Secret Life Of Machines – The Word Processor (Full Length)

Ollie dear all the machines in the office the computer is probably the most awe-inspiring but despite all the hype and jargon surrounding them they’ve now become so easy-to-use that they’re on almost every office desk this change would never have happened without word processing for most people word processing is actually their only use for a computer it is an extraordinary elaborate way to write something with a separate keyboard monitor computer and printer but the ease of trying sentences out and moving them about does give writing a whole new freedom in this program Rex and I are going to look at the evolution of the word processor and at least try to demystify some of the jargon surrounding it the word processor came from combining the computer with a much earlier invention the typewriter this is part of the Science Museum’s enormous collection of typewriters the first attempts were unbelievably clumsy this is the appropriately named Terra type of 1860 the paper goes on here that’s the maximum size on this plate and when you press one of the piano keys the type pops up here unbelievably tiny this early typewriter made by charles wheatstone this one looks a bit like an old Primus though it actually still works quite well this one you put the paper in this brass flake frame with a bit of carbon over it and then you put the writing ball down on top of it you punch in the letters while they’re supposed to spring back out again press the keys all that while the M frame moves under it and this one’s a sort of earlier version of a golf ball but this machine the sholden Glidden from 1875 revolutionized the typewriter this was the first one that could type faster than you could write by hand it was the first machine to be mass-produced and the first machine to have the QWERTY layout of the keys that’s been used ever since his machine appeared just at the time that offices were expanding rapidly by 1900 typewriters had become an established part of any office introducing a whole new workforce of women Miss Smith what can you tell us about your model B right now I wouldn’t trade my typewriter for the world the new improvements to typewriter ribbons and the new proportional spacing of my model be our business letters appear so elegant and I’ve even increased my typing speed to one thing though I wish they’d invented typewriters I could erase or eliminate errors I’ve never had to stop to erase again well maybe someday word processors remove this problem because before everything’s finally committed to paper it’s stored in a form that’s easy to modify and manipulate in electrical circuits if you are opening a machine up there’s no obvious clear how it does this it just reveals a maze of intricate circuits and a collection of inscrutable silicon chips tiny even more complicated mazes of meinian circuits it’s sort of worlds within worlds however all these tiny circuits are really just vast collections of transistors just like this and all each transistor does I just put it in this holder here is to switch

the electric current on and off in theory an entire computer could be made from enough transistor circuits like this this computer boards all still connected up and if I pause it for a minute at any instant every single transistor in the chip is either fully on or fully off everything that’s fed into the computer has to be converted to a form that can be handled by the on-off language of the chips word processing uses a code called ASCII the letters of the alphabet are converted to seven bits that can each be on or off so if I type a letter a that’s on or off off off on bond and be the different one see the key each letter of the alphabet likes a different combination and capital letters turn this bit off the idea of coding things in a digital way like this started long before the age of computers every tickets ready all tickets please man may I see your ticket sure these tickets cool punch photographs at lists which were punched out when the ticket report all seems to match in here each space on the ticket could be punched not punched a primitive digital code I like what I see have a nice day thank you hey you suspicious-looking character give me a ticket sure but the punch photograph was a futile attempt to deter train robbers to stop match up we are a robber on the train window panic don’t panic just just get out of here this is my lucky day an inventor called Herman Hollerith adapted the cards to record numbers and letters of the alphabet for the US Census count of 1890 Horus machine became widely adopted in offices the holes in the card form digital code similar to the ASCII codes in a computer however Hollerith machines could only sortin counting the unique advantage of a computer is that it can perform an infinite variety of processing instead of the fixed mechanisms in the Horace machines computer circuits can be given infinitely variable coded instructions the computer program computer programs are also written in codes of on off bits while the computer is working both the program and the data the letters you type are stored inside chips I called the computer’s RAM or random access memory chip like this can store 64,000 bits but every time you switch the computer off all the bits inside here are lost so to save things more permanently they recorded on magnetic disks the coating of these disks is just the same as audio or video tape and the codes are recorded as minut bits of magnetism with a solution of iron powder you can actually see the magnetized parts of the disk each of these tracks can actually hold 72,000 on off bits hard disks are the same idea but they can store literally thousands of millions of bits they’re so sensitive they have to be sealed up inside the computer and these heads which record and playback the information are so close to the disk that they do occasionally collide with it that’s the origin of the computer crash carries gerbil hasn’t got to go I couldn’t find that memo although the contents of the RAM and the disks are referred to as the computed memory it should really be called storage if Brenda remembers Brenda when was that memo sent round about pets in the office the computer simply stored everything whether it’s useful or not the curve a part of human memory is really the forgetting bit our brains are constantly selecting what’s worse remembering no wait it wasn’t the same day I met Bruce a fire officer he was a pattern over steak yes there it is splendid Thank You Brenda the world’s fastest mechanical brain misleading descriptions of computers then from the 1950s when they were often referred to as giant

brains this indicator acts as the main control tape is fed in take that contains great masses of numerical data the Machine follows many of the patterns of man’s own mind only the machine never goes in for day dreaming in reality these early computers were extraordinarily clumsy this is a 1958 Pegasus recently restored by the computer Conservation Society instead of chips it all works with vowels 1800 of them and they’re all mounted on packages and here’s an example of a package from Pegasus free valves old components it’s like as a primitive printed circuit yes this is an early form of printed circuit to keep the valves cool large amounts of air have to be blown through the computer so it all has to be aerodynamically shaped like a wind tunnel what we have to do first of all is to switch the HT on and we press the HT button here that brings up the lines on the cathode ray tube here and now we have to enter the instructions to start the engineers test program this is looking at the internal registers in the machine and each of those little spikes there is an on/off fit within one register so down Kazan that’s right yes of course you can also hear the engineers test program playing on the loudspeaker down here and having got a loudspeaker there was an incentive people to write tunes for the computer and I can now load a Tunes program in and we have to load this on the paper tape reader here yeah and here’s a tunes program punched on paper tape and this we can load into Pegasus and here we have the punched paper tape so the holes are just like the holes in Hollerith punch cards that’s right again yes and we load that into the reader here and then we start the program money now we learn music program and now we can start to choose program flooding and now you would see them in their stream writing programs on paper tape like this was very difficult you didn’t actually have to punch every individual hole instead use modified teletype machines like this each left my friend funky valve a different combination of cold even though remains a very frustrating little because just one roll you pee and when the takes transferred to the computer the program boys run as part of my engineering degree I did a short computer course writing programs like this in 1970 and I don’t remember ever getting a single program to run the solution was to add a TV screen to the computer this is one of the first computers to have one built in was introduced in 1969 then with a special program called a line editor if you put ran this through the Machine first you could then write your own program see what you were doing and make adjustments and try it out as you went along these line editor programs were really the forerunner of the modern word processor programs I suppose that some of you are wondering what that television screen device is and what it has to do with the office of today that equipment is called the IBM 3270 7 display terminal through its keyboard characters are typed and displayed on the screen should the operator make an error the backspace key works just like an eraser on a pencil and the error disappeared displaying everything like this needed a lot of circuitry what made it practical was to miniaturized it all combining the transistors in the first integrated circuits or silicon chips at first these were relatively simple this is an example if I put one light in the output and two in the inputs I can show you what it does this is a comparing circuit it switches the output on whenever the two inputs are the same as each other either both of all both on and switch is the output off when only one input is lit even the simple comparing circuit can start to seem clever if it’s working fast enough I can put in one set of inputs the ASCII code for a letter A and

compare it with the other set the output will only switch on if the other set is another a if I were to do this enough times I could compare whole words and this is the basis of sophisticated word processor spell checkers comparing words that you’ve typed in with words that are stored in the computer’s memory this clock I made works entirely with these simple sorts of chips which other time the powers by the number of balls here and the minutes by the amount of sand that comes with the hourglass the chips are inside the high priest’s casket it is sort of box of mysteries i usually decorate my circuits with tiny people i like the idea of this sort of secret world which they’re all keeping going i use this clip on meter to see what’s actually going on inside the chips that one’s counting the seconds this one sort of storing various holding circuits storing the current time well although i’ve had quite a lot of trouble to keeping the getting the mechanisms that reliably none of the chips that have gone wrong it’s the extraordinary reliability of chips that’s made it possible to build the more and more complicated the modern microprocessor chip is almost a complete computer in itself it controls all the other chips inside the computer but although it’s very complex it’s still built up of thousands of transistor switching circuits and it works by doing a lot of very simple things extremely quickly we’ve sold it a whole lot of lights onto this microprocessor and insert this one switch the computer on I’ve now rigged this one up so I can slow it down and you can now actually see the bits of code moving around inside these are either the coded letters all the instructions of what to do with them because in reality this is actually switching a millions of times the second word processors could have remained highly expensive Rarity’s except for the dedicated hobbyists who started devising and selling personal computer kits made from microprocessor chips the app by the early 80s companies like Sinclair and Amstrad six that started to sell ready built personal computers many came complete with their own word processor program we’ve had inclusive word processing software it’s more than a word processor for less than most typewriters the last part of the word processor to be perfected was the printer the first sort to appear were dot matrix printers these have a memory which store the shape of each letter in patterns of ons and off then inside the Machine there’s a device like this the ons and offs are used to power a group of electromagnets which push out a tiny row of steel pins it’s funny really though to have all this high-tech equipment to produce something and looks considerably worse than ordinary typing the next sort of printer to be developed with the Daisy wheel this has a plastic wheel with the actual type one bit like a typewriter this is fixed to an electric motor that rotates the wheel and with the sensor on the back to stop it in precisely the right place and then there’s simply a hammer which is fixed an electromagnet to hammer the type onto the page Oh seen this one mister you must be joking you call this scroll a job application I won’t be interviewing him either we’ll have to re advertise coffee break I think mmm the Daisy wheel with a marketing breakthrough for the first time anybody could write a professional-looking letter come in and

try one wicked this man looks very good don’t you love the name we’ll see him waiting Oh try hare you waitress the success of the Daisy wheel led to the development of much faster and quieter printers these are returned to the idea of creating the letters out of patterns of dots like the pink matrix printers some laser printers which are quite complicated but others simply squirt blobs of ink although our homemade version is a bit crude inkjet printers can actually squirt very tiny drops of ink with great accuracy this is an actual printhead the computer powers tiny electric heating elements which create bubbles and pour sink out through these tiny holes the drops are so small they can form almost any style of type but although computers are getting more and more sophisticated the reality is usually rather less glamorous if you’d like to come this way sir this is miss Matthias Ojeda department hello I’m a spurt greed from head office here to ascertain whether your good self and subordinates are fully cognizant with every aspect of computer usage I I think I follow you of course we all find our pcs absolutely am currently demonstrate oh yes I’ll network everyone in the department to confirm current status well mr. Jones London manuals away John don’t use that old fair sorry right hand you understand the new 100 brides go your shoes up and where is his computer Brian get it out I read your computer mmm you should write in letters by hand Polly you’re being networked you must confirm your current status Oh Terry you’ll get us all into trouble we’re being inspected as if what computer literate ah the conclusions of my investigation rules will be issued subsequently and triplicate to this department the new computer users are completely helpless if something goes wrong everyone has stories of floppy disks introducing rogue instructions or viruses in reality catastrophic events are rare much the most common problems the loose connections or coffee in the keyboard the sheer complexity of the software though does lead to idiosyncrasies mine has a habit of occasionally freezing up so that whatever I type for how have whatever keys I type but none of them do anything the only way to sort it out is to switch the computer off and then switch it on again and then I lose everything that I’ve typed in the last few minutes personally I find this reassuring it reminds me that my word processor is just the useful gadget full of transistor switches not some superhuman intelligence you