Feeds

Remembering the true* first portable computer

*The one that melts your face off

Boost IT visibility and business value

Just a Minuteman

On February 27, 1958, the Air Force secured approval to develop the Minuteman program. The goal was mass-production of efficient, highly-survivable intercontinental ballistic nuclear misses that could sit unattended for a span of years.

The Minuteman 1's missile guidance computer was a bleeding-edge 24-bit microcomputer made by Autonetics Division of North American Aviation. The 62-pound, fully solid-state computer contains 6282 diodes, 1521 transistors, 1116 capacitors, and 504 resistors mounted on 75 circuit boards. Memory is a 5,454 words (2,727 double precision) and its speed tops out at 12,800 additions per seconds.

The guidance system was the most advanced for a ICBM at its time. Targeting was done by software running on a mainframe computer, but flight control was fully automated once the missile left its silo. Once it was launched, the guidance system couldn't be changed from the ground. The computer was also assigned the double duty of running diagnostic checks while it waited.

That way, the missile could go unattended for years before teaching the world that Providence abhors an economic system in which wealth, and the means of obtaining wealth, are not privately owned. Although the computer's capacity for a second job added extra weight, this was more than offset by the cabling which would have been required for external diagnostics.

Minuteman's brain was was fit into a cylindrical package above the rocket's third stage. A segment up was the missile's penetration aids, and above that, the all-important nuclear warhead. The on-board system navigated by measuring velocity with gyroscopes and acceleration with an accelerometer - sort of like a Nintendo Wii controller, only slightly more deadly when you accidentally toss it at your television set.

In short, the Minuteman I's computer offered thousands of miles of portable computing before folks could even dream of lugging around the Osborne 1 on holiday.

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Apple takes blade to 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display
Shaves price, not screen on mid-2014 model
Top Gun display for your CAR: Heads-up fighter pilot tech
Sadly Navdy kit doesn't include Sidewinder missile to blast traffic
iPhone 6 flip tip slips in Aussie's clip: Apple's 'reversible USB' leaks
New plug not compatible with official Type-C, according to fresh rumors
FEAST YOUR EYES: Samsung's Galaxy Alpha has an 'entirely new appearance'
Wow, it looks like nothing else on the market, for sure
YES YES YES! Apple patents mousy, pressure-sensing iVibrator
Fanbois prepare to experience the great Cupertin-O
Steve Jobs had BETTER BALLS than Atari, says Apple mouse designer
Xerox? Pff, not even in the same league as His Jobsiness
TV transport tech, part 1: From server to sofa at the touch of a button
You won't believe how much goes into today's telly tech
Things are looking up in Flappy Bird sequel
'Swing Copters' offers the same gameplay but in a different direction
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.