Test Your Nerd Knowledge: Dec 21, 2021

Here’s a review of this week’s questions:

  1. There is debate over which person, Ray Kurzweil or Russell A. Kirsch invented this device, which integrated the use of images into computer functions. What device was it?
  2. In 1972, Hewlett Packard developed the HP-35, which was arguably the very first of this device to be unleashed on the world. What was it?
  3. “Big Iron” is slang for what?

And here are the answers:

1. The Image Scanner. In 1954, Russell Kirsch led a team of researchers to explore character recognition technology for the purpose of processing mass amounts of data. Based on contemporary models of neurophysiology, Kirsch’s team constructed the first picture scanner in 1957 using binary representation of image data. The first CCD-based flatbed scanner was developed by Ray Kurzweil in 1975. In 1976, Kurzweil integrated his scanning technologies with a text-to-speech synthesizer called the Kurzweil Reading Machine. The three components of the machine were intended to work together to assist vision-impaired people in reading physical documents.

2. A Handheld Computer. While today’s mobile phones are basically computers that we carry in our pockets, the first device of its kind was far more basic. The HP-35 from Hewlett-Packard, introduced in 1972, was the world’s first scientific pocket calculator; a calculator with trigonometric and exponential functions. It was also HP’s first product that contained both integrated circuits and LEDs, technologies that had been developed in HP Labs. Bill Hewlett, who, in 1968, had challenged HP engineers to make a desktop-size computer (the 9100A), challenged them again in 1971 to take that desktop computer and make it small enough to fit into his shirt pocket.

3. Mainframe. “Big iron” is slang for an extremely large, expensive, and fast computer. It often refers to oversized computers such as Cray’s supercomputer or IBM’s mainframe. The term originated in the 1970s, when smaller computers known as minicomputers were introduced. The term “big iron” was coined by users, and the industry, to differentiate large computers from the smaller minicomputers. The big iron computers of today are high-performance rigs primarily used by large companies for large-scale computing purposes and processing massive amounts of data.