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Simon (computer)

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Simon (computer)

for the handheld electronic game that employs computer chips, see Simon (game).

Simon was the name given to the first "personal computer"[1] of history, a project developed by Edmund Berkeley and presented in a thirteen articles series issued in Radio-Electronics magazine, from October 1950. Although there were far more advanced machines at the time of its construction, the Simon represented the first experience of building an automatic simple digital computer, for educational purposes. In 1950, it was sold for US$600.


The "Simon project" arose as a result of the Berkeley's book Giant Brains, or Machines That Think, published in November 1949. There, the author said:

In November 1950, Berkeley wrote an article entitled Simple Simon for Scientific American magazine,[2] which was a description of the digital computing principles for the general public. Despite Simon's extreme lack of resources (it was able to represent only the numbers 0, 1, 2 and 3), Berkeley stated on page 40 that the machine "possessed the two unique properties that define any true mechanical brain: it can transfer information automatically from any one of its "registers" to any other, and it can perform reasoning operations of indefinite length". Berkeley concluded his article anticipating the future[2]:

Technical specifications

The Simon's architecture was based on relays. The programs were run from a standard paper tape with five rows of holes for data. The registers and ALU could store only 2 bit. The data entry was made through the punched paper or by five keys on the front panel of the machine. The output was provided by five lamps.

The punched tape served not only for data entry, but also as a memory for the machine. The instructions were carried out in sequence, as they were read from the tape. The machine was able to perform four operations: addition, negation, greater than, and selection.


External links

  • Simon's FAQ
  • Edmund Berkeley's Simon Relay Processor
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