Monday, July 05, 2010


ChadsHere's one for da kidz - a pile of computer chads. Oh yes, how high tech are we today !

A little history lesson for those too young to know better. Programming computers wasn't always the fun keyboard based task it is today. If you think rattling out some HTML (yes, I know that's not proper programming but if you know that too then you don't need to be told about chads do you or didn't you pay attention during your "History of computers" module ?)  for your web page is tough, imaging having to write each line by punching holes in a card. Then putting these card into a pile that go into a reader. Then dropping then and having to work out what the correct order is or the program won't run.

The end result of all this work would have been some top software able to do calculations that your mobile phone would laugh at nowadays and a box of little card rectangles.

Railway modellers found a use for this waste product - the chads as they were known happened to be very close to the size of a 4mm brick. People would build their card buildings and then painstakingly stick individual chads on the surface making great efforts to keep the courses level and regular. Many, many happy hours would be whiled away in this manner and the results can be most impressive. Often better looking that those from plasticard.

Of course the biggest problem you find if you fancy having a go at this is acquiring the chads. My Nokia doesn't produce anything nearly as useful and I haven't seen a chad-maker since school and even then it was a relic rather than a useful bit of kit. My supply was purchased years ago from someone who offered them for the price of postage in the Railway Modeller letters page. I've no idea how many are in my tin and I'm not going to count them, but they are staying locked away. How knows I might fancy having a go at an individually bricked warehouse one day...

Wikipedia on chads.


David Smith said...

Your comment on HTML touched a nerve! There is quite a bit of debate as to whether HTML is a programming language at all, since it does not do logical or mathemetical calculations. What it does do is determine how content is displayed in the Browser and is therefore termed a markup language. Common with 'proper' programming languages it does have syntax and semantics that needs to be understood if you want to design a web page with it, instead of using a tool like this blogger that does it for you.

Phil Parker said...

HTML as it says is a markup language. If I pretend any different, programmer friends will quickly put me right. On the other hand I've never lost a morning shouting at HTML for the want of a closing ; - something I have doen in my brief excursions into Perl.

Oh, and Blogger doesn't do all the work, I don't like the way it puts pictures from Flickr in so I always tweak them.