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Education Medicine Software

Old Educational Computer Resurrected As a Spreadsheet 37

An anonymous reader writes "Back in the '60s, Bell Labs created a 'paper computer' called CARDIAC so students could learn the fundamentals of computers. Dr. Dobb's recreates the paper computer in an Excel spreadsheet and hints they will show how it gets ported to an FPGA in future installments."
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Old Educational Computer Resurrected As a Spreadsheet

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  • Blue Screen (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 25, 2013 @11:33AM (#43547087)

    On the CARDIAC the "Blue Screen" STOP error is actually implemented as an ARREST.

  • BARDIAC (Score:2, Informative)

    by jackb_guppy (204733)

    Had a Comp/Sci professor who wrote BARDIAC (~1977), same as CARDIAC but with punch cards. It ran on DataPoint 2000 which was the 8008 instruction set run on decreate componants. Nothing like using elumation software on an elumation computer!

    Will have to play with excel sheet, relive OLD times!

  • I still have mine- nice plastic and metal computer.

    You can still get CARDIAC paper kits, BTW, somewhere online.

  • I still have my CARDIAC, which stood for CARDboard Illustrative Aid to Computation. A teacher gave it to me in Junior High, about 1971, and it helped get me interested in computers. I'll have to check out the spreadsheet version.

    As an aside, I love old computer names that end in -AC. My Mac Pro is named prozac.

  • My dad got me a CARDIAC back when I was in third grade.

    I'm not sure I picked up much from it, but it inspired me to take a BASIC course on Commodore PETs in fifth grade, and from there on my future was set!

  • Ah ancient paper computers. There's one that was published in CACM back in the 50's. I remember finding it back in a university library when I was first getting into computers in the 60's. There's a link to it on boingboing: []. have fun.

    • That's cool. I wonder if I should try to get this in OpenSCAD and 3-D print the pieces instead of making them with paper?
  • Brain Fuck []. You can implement this in silicon too.

  • by MrLogic17 (233498) on Thursday April 25, 2013 @01:21PM (#43548255) Journal

    Lemme get this straight: Dr. Dobb's is computer simulating a paper simulation of a computer.

    Put another way, it's easier to learn about computers using a spreadsheet model of a paper model of a computer, than just a mere paper model of a computer.

    Cool, yes. Circular logic loops, yes.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      The paper model requires the student to do some work along the way. They have to enter numbers in boxes, possibly erasing the numbers already there, plus they have to turn the wheel and follow the sets of instructions. A spreadsheet gets rid of that, and is much more passive I would think. If you just keep clicking the "next" button over and over what do you really learn? Maybe you learn to write those simple programs, but are you getting a feel for how a computer is just a dumb state machine?

  • I used to teach programming to Jr High students in the '70s using CARDIAC. I still have one in my collection in "good working order".
  • Well, it'd be more fun to make a tinkertoy implementation of the paper computer simulator, wouldn't it? []

    something done by Daniel Hillis and Margaret Minsky (minsky's daughter?) at M.I.T. in 1977 []
  • So, if you use this thing to simulate downloading music and get caught by the RIAA goon squad, does it lead to a CARDIAC arrest?

    Thank you, I'll be here all week. Tip your waitress!

  • I actually used one of these. Computers were just rare back then for students to get ahold of. They were expensive, plus not educational about computing. CARDIAC let you figure out how a computer really worked on the inside, as it was basically a simple state machine. Even today there's nothing really similar to this to teach how computers actually work at a simple level (microcode). Even many CS programs completely skip over stuff like this or make it optional.

    I think this was one of the things that p

  • by Tablizer (95088)

    I implemented TARDIAC to simulate BSOD's

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