AN/FSQ-7 is the most frequently shown computer in movies in Hollywood history

Computers as tools to handle military purposes Even during the Second World War the U.S. Navy made an offer to Massachusetts Uni (MIT) on the possibi...


Computers as tools to handle military purposes

Even during the Second World War the U.S. Navy made an offer to Massachusetts Uni (MIT) on the possibility of a flight simulator to train bomber crews. After the success of the ENIAC program in 1945 they decided to use for such purpose the computer and leave unsuccessful attempts to create an analog calculator.
The project is significantly delayed and was fully completed after the end of World War II. So it was not clear enough what to do with Whirlwind computer generated since military guys lost the interest towards it. However, the machine itself was of historical importance since both Whirlwind and unrealized Whirlwind II became the basis of Jay Forrester’s proposals for creation of defense system.
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The project development was speed up by the fact USSR obtained nuclear weapons and “strained” relations amongst the two superpowers. Already in December 1949, the Committee for air defense led by Mr.Dzheordzhem Valley recommended computerized calculations for radar stations. Forrester and Valley used to be pioneers in foundation for future system SAGE the development of which was worth about $ 10 billion in 1954 and included the creation of 24 command centers equipped including computer AN/FSQ-7, record the amount of which has never been broken .

In fact, the computers were key component of the system. One can easily see hundreds of Q7 panels with their switches, buttons and flashing lights which looks like a paradise visuals for movies. That’s why Q7 is the removable computer in the history of mankind so far. Different parts of it even nowadays appear in the picture despite the fact that it was created at the dawn of the computer age and was not used anymore since 1983.

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In September 1953 the contract for supplement of two prototypes on the basis of unrealized plans Whirlwind II with IBM was signed. And on October 28 of the same year, the Air Force Board recommended to accumulate funds from the budget in 1955 to finance the automated system “Linkoln” (in 1954 renamed SAGE). In 1955, the pilot was completed subsector SAGE in Lexington, and by October the building a prototype AN/FSQ-7 called XD-1, initially working without a display.
Air Force staff started training in Kingston (New York) in 1955 and by the year 1959 it was already held 2000 simulated interceptions and the first real one started in August 1958. Conducted extensive tests of the mathematical model of the algorithm ATABE (Automatic Target and Battery Evaluation) using real military radar readings that pinpoint training violations defense sector (in particular, military exercises Skyshield).

Some words about characterisics

Each of the 24 “monster s” had a inside 49 thousand vacuum tubes with external systems each item contains about 60 thousand light bulbs and weighed around 250 tons occupying 2 thousand square meters i.e. three floors of fortified buildings SAGE being located at various points in the United States and Canada. The overall performance was high for the day comprising 75 million operations per second which enabled the personnel to track up to 300 aerial targets. To the computer could connect 100 console operators, including a monitor with a light gun for the purposes of allocation, lighter and ashtray.
To ensure reliable operation of the system RAM Q7 had overlapped elements so that to ensure the perfect processing and control for arithmetic units as well as input-output monitoring and software elements. Thus, each of the Q7 represented the union of two independent computers called in Latin letters A and B. They did not function at the same time but when the A performed the B was in stand by mode and might be served before they switch roles. On average, each of the computers consumed one megawatt of electricity.
Each computer was equipped with a card punch IBM 723 and IBM card reader 713 with an auxiliary storage device based on a magnetic drum (50 “lots” of 2048 computer words each) and magnetic drums IBM 728 i.e. the devices enabling the exchange of information with other systems of SAGE.

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Mr. Mike Leven, who served in the U.S. Air Forces in 1982-86 and who used one of the last running AN/FSQ-7 has at first noticed the familiar panel on TV era in mid-60th. After watching “The Time Tunnel” he became interested in what other movies showed this tube monster. Thus, in the “Wormhole» Q7 performs the role of a secret government project time machine, built by the Arizona desert.
The emergence of computer AN/FSQ-7 would most logically in the movie “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” since there the computer system demonstrated it’s direct function of air defense but the comedy of Stanley Kubrick uses the old IBM 7090/94.
Amongst some of the most popular films in where there was Q7 we see ” The Independence Day» shot in 1996. Although the last series of the computer were released about 13 years before that the system is presented in the film like a modern one.

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