CLOSE
Laxton // Daily Express // Hulton Archive // Getty Images
Laxton // Daily Express // Hulton Archive // Getty Images

Watch Nellie, the British School Computer of 1969

Laxton // Daily Express // Hulton Archive // Getty Images
Laxton // Daily Express // Hulton Archive // Getty Images

In 1969, the Forest Grammar School in England was home to "Nellie," a modified National Elliott 405 computer. Nellie was obsolete even then, but the boys at the school got to program it, play with it, and maintain it—because the silly thing broke down on average once every 12 hours.

In this vintage clip from Tomorrow's World, we visit Forest Grammar School and meet the kids who work with Nellie. Just booting the computer requires multiple multiple in various rooms, throwing giant levers and checking the oil in the disk unit. They describe the programs they've made, including an unbeatable noughts-and-crosses ("tic-tac-toe") game. Check it out:

For more on Nellie, read this article.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
arrow
History
The Queen of Code: Remembering Grace Hopper
By Lynn Gilbert, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Grace Hopper was a computing pioneer. She coined the term "computer bug" after finding a moth stuck inside Harvard's Mark II computer in 1947 (which in turn led to the term "debug," meaning solving problems in computer code). She did the foundational work that led to the COBOL programming language, used in mission-critical computing systems for decades (including today). She worked in World War II using very early computers to help end the war. When she retired from the U.S. Navy at age 79, she was the oldest active-duty commissioned officer in the service. Hopper, who was born on this day in 1906, is a hero of computing and a brilliant role model, but not many people know her story.

In this short documentary from FiveThirtyEight, directed by Gillian Jacobs, we learned about Grace Hopper from several biographers, archival photographs, and footage of her speaking in her later years. If you've never heard of Grace Hopper, or you're even vaguely interested in the history of computing or women in computing, this is a must-watch:

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
science
Why Are Glaciers Blue?
iStock
iStock

The bright azure blue sported by many glaciers is one of nature's most stunning hues. But how does it happen, when the snow we see is usually white? As Joe Hanson of It's Okay to Be Smart explains in the video below, the snow and ice we see mostly looks white, cloudy, or clear because all of the visible light striking its surface is reflected back to us. But glaciers have a totally different structure—their many layers of tightly compressed snow means light has to travel much further, and is scattered many times throughout the depths. As the light bounces around, the light at the red and yellow end of the spectrum gets absorbed thanks to the vibrations of the water molecules inside the ice, leaving only blue and green light behind. For the details of exactly why that happens, check out Hanson's trip to Alaska's beautiful (and endangered) Mendenhall Glacier below.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios