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On their marks
Machines spanning eight decades of computing battled it out on Saturday in the first race of its kind.
Computers ranging from the world’s oldest-working computer, the 1951 Harwell Witch, to the tiny 2016 BBC micro:bit, competed to calculate the most numbers in a Fibonacci sequence in 15 seconds.
This gallery walks you through the machines that took part, from the slowest to the fastest, and you can read more about the race at The National Museum of Computing in the UK, here.
1951 Harwell Witch - Calculated 3 numbers.
Once one of only 12 computers in the world, the Witch was a slow but reliable decimal computer that handled simultaneous equations for engineers building the world’s first atomic reactor for generating electricity.
2015 iPhone 6s - Calculated 4 numbers
Apple’s recent incarnation of its classic smartphone is served by more than two million apps and is owned by millions of people worldwide.
It’s relatively poor showing in the contest is nothing to do with the abilities of the device, but rather the fact that numbers used to calculate the Fibonacci sequence were input using Siri voice commands.
1940's Facit calculator - Calculated 7 numbers
The only non-computer in the contest, this hand-operated, Swedish-made machine worked as fast as its operator.
1965 PDP-8 Calculated 16 numbers
The first commercially successful mini-computer, this $20,000 machine (~$140,000 in today’s money) was prized for its low cost compared to other computers at the time and sold more than 50,000 units.
Here you can see the output from the PDP-8.
1977 Apple II - Calculated 38 numbers
Notable for its landmark success in the microcomputer market, the Apple II won plaudits for its kitchen appliance-inspired design, its color graphics and more consumer-friendly software.
1981 BBC Micro - Calculated 70 numbers
A favorite of UK schools during the 1980s, more than 1.5 million of these rugged machines were sold and helped inspire a generation to learn to code — including the co-creator of the Raspberry Pi Eben Upton.
Some of the BASIC code used used to calculate the Fibonacci sequence on the BBC Micro.
1998 Windows 98 PC - Calculated 1477 numbers
Windows 98 was a global OS, shipping on one million desktop PCs in just four days. The OS refined the GUI of Windows 95 and implemented support for plug-and-play hardware.
2016 BBC micro:bit - Calculated 6843 numbers
The winner of the contest, this simple board was designed to inspire kids to code.
The micro:bit packs LEDs, button, sensors and a compass onto its tiny surface, and can connect to devices via Bluetooth or be hooked up to other electronic boards.
Nine-year-old Connie programmed the board to find the Fibonacci sequence.
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- Sixty years on, Colossus cracks codes again
- Hitler’s “unbreakable” encryption machine – and the Bletchley Park devices which cracked the code (ZDNet)