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Doctor Who and the Unsatisfactory Five Hole Tape Punch

Early world-dominating computers of the series

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Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

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. ®

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