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Al Williams

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Rube Goldberg Computer

June 10, 2010

You may recall that I enjoy designing CPUs. While I like to think I'm innovative (after all, one instruction is kind of novel) I don't think I'm a Rube Goldberg (or Heath Robinson if you are from the other side of the Atlantic).

But what if Mr. Goldberg and Mr. Robinson designed a computer? Well, it might look like this!

I'm not sure how many people are strange enough to enjoy this as much as I did. A Jacob's ladder for the system clock? Pneumatic ball-bearing RAM memory? I confess I immediately started thinking about how to simplify the ball-bearing memory before I made myself stop.

Not all of it is impractical though. The mercury delay line memory made me recall my pleasant interactions with Dr. Wilkes on the design of the EDSAC and I still have a board of core memory in my attic. I keep thinking that one day I'll replicate the EDSAC on an FPGA, but its hard to find time for those little fun projects.

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