Floppy Disk

Checking out floppy disks is like taking a trip to the past.

  • Floppy disks are an invention, formerly used to store computer data, that were read by a disk drive.
  • ‘Floppy disks’ are also known simply as ‘disks’, ‘flexible disks’ and ‘diskettes’, and were once called ‘memory disks’.
  • There were three main sizes of floppy disks – the 8 inch (20 centimetres), 5.25 inch (13 centimetres) and 3.5 inch (9 centimetres), and the larger disks were the older designs.
  • Floppy disks were invented through an IBM development team headed by David Noble, that created the original invention between 1967 and 1971.
  • Floppy disks were of a square shape, initially with a hole in the centre; typically consisting of a plastic case which was originally floppy, but a hard case was used for the 3.5 inch version; with a thin, circular piece of magnetic material inside.
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Floppy Disks
Image courtesy of Frankie Leon/Flickr
  • Floppy disks were first sold commercially in 1971 and were initially produced as part of a drive that was read-only, and used for the purpose of placing already written microcode, onto mainframe computers; and they soon became portable and independent forms of media.
  • Being a practical method of distributing and storing data in its time, floppy disks had become extremely widespread among the general population by the 1980s and 1990s, especially after designs were continuously refined.
  • A magnetic reader mechanism was used to read and write on floppy disks, and the magnetic material would spin rapidly inside the casing of the disk when the reader was in use.
  • Floppy disks were known as “floppy”, due to the flexible material of the original designs in particular; and in the earlier designs, the plastic casing surrounding the actual magnetic disk included a fabric lining which cleaned the disk as it spun.
  • Floppy disks dropped in popularity by the 2000s, as USBs and CDs capable of storing greater data quantities became available, with the floppy technology becoming almost non-existent in new computers by 2007.
Bibliography:
1971: Floppy disk loads mainframe computer data, n.d, The Storage Engine, http://www.computerhistory.org/storageengine/floppy-disk-loads-mainframe-computer-data/
Bellis M, The Invention of the Floppy Disk Drive, 2014, About Money, http://inventors.about.com/od/computersandinternet/a/FloppyDisk.htm
Floppy Disk, 2016, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Floppy_disk
Mason H, The History of the Floppy Disk, 2015, Geek & Sundry, http://geekandsundry.com/the-history-of-the-floppy-disk/

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Webcam

Webcams are a marvel of the technological world.

  • Webcams are inventions that capture video or still images, that can then be stored or delivered through computer systems.
  • Images and videos captured by webcams can typically be saved onto a computer hard drive or streamed live, generally over networks such as the internet.
  • Common uses for the typical webcam include monitoring for security, traffic and other purposes; communication with the aim of socialising, having meetings, and so on; and they are also used to capture photographs, as well as being used in the health care industry among others.
  • Webcams are popular as they are easily transportable, practical, and can be of an inexpensive, affordable nature, and people like to use them to make video calls to friends, families and colleagues.
  • The quality of webcams has a broad range despite its relatively low cost, from around 320 x 240 pixels to a high definition resolution of 1080 p (progressive scanning), although costs are usually relative to quality.

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  • The webcam was invented in 1993, although it was being used at a basic stage from 1991, and it was created by researchers in the Cambridge University for the purpose of monitoring levels in a coffee pot from a remote distance.
  • Webcams are now generally integrated into computer hardware systems and are typically located at the top of the screen, however, when they first entered the market they were connected to a computer externally via a cable.
  • Webcams feature a sensor that detects images, a lens, and a way of transmitting the information, and they may also a feature an in-built microphone.
  • Webcams can be hacked through accidentally installed malware, which allows the hacker to watch the video feed and infiltrate privacy.
  • Commercialisation of webcams only began in 1994, and they were originally produced by the Connectix Corporation in the United States, although the invention lacked popularity until the beginning of the 21st century when sales escalated as a result of people wanting to make video calls.
Bibliography:
Devaney E, The History of the Webcam, 2015, http://www.ehow.com/info_8626014_history-webcam.html
Knoder J, 1080p, 2.0 Mega Pixels? Understanding Webcam Technical Terms, 2013,  Top 10 Reviews, http://webcam-review.toptenreviews.com/1080p-2.0-mega-pixels-understanding-webcam-technical-terms.html
Webcam, 2015, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Webcam
http://webcam-review.toptenreviews.com/1080p-2.0-mega-pixels-understanding-webcam-technical-terms.html

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Typewriter

Tap, tappety, tap-tappety tap.

  • Typewriters are machines that print carbon or ink characters on paper, requiring input from a person by pressing buttons, and are mechanically or electro-mechanically driven.
  • Most typewriters were replaced by word processors and computers by the late 1980s, although they are still in use in developing countries, as well as in prisons due to the ban of computers.
  • Typewriters were commonly used in offices and sometimes in homes, for the purpose of typing letters, documents, and other information.
  • The first typewriter ever invented was possibly by Englishman Henry Mill in 1714, for which he received a patent, and other early typewriters include inventions by Pelligino Turri, an Italian, in 1808 who also invented carbon paper, and William Austin Burt, an American who is most commonly credited for the invention of the typewriter, in 1829.
  • Fast typists can type around 100 words a minute on a manual typewriter, although records have been set for more than 150 words a minute.

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  • Typewriters generally require the manual insertion of a sheet of paper, and when the end of a page is reached, it is removed, and a new piece of paper is inserted into the machine.
  • Due to the permanency of the printing, typewriters would require a high level of typing accuracy, with competitions deducting points for inaccuracy, although mistakes could be erased with an abrasive hard rubber, or correction fluid, and various other means were also employed.
  • Thomas Edison invented the first electric style typewriter in 1870, which used an electrical input to type remotely, however the technology was not widely used until decades later.
  • The typically used English QWERTY keyboard layout on typewriters, known as the ‘Sholes’ or ‘Universal’ keyboard, were originally arranged by Sholes & Glidden typewriters in 1874, and are said to be laid out so that the most commonly used keys were separated to decrease the likelihood of jamming from fast typing.
  • The word ‘typewriter’ is generally considered the longest English word (10 letters), that only uses one row of the QWERTY keyboard layout, although a flower, ‘rupturewort’ can beat that record (11 letters).

 

Bibliography:
Typewriter, 2014, Wikipedia, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typewriter>
Typewriters, 2014, Mary Bellis, http://inventors.about.com/od/tstartinventions/a/Typewriters.htm

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Computer Mouse

Click, click, click-click, click; goes the computer mouse.

  • A computer mouse is a technology input device, generally used to move a pointer on a computer screen, although the technology is also used for some game consoles.
  • A computer mouse typically has two buttons, one on the left and one on the right, and a small wheel in the middle, known as a ‘scroll wheel’, and in some designs, it can also be pressed like a button, but it is generally used to scroll through information on a computer screen.
  • A computer mouse typically fits underneath one’s hand, with a finger on each of the left and right buttons, and was named so, because it originally resembled a mouse, with the cord as its tail.
  • The plural of computer mouse is ‘computer mice’, and ‘computer mouses’ is also an acceptable plural, often used by a person to distinguish it from the rodents.
  • Computer mice were invented by American Douglas Engelbart, an engineer, in the United States, in 1963, and were proven to be one of the most efficient cursor moving devices, although they were not commonly available for personal computer use until the early 1980s.

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  • A computer mouse can perform actions via clicks of the buttons, with single and double clicks performing different actions depending on the button, and holding or moving the mouse with a button held activates different responses on the computer screen.
  • A computer mouse is typically connected to a device via cord, such as a USB, or wireless, often with a USB or serial receiver that plugs into the computer.
  • The outer layer of a computer mouse was originally made of wood, but are now typically made of plastic, and are found in all shapes, sizes and colours.
  • A computer mouse movement is measured in mickeys, as in ‘Mickey Mouse’,  which refers to the number of pixels the cursor has moved, compared to how many inches or centimetres the mouse has moved.
  • A modern computer mouse generally contains optical sensors like light-emitting diodes and photodiodes, and sometimes laser diodes, that track movement of the device.
Bibliography:
1963: Douglas Engelbart invents the Mouse, 2014, Berkley Engineering, http://coe.berkeley.edu/about/history-and-traditions/1963-douglas-engelbart.html
Mouse (computing), 2014, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mouse_(computing)

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Google

Don’t be evil.” – Google Inc.

  • Google is an online, public, international search engine that also owns many other companies, programs and utilities.
  • Google was created in 1996 at Stanford University in Stanford, United States by Larry Page and Sergey Brin as part of their PHD project.
  • Google was incorporated in 1998, when a check was sent to a nonexistent company ‘Google Inc.’, with the ‘office’ being located in the garage of a friend.
  • Google originally existed at the domain ‘google.stratford.edu’, and the current domain was purchased in 1997.
  • ‘Google’ is a commonly spelled version of the mathematical word for 10100, ‘googol’, but the search engine was originally named ‘BackRub’.
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Image courtesy of Google
  • Google was used by 1 billion people in one month, for the first time in May 2011, and in 2012, Google earned $50 billion, which was $12 billion more than 2011.
  • Google moved its offices to California, United States in 2003, calling the complex ‘Googleplex’, which came from the mathematical term ‘googolplex’, 10googol.
  • Google owns YouTube, Blogger and Android and has created programs including Gmail, Maps, Drive, social network (Google+), Earth, News, Chrome (browser), Translate, Apps and Adwords.
  • ‘Google’ became an official word in 2006, meaning ‘to search on Google’.
  • The Google logo is typically the name in blue, red, yellow and green, which sometimes changes appearance for certain days and these special logos are called ‘doodles’.

 

Bibliography:
Company, 2013, Google, http://www.google.com/about/company/
Google, 2013, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google

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Artificial Satellite

Artificial satellites zipping through space.

  • Satellites are objects that orbit another larger object in space, launched by humankind and there are hundreds, if not thousands of satellites currently orbiting earth.
  • Sputnik 1 was the first artificial satellite to be successfully launched into space, by the USSR (Soviet Union) on 4 October 1957.
  • Satellites are launched into space by rockets, and orbit up to and beyond 35,786 kilometres (22,236 miles) in altitude.
  • Satellites can be very small, 10 cm (4 inch) cubes, or very large space stations, the largest being the International Space Station.
  • Satellites can be in networks of multiple objects, such as the Global Positioning System (GPS) network or a digital or media systems.
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Satellite
Image courtesy of The Boeing Company/Flickr
  • The earth is not the only body that has orbiting satellites, as the sun, the moon and other neighbouring planets have orbiting artificial objects.
  • Satellites can be destroyed by missile shootings, as Russia, the United States and China have all proven.
  • Satellites have many capabilities and purposes, from navigation, monitoring and observation purposes including the weather, communication facilities, photography uses and space station homes.
  • Satellites rarely collide in space, as they are launched into a satellite-avoiding orbit, and the first accidental collision was in 2009.
  • Satellites are usually fitted with technology like computers that make use of radio signals to send or transmit data to earth.
Bibliography:
Satellite, 2013, Wikipedia, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satellite>
What is a Satellite?, 2010, NASA, <http://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/5-8/features/what-is-a-satellite-58.html>

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