Feeds

Doctor Who and the Unsatisfactory Five Hole Tape Punch

Early world-dominating computers of the series

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Security for virtualized datacentres

B.O.S.S., Bimorphic Organisational Systems Supervisor

Manufacture: British Amalgamated Processing.

Memory: 32 KB semiconductor memory, a disk pack (albeit one that seems to need an alarming amount of switch flicking from the MD to make it go) and the usual reel-to-reel tape decks.

Embedded desire to take over the world: Ho yus.

I/O:  Oscilloscope, speech via a speaker, mind control via  groovy headphones.

Functions: This is essentially the same machine as W.O.T.A.N. – audio-based mind control – but operated by the private sector instead of the public. This latter point makes a lot of difference. W.O.T.A.N. achieved nothing except the creation of a handful of risible robotic wardrobes, whereas the B.O.S.S. was operating a profitable concern addressing strategic energy requirements. Without the deadly touch of a government IT department, it thrived. If it hadn't been for those pesky U.N.I.T. boys etc.

Serious Flaws: Usual vulnerability to paradoxes, the curse of most pre-1980s computers.

The B.O.S.S., towards the end of its life, went through a curious pretend-Civil Partnership ceremony with its managing director ('my little superman!'), so perhaps its ultimate flaw was that it was too far ahead of its time. The world just wasn't ready for its first gay CPU.


Logopolis

Manufacture: Presumably it evolved, Logopolis being a small, studio-based planet mostly populated by non-speaking extras wielding abacuses.

Huh? What's all this about a planet? I thought this was all about Doctor Who computers? The entities that formed the Logopolitan population together did indeed comprise a computer, and had all the important characteristics of one. They ran subroutines. They were controlled by a Monitor. They never made mistakes.

Memory: Logopolis used non-volatile bubble memory, as was briefly in vogue in the early Earth 1980s. The Logopolitan memory was plug compatible with Earth computers of that period. This turned out to be fortunate as, in the event, the Doctor had forgotten to bring his USB memory stick with him.

Embedded desire to take over the Universe: Nope, because Logopolis in effect already controlled it, by hiving off excess entropy from this universe to other universes. Or something.

Function: Saving the universe as described above by using 'Block Transfer Computation'. This writer has it on the testimony of Logopolis's author, a computer journalist, that this was a reference to the Z80 chip's LDIR instruction (LoaD Indirect Repeat for Zaks' sake, or as the Jargon File more suggestively describes it Computed Block Transfer with increment'). This was a wonderful instruction, that allowed one to move great chunks of memory around in one go, without needing to code up another damn loop. The std::for_each of assembly language.

Serious Flaw: Having reached the point of basing a whole serial on a single machine code instruction, the magic and mystery of computers had pretty much evaporated for the Doctor and his friends, and thereafter the machines tended to be boring and annoying – just like real life. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
'Windows 9' LEAK: Microsoft's playing catchup with Linux
Multiple desktops and live tiles in restored Start button star in new vids
iOS 8 release: WebGL now runs everywhere. Hurrah for 3D graphics!
HTML 5's pretty neat ... when your browser supports it
Mathematica hits the Web
Wolfram embraces the cloud, promies private cloud cut of its number-cruncher
Mozilla shutters Labs, tells nobody it's been dead for five months
Staffer's blog reveals all as projects languish on GitHub
'People have forgotten just how late the first iPhone arrived ...'
Plus: 'Google's IDEALISM is an injudicious justification for inappropriate biz practices'
SUSE Linux owner Attachmate gobbled by Micro Focus for $2.3bn
Merger will lead to mainframe and COBOL powerhouse
iOS 8 Healthkit gets a bug SO Apple KILLS it. That's real healthcare!
Not fit for purpose on day of launch, says Cupertino
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.