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Old 25th Nov 2020, 3:48 pm   #81
G6Tanuki
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Default Re: Would we have got to the moon with no semiconductors?

In the early-1980s one of my clients used quite a few GEC4080 computers, and I spent some time at their production-facility in Elstree Way, Borehamwood. The original 4080 took up several 5-foot-high 19-inch equipment-racks; however at the same site they had developed the 4080M version - not much bigger than a shoebox - that was to be part of the Nimrod AEW aircraft's electronics.
We were shown the 4080M and were truly amazed, both at its small size and - when we were told it - the cost!
[Alas the 4080M was not up to the task and was a significant part in the decades-late delivery/final cancellation of the entire Nimrod project].

I'm sure that sustained effort could have developed low-power Nuvistor-type valves - it's worth remembering that even in the early-1950s there were subminiature wire-ended valves using 0.625V heaters consuming a mere 20 Milliamps and 22.5V HT. There was also the multiple-valves-in-one-envelope 'Compactron' range - which were not all that small but showed an interesting though obviously-doomed direction. Desk calculators [the ANITA range] used cold-cathode thyratrons for digital logic in the early-'sixties. Also the German 1920s "Loewe' multiple-valve-elements-and-associated-resistors-and-capacitors-in-one envelope technology is worth remembering: part of me wonders if it wouldn't have been possible to combine these technologies to produce a 'single-valve' equivalent of basic circuit-elements like flip-flops, dividers, counters, op-amps etc just as we did a decade later with the first ICs?
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Old 25th Nov 2020, 4:01 pm   #82
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Default Re: Would we have got to the moon with no semiconductors?

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I was thinking this having a shower this morning, would we have got to the moon only using valves (or tubes considering it was an American project)?
Didn't the Russians still use valves in their early spacecraft ?

There was also the story of how the Americans spent a fortune developing the Papermate pen which would write in zero gravity , while the cosmonauts got pencils .
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Old 25th Nov 2020, 4:06 pm   #83
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Default Re: Would we have got to the moon with no semiconductors?

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There was also the story of how the Americans spent a fortune developing the Papermate pen which would write in zero gravity , while the cosmonauts got pencils .
Almost, you don't want bits of conductive pencil lead floating around, what was found that a normal ball point worked, all down to surface tension.
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Old 25th Nov 2020, 5:32 pm   #84
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Default Re: Would we have got to the moon with no semiconductors?

I'm reminded of the film The Year We Make Contact [1984] the sequel to 2001 A Space Odyssey and set nine years later! The Soviets and the Americans have to join up their capsules-something that happened later in real life. When the Americans leave their shiny computerised domain they find that the Russian cabin is a cross between an Edwardian Gents Toilet and an old fashioned submarine ie all beautiful brass and copper piping plus "valves" that aren't at all electronic-back to future eh

I've always believed that story re the Americans laughing about radio valves in a downed Mig Fighter until someone says "Nuclear EMF Pulse". In the savage Nuclear Winter film THREADS [coincidentally also released in the highly significant year of 1984 and about an attack on Britain] the first thing to fail, in the Control Centre under Sheffield Town Hall, is the solid State Radio Equipment!

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Old 25th Nov 2020, 5:58 pm   #85
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Default Re: Would we have got to the moon with no semiconductors?

I listened to part of a radio programme on World Service recently which discussed the possible use of a bomb optimised for its EMP effect. It was claimed that the long-distance, linear nature of the US power grid system made it very vulnerable, compared with a smaller country like the UK, where the grid was described as "like a spider's web".

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Old 25th Nov 2020, 6:39 pm   #86
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Default Re: Would we have got to the moon with no semiconductors?

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The computer was made by Elliott Process Automation. Input was from teleprinter and reel to reel punched tape. Discreet transistors on edge connecters. The whole system was in an air conditioned room about 10 ft wide by 25 ft long. Processor cabinets about the size of three chest freezers.
What model was it. Not an 803 or 503 by any chance?

I learned to grapple with mainframes on those. But I was recently surprised to learn that I had also encountered the same machine in a tiny box on a Nimrod aircraft! There was a military version of the same great big computer that fitted in a small box, dedicated to processing radar. Again showing that the reason for the big machines in many caninets was maintainance convenience and ease of replacing modules. If you really wanted small and light - you could have it!
I have a vague recollection that it was an ARCH 101? I know Elliot was associated with GEC and I think some of the process operators went down to Borehamwood on training courses.
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Old 25th Nov 2020, 7:03 pm   #87
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Default Re: Would we have got to the moon with no semiconductors?

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Elliot was associated with GEC and I think some of the process operators went down to Borehamwood on training courses.
Elliott Brothers - my late father worked for them at a small site on the old Croydon aerodrome in the first few years after WWII, where they were developing some of the early flight-simulators for jet aircraft.

Later became Elliott Automation, then GEC-Elliott Process Control. Their real-time/military computing stuff was spun-out as a separate company (Marconi-Elliott) after Elliott was swallowed-up by ICT [which then became ICL]


Elliott had its own semiconductor manufacturing facility in Scotland at one time.
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