E-115
Miscellany

Crypto is hard: The secret cryptographic features of Barbie typewriters

The Barbie Typewriters are low-cost electronic typewriters developed as a children’s toy by Mehano in Slovenia (formerly Yugoslavia) and sold worldwide by Mattel.

Crypto Museum: Apart from a range of typesetting features, such as letter-spacing and underline, this children’s toy was capable of encoding and decoding secret messages, using one of 4 built-in cipher modes. These modes were activated by entering a special key sequence on the keyboard, and was explained only in the original documentation.

E-115 interior

When the E-115 was adopted by Mattel as an addition to the Barbie™ product line, it was aimed mainly at girls with a minimum age of 5 years. For this reason the product was given a pink-and-purple case and the Barbie logo and image were printed on the body. As it was probably thought that secret writing would not appeal to girls, the coding/decoding facilities were omitted from the manual. Nevertheless, these facilities can still be accessed if you know how to activate them.

German manual for E-118

(via @mwichary)

See also

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The Big Hex Machine

The Big Hex Machine is a giant, yet simple, 16-bit computer designed by staff and students at the University of Bristol to explain how a computer works.

The giant machine, based in the Merchant Venturers School of Engineering, measures over eight square meters. It is built out of over 100 specially designed four-bit circuit boards, which enables students to be taught about fundamental principles of computer architecture from just a few basic components.

Tech Spark: David May (pictured right, above), Professor of Computer Science in the Department of Computer Science (pictured right, above), designed the Big Hex Machine with education in mind. David says, “You cannot understand how a computer works by taking one apart!”

“In our giant machine, all of the structure is clearly visible – as is the movement of information as it executes programs. It demonstrates the principle used in all computers – general-purpose hardware controlled by a stored program.”

(via HN)

Miscellany

The Big Hex Machine

The ‘Big Hex Machine’ is a giant, yet simple, 16-bit computer specifically designed to explain how a computer works. Its instruction set requires a very small compiler, but it is powerful enough to implement useful programs.

Gallery

See How an Insane 7-Circle Roundabout Actually Works

Wired: Your first thought upon seeing Swindon’s ‘magic roundabout’ might be: man, the Brits have really lost the plot lately. But this thing—which is actually seven roundabouts in one—has been working for 60 years.

You just point your vehicle towards where you want to go, yeild to cars already in the midst of the ‘magic’, then ‘brexit’ on the other side.

See also: The untold story of the British Rail logo

Sockrotation update
Miscellany

Welcome to Sockrotation.com

After three years, two months and almost 700 posts I have finally decided to upgrade this blog by paying for WordPress.com’s premium hosting package.

Rapid Notes stats

The most notable changes are:

  • New domain! New name! The blog is no longer Rapid Notes at rapidnotes.wordpress.com, but Sockrotation.com.
  • New Twitter account! Follow @sockrotation for updates.
  • No ads! For now at least. I reserve the right to activate WordAds in the future.
  • New fonts! New CSS! Expect more visual tweaks over the coming weeks as I go mad with power now I can finally make these kinds cosmetic alterations.

Nothing of substance will change however. This is still the same blog posting the same kinds of posts with the same ‘regularity’.

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Guide to Computing

This colourful series of ten historic computers, created in close collaboration between INK and Docubyte, documents the beginning of our computing history.

Featuring such famous machines as the IBM 1401 and Alan Turing’s Pilot ACE, Guide to Computing showcases a minimalist approach to design that precedes even Apple’s contemporary motifs.

What’s more, the combination of Docubyte’s photography and INK’s skilful retouching and post-production techniques has resulted in something wholly unique: the ageing historical objects as photographed by Docubyte have been ‘digitally restored’ and returned to their original form. As a number of these computers predate modern colour photography, Guide to Computing therefore showcases them in a never before seen context.

Photography by Docubyte. Retouching by INK.

See also

Miscellany

Colourful digital restorations of historic computers

This colourful series of ten historic computers, created in close collaboration between INK and Docubyte, documents the beginning of our computing history.

Gallery

The Bubble Nebula

NGC 7635 aka The Bubble Nebula: Although it looks delicate, the 7 light-year diameter bubble offers evidence of violent processes at work. Above and left of the Bubble’s center is a hot, O-type star, several hundred thousand times more luminous and around 45 times more massive than the Sun. A fierce stellar wind and intense radiation from that star has blasted out the structure of glowing gas against denser material in a surrounding molecular cloud.

Zoom in →

Miscellany

Hubble Bubble

“The intriguing Bubble Nebula and associated cloud complex lie a mere 7,100 light-years away toward the boastful constellation Cassiopeia. This sharp, tantalizing view of the cosmic bubble is a composite of Hubble Space Telescope image data from 2016, released to celebrate the 26th anniversary of Hubble’s launch.” — APOD

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