Complete instructions for making a replica of the Minivac 601 educational computer kit

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Michael Gardi built a nice replica of the Minivac 601 computer kit, and made the plans available on Instructables.

Created by information theory pioneer Claude Shannon as an educational toy for teaching digital circuits, the Minivac 601 Digital Computer Kit was billed as an electromechanical digital computer system. Produced by Scientific Development Corporation in the early 1960s it sold for $85 (about $720 today).

Minivac 601 used electromechanical relays as logic switches as well as for very basic storage. Simple DPDT switches and SPDT push buttons made up the binary inputs, with lights to represent the outputs. A large motorized dial allowed the user to enter decimal or hexadecimal numbers, and to output numbers, or to act as a clock signal generator. For more information about the Minivac 601 here are some additional references:

Center for Computing History
Time-Line Computer Archive

The Instructable presented here is for a full size replica of that Minivac 601 from 1961. I have tried to remain as true to the original as possible given the technologies and resources available to me. I don’t have a “vintage” unit so this replica has been constructed based on photos and from the original manuals that were available online. I have included these manuals in PDF format as part of this project. I brought these files to a local copy center and had them printed as the spiral bound booklets you can see [below]. I’m really happy with the results.

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How to convert your Xbox Live subscription into Xbox Game Pass Ultimate

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Microsoft recently announced Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, a new subscription service that bundles Xbox Game Pass (for console and PC) and Xbox Live Gold for $14.99 per month, saving you $15 per month compared to paying for these services separately.

If you want to try it out, there’s a promotion happening that gives you a one-month trial of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for $1. But before you redeem it, you should know that it’s possible to use the trial as a way to save a lot of money on Game Pass Ultimate for the next three years.

Microsoft allows Xbox players to order up to 36 months of prepaid Xbox Live Gold service. And for a limited time, activating the $1 trial will automatically…

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Update your Firefox browser now, there’s an emergency patch you’ll want

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Are you running Firefox version 67.0.3 or Firefox ESR 60.7.1? If the answer is “no,” or you’re not sure, maybe just update your web browser now. Firefox maker Mozilla is warning (via ZDNet) that the browser has a zero-day flaw that’s actively being exploited in the wild — you don’t see that every day — and it has issued an emergency patch that can let you plug that hole right now.

Here’s the full description of the issue:

A type confusion vulnerability can occur when manipulating JavaScript objects due to issues in Array.pop. This can allow for an exploitable crash. We are aware of targeted attacks in the wild abusing this flaw.

Updating Firefox can be as easy as restarting the browser, though you can also tap the hamburger icon on the…

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Careteam aims to unite patients and healthcare providers with a platform approach

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How best to untangle the Gordian knot that is navigating your own healthcare? It’s a tricky question, and one that seems to have become only more complicated as technology improves, in many regards — systems don’t necessarily speak to one another, and it’s still hard for an ordinary patient without specialist knowledge to make sense […]

My Journey With Python (Part I)

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I’ve been working with Java for about 14 years now, and the last two years I’ve also worked with Node.js and Golang to build some middleware AI platforms at my startup. Nevertheless, I often push myself in learning other technologies as well. I’ve been learning Python these past few weeks. I was inspired by its concise syntax and the prominent feature that supports almost anything. You can use Python for any GUI and/or web development, operating system shell, data processing and analysis (data science), etc. Someone said that you can build the world with Python. Mmmmm, sounds interesting.

Since I believe that the best way to grasp the knowledge is to write what I’ve learned, I’m gonna try here to write everything I know so far about Python. I have read different books and websites, so here I’m trying to summarize within six parts everything I gotten from these different resources. Hopefully, you’ll find this article useful, especially for those of you who are trying to learn Python in a crash course.

Super Mario makes for a shockingly good battle royale game

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Battle royale has come for Mario. The winner-takes-all genre, popularized by the likes of Fortnite and PUBG, is now also a free web game starring Nintendo’s famous plumber.

The aptly titled Mario Royale has a pretty simple premise: 75 people, all playing as Mario, try to make their way to the end of a classic Super Mario Bros. stage at the same time. It sounds easy, but since everyone looks identical, it’s incredibly chaotic, and you’ll likely find yourself dying because you mixed up which squat plumber you were controller. Still, as a proof of concept, it’s a clever idea, especially following the likes of Tetris 99.

An important caveat, of course, is that this isn’t an official Nintendo game, so it’s unlikely to stay online for long. If…

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Cheap wireless laser printer with 3rd party toner is the way to go

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I’ve had a Brother wireless laser printer for close to 10 years. It’s so much faster and cheaper than an inkjet printer, and doesn’t cause problems like an inkjet printer.  Right now, Amazon is selling the Brother HL-L2350DW, which prints on two-sides of a sheet, for . Official toner cartridges are for a high-yield toner cartridge (3,000 pages), but you can get TWO third-party high-yield cartridges for just , making this a cheap, reliable printer. Read the rest

50 people from 50 US states speak in their local accents

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I never thought I had a distinctive Colorado accent until people from California noted my dropped Gs at the end of “ing” words. I’ve since stopped dropping Gs, but when I go back to Colorado I can’t help myself and I drop my Gs. In this Condé Nast Traveler video, 50 people from 50 US states speak in their local accents.

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Since season 1, Jessica Jones has struggled to mix horror with superheroes

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Significant spoilers ahead for season 1 of Jessica Jones.

The horror and superhero genres approach the world from opposite directions. Horror is meant to make the audience feel disempowered and terrorized. Superhero stories, by contrast, make viewers feel empowered and triumphant. Both genres often set out to give the audience the same thing — a big, satisfying burst of catharsis — but in different ways, and for different reasons.

But at the same time, the genres draw liberally from each other. To heighten the empowerment sensation, the superhero genre often uses horror elements. In the recent film Shazam!, the hero is menaced by oozing, hulking nightmare monsters, and his victory is sweeter because he’s initially terrified by what he…

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This trig problem kept me up too late last night

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My daughter is taking a precalc summer school course. Last night she was doing her homework, which was about verifying trigonometric identities. Out of the 25 homework problems, there was one that she got stuck on. I decided to give it a try and spent two hours on it without solving it.

Here it is. Verify the identity:

(sec x – tan x)² = (1 – sin x )/(1 + sin x )

You don’t need to know anything about trigonometry to solve this. All you need to know are the fundamental trigonometric identities, which are:

My daughter is in class now and she texted me the answer. There’s not too many steps involved. Let’s see how fast you can solve it. Read the rest

Howto: make better salads

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Bon Appetit’s 20-tip roundup of salad-making tips is full of culinary wisdom, from the mechanical (how to use a salad-spinner properly and how to apply dressing for a good, even coat that doesn’t turn delicates to mush) to the chemical (using salt to tenderize raw cabbage) to the culinary (toast your nuts, put chopped veg in your dressing, mix your vinegars). It’s a great and timely piece for anyone getting ready to enjoy the summer’s garden veg or anyone trying to get kids to eat more veggies. (via Kottke)

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Amazon shows a 43% price difference in the same item shipped to the same address, but to a different account

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Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle (who also founded the company Alexa, now an Amazon division) ordered a pack of Sharpies from Amazon using the Internet Archive’s business account, then, minutes later, ordered another pack using his personal account, both to be delivered to the Internet Archive: the order for the Internet Archive was priced at $8.63, while the personal order was priced at $12.37.

According to Kahle, the price difference is a feature, not a bug: businesses who pay extra for Business Prime ($179/year versus $99 for non-business Prime) get significant discounts on some items.

I have Business Prime and I see the price as $12.63 whether in a logged in tab, or in private browsing mode.

Below are the receipt for the Internet Archive, offer to me, and offer to my home business account (same price as the Internet Archive). Turns out I stumbled upon “Business Pricing.” It’s a “feature.” Business Prime costs $179/year, as opposed to consumer Prime for $99/year. Charging Me 43% More Than Another Customer [Brewster Kahle]

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