Rebuilding the IBM 1401

A gang of veteran engineers breathes new life into the hulk of an old IBM 1401 computer

2 min read
photo of a 1401 room by Mark Richards
Photo: Mark Richards

Many good things from the good old days are gone—children playing outside, fruit that tastes better than it looks, luxurious air travel. But how could anyone get nostalgic about yesterday’s big-iron computers, which were worse than today’s handhelds by every measure?

“There’s nothing like your first love,” says Ed Thelen, a retired engineer who with 30-odd other people has restored a vintage IBM 1401 computer for the Computer History Museum, in Mountain View, Calif. “It’s a mechanical machine: The tape machine has an air sensor, a little rubber diaphragm with contacts on it, and you can see it work. With these modern computers, it’s just magic—they’ve got things a few nanometers long, and you’ll never see them.”

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Q&A: Marc Raibert on the Boston Dynamics AI Institute

The founder of Boston Dynamics talks with us about the new $400 million research institute

12 min read
Marc Raibert, an older white man with a bald head and a short white beard and glasses, gestures as he speaks on a stage. He is wearing formal pants and a flower-print short sleeve shirt.

Marc Raibert, founder and chairman of Boston Dynamics, speaks at a Hyundai Motor Group news conference during CES 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Steve Marcus/Reuters/Alamy

Last week, Hyundai Motor Group and Boston Dynamics announced an initial investment of over $400 million to launch the new Boston Dynamics AI Institute. The Institute was conceptualized by (and will be led by) Marc Raibert, the founder of Boston Dynamics, with the goal of “solving the most important and difficult challenges facing the creation of advanced robots.” That sounds hugely promising, but of course we had questions—namely, what are those challenges, how is this new institute going to solve them, and what are these to-be-created advanced robots actually going to do? And fortunately, IEEE Spectrum was able to speak with Marc Raibert himself to get a better understanding of what the Institute will be all about.

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Emmy Award Winner’s Algorithms Bring High-Quality Video to Your TV

He is working on making high-res images for the metaverse

5 min read
portrait of Alan Bovik
Alan Bovik

Alan Conrad Bovik’s passion for science fiction inspired him to pursue a career in engineering. His favorite sci-fi authors when he was young were Arthur C. Clarke, who penned 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Isaac Asimov, author of the Foundation series. Bovik says they wrote from a “very scientific point of view”—which made him want to help develop aerospace technology that would send humans “to other worlds.”

But he decided to study nuclear engineering in school—which then seemed like the future of energy. He discovered, however, that he didn't like the subject because it “required too much chemistry and memorization,” he says with a laugh. When he took a course in computer programming, he fell in love with it and ended up changing his major to computer engineering.

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