About Steam Punk Computer
Project 2018-03-06 13:37:38 +1300
As far as I know this will be a world first. A steam punk computer. A computer that runs on steam rather than electronically.
The basic idea is as follows. Computers run using electronics to implement a multitude of tiny switches in an highly organised and controlled manner in order to perform their tasks. Rather than using electronic switching I intend to use steam as the power to activate the switches. By designing and building the whole device in an artistic manner I hope it will be interesting to view and fascinating to watch in action.
When I first conceived of the idea (some people say I am crazy) I considered that the work involved would be prohibitive. After all, the final machine will be a novalty rather than any advance in technology. However, as things go, I was working on a project that is intended to teach topics in computer science, and possibly to make the pedegogy suitable for school children, As part of the educational ideas I had designed a chipset for a hypothetical (but conventional electronic) CPU. I then realised that my CPU design could be made substantially smaller than it was, to such an extent that it would be able to be implemented in far fewer gates (gate is a fancy name for electronically activated switch) than I thought would be required.
Then I set about defining what would have to be a tiny instruction set. Eventually I had designed a chipset that was sufficiently small that it seemed feasible to build. The design of my chipset required that it could be used, at least in theory, to implement a modern object oriented computer programming language, such as java or c++ without too many contortians. To be a bit tech, such a programming language requires a this pointer, and a virtual function table pointer in addition to those usually involved in access to the top of the stack. I am satisfied that my chipset will satisfy the requirement but only just.
A computer has three main components, the CPU, memory and input/output (IO) devices. IO can be done using memory mapped methods and I have done some work on the CPU design that satisfies me that I can build it. Memory can in theory be built using the same methods as the CPU but as it is more simple in its function I will use a semi-mechanical system, again driven by steam.For IO I will provide some bells and whistles suitably connected in such a way to make a tunefull noise when it lets off steam. I do not intend at the moment to connect it to the world wide web. Some other IO will be required.
When complete the working machine will be of some interest and I intend to make time on it available for hire. I only intend to build one so time on it will be charged at a price that controls demand. I have been told that if I get it working it will go viral.
This project is complex and large. It will take a lot of time and I have a number of problems to solve before I commit to final build. I will be writing an online simulator for it and will make this available for others to program. Any program that works on the simulator will work on the real thing.
I have not decided on exact specifications yet but the following is likely. Memory bus 16bit, Registers 16bit, Instruction size 8bit, Memory size max 65536 bytes, Memory will be expandable up to the limit but will initially probably be about 1k. Steam pressure and volume must be sufficiently low to fall below the levels requiring registrations etc as a boiler. Speed will probably be measured in SIPS, single instructions per second.
I am hoping to fund this project mostly by selling websites. My website authoring website is now working at a modest level. It still needs some refinements to make it satisfacory for end users to author their own websites. If anyone is interested in a particular feature being implemented then contact me and I will consider the request and improve my system. Some of the money I receive for providing websites must be used for the cost of living.
This particular funding campaign is intended to raise sufficint funds to get the steam punk computer to the point of proving the CPU concept.
The People Behind Steam Punk Computer
02:21PM Wed 07/03/18 on Steam Punk Computer
I just want people to know, the screen snap I have as my main picture is a mockup of what I expect the simulator to look like.
The mockup is available on the website I have set up for this project at www.scala.nz/SteamPunkComputer/Home.html
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