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Computer Architecture
COMPUTERS 
Dynamic RAM Addressing

Binary Refresher

Appendix
Troposcatter
 SAGE, World's Largest Computer
 LINKS
 
The USAF: the Culture of Innovation, 1945–1965
 
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-----------Computer Architecture (Very Simplified)


"STORED PROGRAM CONCEPT"
Sometimes referred to as, Stored Program Control.

In the beginning “doing sums” consisted of counting sticks, pebbles, moose droppings, and fingers & toes.

After a few thousand years of this, somebody shows up who got real tired, real fast of this crap, and started looking for an “easier way"—not a better way, but a way that would give him more 'ponder time.' First thing he did was to start pondering “what's better than rocks, fingers and toes, and moose droppings.”

At the same time there were others equally fed up, people looking for the same thing. Some folks were successful, some were not. The upshot was varied gadgets that, more or less were the beginnings of the first calculator. 

Needless to say, the first calculators were mechanical calculators--machines.

The next improvement was to speed up the process by using electricity with  electric relays (using base-2 notation). Of course, like the mechanical calculators, they were “hardwired” to only do a fixed set of operations. 

To make them more versatile, plug boards were introduced to alter the machine's operation for different functions. Though an improvement, it was still very limited functionally and slow.

The mechanical “engine” was replaced by vacuum tubes which made the calculating engine much faster, smaller and more reliable.

By substituting the Jacquard loom's (1804) programmability for the plug board, you have one of the first incarnation of “stored program control.”

The great need for adequate storage was a constant, and was met with varied solutions, albeit seemingly tortured at times— punch cards, paper tape, etc., moose droppings...

The advent of magnetic storage: magnetic drums, magnetic core, magnetic tape, etc., along with ever more reliable vacuum tubes filled the gap before the silicon era. 

As with all successful innovations, it was a confluence of maturing technologies, as well as geopolitical pressures, that came together enabling the creation of SAGE
 
 
Computer's Units: 
   Arithmetic-Logic Unit
   Control unit
   Memory 
   Input/Output
   Bus (data path)
Sequence of Operation
1.  Fetch the next instruction from memory at the address in the program counter.
2.  Add 1 to the program counter.
3.  Decode the instruction which commands the rest of the computer to perform some operation. The instruction may change the address in the program counter, permitting repetitive operations. The instruction may also change the program counter only if some arithmetic condition is true, giving the effect of a decision, which can be calculated to any degree of complexity by the preceding arithmetic and logic.
4.  Check for interrupts. Service same.
5.  Go back to step 1. 

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AD
Since the 1950s computer power has increased exponentially. There are many smaller and more efficient systems for example, the HP 3000, which are capable of handling multiple processes which would have taken many older computers working together to complete.

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SAGE LINKS_
Computer History Museum Radomes.org Mitre.org/SAGE
The Gallery of Old Iron DEFUNCT Ed Thelen's SAGE Stories Ed Thelen's SAGE Talk
   Computer Museum  
Wikipedia.org/SAGE  IEEE/SAGE  
Livinginternet.com/SAGE  F-106deltadart.com/sage  
 MedLibrary.org/medwiki/ADC  The Emerging Shield ADC 1945 - 1960 pdf  ColdWarComms.org/
 
 
 
 Books on SAGE
 SAGE Appendix
May 1998 Talk: SAGE 1956 - 63
 Binary Refresher
Troposcatter
Dew Line Movie  30 min[]
 
 Misc
Logic Page
 Gallery I
 Gallery II
 Gallery III
 
Animation that Explains SAGE to a "T"[]
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The USAF: the Culture of Innovation, 1945–1965
 
Must See!
'The Nitty-Gritty of SAGE'
Must See!
Everything from Circuit Level to Programming, of SAGE AN/FSQ-7/8 Computers!

 
 
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On the Evolution of the Computer
The Modern Computer's evolution is as varied and complex as any, and there is no way in Hell I and my web page can do it justice; however, there was a seminal event in that evolution that had a profound effect on today's modern computer, and that was "Semi-Automatic Ground Environment," or SAGE for short. 

SAGE, an air defense shield for North America was an integration of all the relevant technologies and inventions of the day, plus the countless technologies that SAGE itself spawned.

I will attempt an introduction to the marvel that was the SAGE Computer, a.k.a., "son-of-whirlwind," a.k.a., AN/FSQ-7/8. Given the constraints of 1950's technology, i. e., it weighted 250 Tons, took up 113,000 sq. ft., required 3 Megawatts to power the 200,000 vacuum tubes that was cooled by 25 million BTU of AC, at a total cost of $65 to $100 billion (in today's dollars), and was staffed by over a thousand. 

The real marvel of SAGE was that they were able to design, develop, and field ~23 functioning sites given the technology of the day.

In the decades since SAGE, very few could have imagined the advances that has given us today's incredible technological society.


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U.S. Air Defense, Cold War era
The World's Largest Computer
        The U.S. Air Force's IBM SAGE Computer  circa 1958
Semi-Automatic Ground Environment
SAGE stands for Semi-Automatic Ground Environment. Because, back then, Computers were so limited 
the system's only hope of working depended on the "Man in the Loop," hence the term Semi-Automatic.
 SAGE Blockhouse/Computer:
113,000 sq ft., 250 tons, houses More than 200,000 vacuum tubes @ 3,000,000 Watts
Typical SAGE Direction Center Layout 

 
At nineteen years of age (circa 1957), I worked in a SAGE facility (DC-04) located at Fort Lee, Virginia (near Petersburg), as an installer for Western Electric Company (WECo). Our job was to install all of the Communications equipment that occupied most of the first floor. The remaining three floors housed the computers, display consoles, administrative offices, and USAF crew quarters. 
 
 
Satellite shot of the old Fort Lee SAGE building today

 
A lot of the information on SAGE is anecdotal and conflicting, as well as, from my memory of 55 years ago. Of course, as SAGE matured the numbers did change; it was operational from ~1958 - 1983.


Personal Story #27
  In my job as the youngest Installer in a group of old salts, I was often the butt of jokes and the derision sometimes given to the young by the "veterans." Also, as I was to find out later, a lot of the mistakes made in the installation were blamed on me. 
  I discovered this one day after the completion of an unusually large job at the U.S. Air Force's SAGE air defense filter center, at Fort Lee, Virginia. The project manager--Captain Cook, a rather stern man whom we all were a little afraid of, gathered all the employees for a mass meeting. Out of the blue, he called me up to the front. Standing behind me with one hand on my shoulder, he said that the installation was ahead of schedule and was a success, and that he wanted to thank Williamson especially, for "single-handedly installing the office." He said that he knew I had single-handedly done the job because every mistake found in the entire installation had been blamed on him, therefore "he must have been all over the place." 
  I was stunned! But of course I knew that was just his way of putting some Wise Asses in their place, never the less, my stock had been elevated for a while at least.
  From that day on, I was seldom blamed for other people's mistakes... 
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Random Fact #104
The SAGE building, which was aboveground, was considered "Hardened" (to the effects of limited bomb blast). When we were installing some equipment in the first floor telco area, I had to drill several holes in the concrete floor, 5/8" in diameter 1 1/2" deep. I got a real insight into how hardened the building really was; after 45 minutes and two star drills later, I was only half way through. If I was doing it by hand I'd still be there.
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After WWII and the onset of the "Cold War," there was a pressing need for a perimeter air defense around the United States/North America. Due to the numbers and speed of the threat, some sort of automation was seen as the great equalizer. Automating the plotting, targeting, and the interception of high speed enemy bombers was the strategy of the day.

The USAF enlisted MIT's help in it's design, along with several companies for it's development, manufacture and deployment. The result was the construction of 23* concrete-hardened "Direction Centers" across North America linked through each's AN/FSQ-7 air-defense computer system designed to detect Soviet bombers and guide interceptor aircraft and ground to air missiles. Thus was born SAGE, or Semi-Automatic Ground Environment. Because, back then, computers were so limited the system's only hope of fulfilling it's mission depended on the "Man in the Loop," hence the term “Semi-Automatic.”


"Man in the Loop"


See System's Combat Tools

The plan was to create a North American radar perimeter of air defense sectors, each controlled from a SAGE station with its own AN/FSQ-7/8 computer. In 1957, the first SAGE station became operational. By 1961, the system's 23* sectors were complete. From the Canadian border to the Arctic Ocean, three radar networks[1] tracked aircraft, sending radar data from the networks to the SAGE stations over standard leased telephone lines. The SAGE stations guide interceptors and missiles to all targets.

       [1] North American RADAR Networks: 

Balistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS)

Distant Earley Warning (DEW) Line

Mid Canada Line (MCL), also known as the McGill Fence

Pine Tree Line


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Air Defense Sectors

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SAGE Prime Movers and Contractors: 

U.S. Air Force SAGE Project Office, Air Material Command, NORAD, Air Research & Development, Air Training Command.
MIT Lincoln Labs, SAGE Design, R & D, and integration etc.
MITRE, for system integration, R&D.
IBM, design, development, and manufacture of hardware.
Burroughs, AN/FST-2 radar data processor/network, ALRI system.
Western Electric Company (WECo) Winston Salem, for communications infrastructure.
Bell Telephone Laboratories (BTL), SAGE effectiveness evaluation.
Western Electric Company (WECo) New York, work with USAF to coordinate and manage the entire effort. Also, design and construction of Direction and Combat Center buildings, and testing of the system.
System Development Corporation (SDC), (part of the RAND Corporation) developed computer programs, training AF crews to run & maintain, etc.

In the 1950's MITRE's founders played a key role in the development of the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) system, the first major real-time, computer-based command and control system. Designed as a new air defense system to protect the United States from long-range bombers and other weapons, the SAGE system sent information from geographically dispersed radars over telephone lines and gathered it at a central location for processing by a newly designed, large-scale digital computer. As the system evolved, SAGE broke new ground in radar, communications, computer, information display, and computer programming technologies.

In 1958, the MITRE Corporation was formed out of the Computer System Division of Lincoln Laboratories. Much of MITRE’s initial work focused on the software development of SAGE’s digital computer system, radar surveillance, communications, and weapons integration. More importantly however, MITRE had the role of integrating many elements of the SAGE system

   Some of the more impressive numbers:

  1. It weighed 250 Tons. 
  2. Took up 113,000 sq. ft. of floor space.
  3. Used a maxamum of ~200,000 vacuum tubes--60,000 tubes for each of two CPUs (later, 13,000 transistors were added),
  4. Maximum power requirements was 3,000,000 Watts.
  5. It required two huge diesel powered air conditioners (capable of dissipating heat from 3 Megawatts).
  6. Staff size (3 shifts) >1000 personel [2] list
  7. Architecture: duplex CPUs (Hot standby), no interrupts, CPU cycle time 6us, 75KIPS (single address). Availability was an unprecedented 99.6%.
  8. Core memory was less than 32K bytes (8,192 x 32 bits).
  9. 150 Consoles/Workstations, housing a 20" CRT Vector Display w/Light Gun as well as a "Typotron" alpha-numeric display tube, capable of displaying more than 25K characters/sec. 
  10. Had much less computing power than today's $7.95 throw-away calculator running on 2 hearing aid batteries.
  11. In its later life it was used by FAA/ATC, and the vacuum tube spares had to be bought from eastern block countries; it was retired in 1983.
 

SAGE stands for Semi-Automatic Ground Environment. Because, back then, Computers were so limited the system's only hope of working depended on the "Man in the Loop," hence the term Semi-Automatic.

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 Today it's computing power can be bested by a faster $7.95 throw-away calculator.
Random Fact #493
The modern-day laptop, by any measure, is 80,000 to 1,000,000 times more powerful than all of the computing power in the entire SAGE building!   (SAGE CPU Clock =166kHz)

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.Outstanding Animation that Explains SAGE to a "T"  6:20 minutes


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SAGE Overview Video  23:20 mniutes_
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The Amount & Size of Equipment _
Note the modern-day laptop on the kick-guard below. By any measure, the laptop is 80,000 to 1,000,000 times more powerful than the computing power in the entire building!
   (SAGE Clock =166kHz:: i7 Intel 3.3GHz x 4 (core)  = 80,000 Ratio)
Rack after Rack of Vacuum Tubes that make up a small part of SAGE's Computer
See below 
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Red indicates placement of Equipment Racks above

22,500 sq. ft.
2nd Floor Layout of Dual SAGE AN/FSQ-7/8 Computers (Hot Standby)
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Layout of SAGE 113,000 sq. ft. Blockhouse

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GALLERY

 
The Blue Room, 
150 Manned, 20" Consoles

 
20" Scope, 48" long
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P-7 Phosphor = Slow refresh
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Scope is large as a Harley
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Personal War Story #666
   The 'Blue Room' was off limits to all except those who had the highest clearance. We had heard of a Major that had strayed over a security yellow line, he was placed under arrest and sweated for 9 hours striped to his boxers. Looking back I think the story was fake to scare the troops straight, back over the yellow line. 
   Anyway, one day I went to the "Blue Room" to buzz some circuits, I was escorted by a Air Force guard who was supposed to stay with me, but he left. After a few minutes the room filled up, the lights went down and some special top secret tests started up. The tests lasted for over an hour. In the meantime it dawned on me that I had NO business in that room and I started thinking about the Major. I couldn't remember if I had put on clean underwear that morning or not.
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Test & Maintenance Room
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Input Channels
Main Frames
Power Supplies
Back Frame Wiring
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Random Fact #207
With the computer not powered and the air conditioning running full blast, you needed to wear a jacket; with only the "filaments" turned on a T-shirt was almost too much; and when the plates were also powered, safety barriers went up, the heat was too intense for anyone to linger between the closely spaced bays of hot vacuum tubes. It was estimated that if the air conditioning were to fail, the computer would self-destruct in less than 60 seconds. 
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Interface wiring

Magnetic Drum Memory

SAGE AN/FSQ-7/8 Computer Maintenance Control Room
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Vacuum Tube Logic Modules

Plugin Testing & Repair

Core Memory

Magnetic Core Memory Exposed

Scope Training

Museum Display:
SAGE Operator's Console

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All Communications goes through the First Floor, 
Western Electric's Installation


Random Fact #112
  Because SAGE relied so heavily on North America's switched telephone networks, in the early fifties the Eisenhower administration prevailed on AT&T and the Bell Telephone System to automate and harden their telephone exchanges and Central Offices (CO) against the effects of a nuclear attack. This also included Bell Canada. The idea was that after a nuclear attack no one could inhabit the surviving telephone facilities, that the telephone system should operate, unmanned, for at least three days. 
  This was helped along by the development of Direct Distance Dialing (DDD), DTMF tone dialing, as well as, crossbar switching (No. 5 crossbar, 5XB).
  The new buildings were hardened and made windowless, and the preexisting ones were reenforced. Part of that hardening was how the equipment racks were secured to both the concrete floor and the concrete ceiling.
  There was a CO were a boiler had exploded, taking out the walls, and the equipment--still standing, continued working, no problems.
  To ensure the office would stay operating for the required three plus days, the backup power supply was improved with the addition of diesel generators and improved lead acid batteries.
  With all of these improvements to telephone service brought on by America's defense needs, few citizens realized the real reason.
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Command Display

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Blue Room Ambient Lighting was Genius!
The Blue Room's 20" vector displays were hard for the operators to read due to the very slow refresh rate, and they were subject to ambient light glare. To help overcome this, the scopes’ CRTs used long persistence P-7 type phosphor and the viewing room was equipped with special non-glare indirect lighting at low intensity. 

Since the ceilings were twelve feet, special dropped ceilings with recessed indirect lighting were used. The real secret to its success was a thick honeycomb light baffle that was suspended above the scopes, they eliminated any direct light capable of glare.

One other thing that helped, a lot of the operators were former radar scope jockeys and they were experts at reading dim painfully slow sweep PPI scopes.


Honeycomb light baffle was ~6" thick with 1/4" holes


 
 

 
Operator having to interpret a dim scope display, that had a refresh interval from 2 sec. to 15 sec. The long persistence of the (P-7) phosphor helped.

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Single story Power House,
Generators and Air Conditioners (Chillers)
 


3 Megawatts of Backup Power from (6 + 1 standby) Diesel Generators


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MIT's Lincoln Laboratory, Lexington, MA.,
Note the SAGE Prototype Blockhouse in foreground.
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Random Fact #332
Some SAGE centers continued to operate by the FAA/ATC until 1983, more than 20 years after its technology was obsolete and its mission rendered militarily insignificant by the ICBM. As a final bit of irony, in the last years of its use, replacement vacuum tubes had to be purchased from Soviet-bloc countries where they were still being widely manufactured.
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SAGE operator interrogating (IFF) Situation Display

Did SAGE Succeed?
The real effectiveness of the SAGE system has been debated over the years. Critics saying the system would have failed to protect the US in an all out saturation bombing raid, and that SAGE was a giant waste of money.

As to its effectiveness. the deterrent impact of SAGE on Soviet strategic thinking made any preemptive strike less likely.

As to it being a waste of money, aside from the enormous technological strides that helped to usher in the "information age," the fact we never had to use it in anger, ever, is proof of its worth.
 


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IBM's SAGE Video 12 miniutes_

 
 
 
 
 
 
SAGE, Direction Center to Bomarc   2:49 min


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Dynamic RAM Addressing


LINKS

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Refresher
Binary Weighting  /Base-2 Counting

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Misc. 
SAGE STAFFING
MAX
MIN
Scope Operators
Officers in Command
Technicians
Building Maintenance
Diesel Mechanics
Telco Maintenance
Security
Food Preparation
Misc.
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165
35
25
15
15
20
30
30
15
----
100
30
10
7
3
10
25
20
4
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TOTAL (3 Shifts) -->
990
627
 SAGE Appendix
NOTES: SAGE Air Conditioning, 
25 million BTU = 2,083 Tons = 7,325 kW

(1 Ton = 12,000 BTU/hour = 3.516 kW)


BOOKS
Learn More
From Whirlwind to MITRE: The R&D Story of The SAGE Air Defense Computer 
 
The Emerging Shield: The Air Force and the evolution of continental air defense, 1945 - 1960 (General histories) [Hardcover]
PDF Version
 
The Peacekeepers
ISBN: 978-1-936759-09-5
Price: $15.00
Publisher: Houdini Publishing
Author: Jack Miller 
 

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  --- Extra Plates looking for a Home ---
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Mapping Consoles
To Separate Friend from Foe:
By means of a grease pencil drawing on the console's display, Radar target data is correlated with posted near-realtime ATC flight plans, all of which is imaged by a photo-electric tube mounted above it.

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Air Defense Command Regions Map
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A "Light Gun" being used to Interrogate a Target's IFF
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Situation Display, Rear Projection
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AN/FPS-35 Long Range RADAR, Montauk Air Force Station, Long Island, NY
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Mapper Room
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Spare Vacuum Tubes
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Height Finder & Long Range Surveillance RADARs
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One of many SAGE Microwave Relay Tower
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 Appendix_Troposcatter_Logic Page

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