London's Science Museum links tech history

London's Science Museum links tech history

Summary: The Science Museum in London contains an array of fascinating and famous tech, and ZDNet UK looks inside the museum's collection

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TOPICS: After Hours
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  • Enigma machine

    Enigma machine
    The Enigma machine was famously used by the Germans to send encrypted messages during World War II, only for the code to be broken by Allied scientists at Bletchley Park. The device was created in 1918 and made commercially available in the 1920s. The German military saw its potential to scramble messages and commissioned further developments, which resulted in an arms race with the Allied cryptographers.

    The machine uses rotating wheels to chew up text and spit it out as ciphertext. The message can only be unscrambled if you know the setting of the Enigma's wheels and patchboard, which the Germans never realised can be deduced through mathematics, machinery, luck and poor operational procedures.

    Photo credit: Science Museum


    See more tech photos on ZDNet UK.

  • Phillips Economic Computer

    Phillips Economic Computer
    The Phillips Economic Computer (also known as 'Moniac') was invented by New Zealand-born engineer and London School of Economics student Bill Phillips in 1949. Legend has it the first of the 2m-high devices was built in Phillips's landlady's garage in Croydon: between 12 and 14 were created and used worldwide.

    The machine illustrated the flow of a country's economy in a literal fashion by using coloured fluid, which moved from one tank to another. Each tank symbolised a different sector of the economy, and different economic factors (such as taxation) could be altered by changing the valves that regulated the flow of the fluid. The results could be accurate to better than four percent, and the Moniacs saw use throughout the 1950s until electronic computers became commonplace.

    Photo credit: Science Museum


    See more tech photos on ZDNet UK.

  • Sinclair calculator

    Sinclair calculator
    The Sinclair Executive electronic pocket calculator was the first slimline pocket calculator. The brainchild of designer Clive Sinclair, the device caused quite a stir on its release in 1972. At 56 by 138 by 9mm, it was a good deal thinner than its competitors.

    The Executive used a Texas Instruments GLS 1802 chip and achieved its miniaturisation by using small mercury batteries. The device saved power by switching off power to the chip many times a second, relying on its undocumented ability to remember its state in the absence of voltage. This was discovered by Sinclair's chief engineer Jim Westwood, who made similar unorthodox contributions to many Sinclair products.

    Photo credit: Science Museum


    See more tech photos on ZDNet UK.

Topic: After Hours

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