The Birth of Random-Access Memory

The Birth of Random-Access Memory

Whether you’re streaming a movie on Netflix, playing a video game, or just looking at digital photos, your computer is regularly dipping into its memory for instructions. Without random-access memory, a computer today can’t even boot up.Over the years, memory has been made up of vacuum tubes, glass tubes filled with mercury and, most recently, semiconductors.But the first computers didn’t have any reprogrammable memory at all. Until the late 1940s, every time a machine needed to change tasks, it had…

How USB Came to Be

How USB Came to Be

Today even the least tech-savvy consumers can attach a camera, printer, scanner, or other accessory to their PC effortlessly. But in the early 1990s, attaching a peripheral to a computer was not so simple.Before the development of USB (Universal Serial Bus), it was often tricky to connect external devices. Users sometimes needed to open up their computer and add hardware to give them the communications port they needed.The Universal Serial Bus, which was released in 1996 by Intel, simplified things. USB…

The First U.S

The First U.S. Human-Operated Submersible Changed the Course of Oceanography

Water pressure in the deep sea makes human exploration of the ocean difficult. Special equipment such as a scuba regulator is needed to help humans withstand the pressure at even the average depth of the ocean—which is 380 times greater than at the surface, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.Alvin, the first U.S. human-operated vessel dedicated to scientific research, made it possible for humans to dive for up to nine hours at 4,500 meters. Alvin was developed in…

The Birthplace of the AC Grid

The Birthplace of the AC Grid

Back in the 1800s, electricity distribution was a short-range business, driven by nearby DC generators. That changed in 1895. On 13 July of that year, the Folsom Powerhouse, in California, became the first facility to send high-voltage alternating current over long-distance transmission lines. It brought electricity to Sacramento over a 35-kilometer-long distribution line using newly invented AC generators and hydroelectric power. The facility generated three-phase 60 Hz AC electricity—the standard in the United States today—and powered Sacramento businesses such as…