This Long-Lost 1950s Computer Is the Subject of a 40-Year-Old Copypasta – Review Geek


Last week, Reddit user c-wizz posted several photos of what he called “old computersin the vintage computing subreddit. Among the images, several PDP-8/es and a LGP-30. Both models date from the 1950s. However, the LGP-30 stands out for its connection to “Mel’s story.”

“Mel’s Story” is a computer programming legend written by Ed Nathan and posted on Usenet in 1983. The story details the woes of Mel Kaye, a computer programmer of extraordinary skill. In the story, Kaye does “most of his programming” on an LGP-30. He inadvertently uses the machine to recode a Blackjack program so that he wins, and the human player loses every game. When Nather was asked to correct Kaye’s error, he discovered an infinite loop controlled by self-modifying code. As Kaye says in the tale, “If a program can’t rewrite its own code, what good is it?” The software engineering feat impressed Nather so much that he refused to fix the bug.

“If a program can’t rewrite its own code, what’s the point? »

Nather’s story became so popular among computer programmers in the 80s that it has been republished countless times over the decades and is still there today. Subject of study by programmers and hackers today.

As for the LGP-30 itself, it is also a piece of computing history. It was one of the very first commercially available computers that individuals could buy and use. Only 45 were made, and the retail price of the first personal computer was $47,000 (almost half a million dollars in today’s money). Only a handful of devices are known to exist in computer museums today. So this is a rare gem indeed.

Other notable LGP-30 users include Meteorologist by Edward Lorenz development of the strange attractor, the butterfly effect and chaos theory.

This particular LGP-30 unit is probably not the one referenced in Mel’s Story, but it’s not impossible. However, just finding one in the wild was enough to fire the imagination of users on Reddit – a testament to the lasting impact of Nather’s programming epic.

Source: Ars-Technica

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