144 episodes

Welcome to Advent of Computing, the show that talks about the shocking, intriguing, and all too often relevant history of computing. A lot of little things we take for granted today have rich stories behind their creation, in each episode we will learn how older tech has lead to our modern world.

Advent of Computing Sean Haas

    • History
    • 4.8 • 65 Ratings

Welcome to Advent of Computing, the show that talks about the shocking, intriguing, and all too often relevant history of computing. A lot of little things we take for granted today have rich stories behind their creation, in each episode we will learn how older tech has lead to our modern world.

    Episode 131 - Computer... Books?

    Episode 131 - Computer... Books?

    I've been feeling like rambling, so it's time for a classic ramble. This time we are looking at the origins of books about computers. More specifically, computer books targeted at a general audience. Along the way we stumble into the first public disclosure of digital computers, the first intentionally unimportant machine, and wild speculation about the future of mechanical brains.
    No sources listed this time, because I want the journey to be a surprise!

    • 1 hr 3 min
    ALGOL, Part II

    ALGOL, Part II

    This is a hefty one. I usually try to keep things as accessible as possible, but this time we have to get a little more technical than usual. We are picking up in 1964, with the first proposals for a new version of ALGOL. From there we sail through the fraught waters of ALGOL X, Y, W, and finally 68. Along the way we see how a language evolves over time, and how people and politics mesh with technical issues.
    Selected Sources:
    https://dl.acm.org/doi/pdf/10.5555/1061112.1061118 - Successes and Failures of the ALGOL Effort
    https://sci-hub.se/10.1109/MAHC.2010.8 - Cold War Origins of IFIP
    https://archive.computerhistory.org/resources/text/algol/algol_bulletin/ - The ALGOL Bulletin

    • 1 hr 15 min
    ALGOL, Part I

    ALGOL, Part I

    ALGOL is one of those topics that's haunted the show for a while. It comes up any time we talk about programming languages, and with good reason. Many of the features and ideas found in modern languages have their roots in ALGOL. Despite that influence, ALGOL itself remains somewhat obscure. It never reached the highs of a C or LISP.
    In this series we are going to look at ALGOL from 1958 all up to 1968, keeping a careful eye on how the language evolved, how it's problems were addressed, and how new problems were introduced.
    Selected Sources:
    https://www.softwarepreservation.org/projects/ALGOL/paper/Backus-Syntax_and_Semantics_of_Proposed_IAL.pdf - Backus, 1958 IAL report
    https://algol60.org/reports/algol60_rr.pdf - ALGOL 1960 Report
    https://dl.acm.org/doi/pdf/10.5555/1060960.1060966 - Cleaning Up Algol

    • 1 hr 4 min
    Cryotrons LIVE!

    Cryotrons LIVE!

    Originally presented at VCF SoCal in February of 2024.
    The cryotron, a superconductive switch, almost revolutionized computing. It's one of those fascinating near misses. In this episode we are talking about the history of the cryotron, how the NSA and supercomputing factors into the mix, and the current state of research into the topic. Did the NSA actually construct a supercomputer that ran in a vat of liquid helium? The answer is... maybe?
    Video of this talk:

    • 41 min


    This is going to be a wild rambling ride. In 1939 a computer called Nimatron was made. It was one of the earliest digital electronic computers in the world. It did one thing: play a game called Nim. Over a decade later, in 1951, another Nim machine hit the scene. This computer called Nimrod, was designed to demonstrate how computers worked... by playing a game of Nim.

    These machines, humble as they may sound, end up deeply complicating the history of computing. Join me as I, once again, muddy the long arc of progress.

    Selected Sources:

    https://archive.org/details/faster-than-thought-b.-v.-bowden - Faster Than Thought

    https://www.goodeveca.net/nimrod/NIMROD_Guide.html - Faster Than Thought

    • 1 hr
    IBM Compatible (No, Not Those)

    IBM Compatible (No, Not Those)

    This episode wraps up the System/360 trilogy by taking things back to where they started for me. We will be looking at System/360 clones, how they could exist, why they existed, and why IBM didn't crush them. We close with a discussion of how these earlier clones impact our understanding of the IBM PC story. The truth is, by 1981 IBM was no stranger to clones. This is the culmination of a wild story, so prepare!

    Selected Sources:

    https://archive.org/details/iclbusinesstechn0000camp/mode/1up - ICL: A Business and Technical History

    https://archive.org/details/impactreportamdaunse/page/1/mode/1up - Impact Report by INPUT


    • 1 hr 13 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
65 Ratings

65 Ratings

digger4 ,

absolutely outstanding work and narrative

very very informative and very well researched by the host. Award winning journalism.

Samuel W L ,

Love it

As a software engineer, this is the perfect podcast that caters to the niche interest I have in history of computers.

AerliceChantelle ,

This is delightful!!

I just listened to the first episode on the Mundanium and it scratches all my special interest itches. I worked in a library in college, and now work as a data analyst and have always had an interest in computer history. I can’t believe I had never heard any of this before. They were so ahead of their time! Can’t wait for the next episode.

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