This Giant Chunk of Metal Is 4 Kilobytes of Memory

Illustration for article titled This Giant Chunk of Metal Is 4 Kilobytes of Memory

What's this gent holding? A toaster? Farm equipment? Part of an engine? Wreckage from a destroyed tank? Nope—that's 4KB of ol' fashioned IBM memory. That's enough to hold 12% of my Facebook profile picture!

Editor-in-Chief of CNET Reviews Lindsey Turrentine discovered the rugged computer antique in her grandfather's barn. Not a bad catch! Turrentine pointed out the wonderful irony that the image itself is 692 KB—meaning she'd only need to find 172 more of these memory modules and a tractor trailer to transport the pic around. [Lindsey Turrentine]

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This is a 64 kilobyte core memory unit from the groundbreaking Whirlwind computer from the 1950s. It's about the size of a telephone booth. The magnetic core memory is the cube in the middle; the rest is vacuum tube driver circuitry.

Reader's guide for young people:

1. Core memory: computer memory using tiny ferrite rings woven on a grid of wires. Each ring stored one bit of data.

2. Vacuum tube: electronic circuit element based on a hot filament and a high-voltage plate. What we used before we had transistors.

3. Transistor: solid state circuit element based on germanium or silicon. What we used before we had integrated circuits.

4. Telephone booth: a large (~7 ft. tall) glass box with a landline pay telephone inside. What we used before we had mobile phones. Also where Superman changed clothes.