplicably magical about turning bits, calling the simplest of computer operations into action, and still making it do your bidding. Or rather, it is anti-magical, because what is happening is the removal of metaphors and abstractions. Peek not just behind, but right through the curtain. Once you see what’s really going on, from the bottom up.

As Voja wrote on the silkscreen on the back of the badge itself: “A programmer who has never coded 1’s and 0’s in machine language is like a child who has never run barefoot on the grass.” It’s not necessary, and perhaps not even relevant, but learning a complex machine in its entirety is both grounding and mind-expanding. It is simply an experience that you ought to have



#study #ancient #technology #Hackaday

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