E6B Computer: Celebrating 75 Years Of Flight - InformationWeek

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12/30/2015
09:06 AM
Pablo Valerio
Pablo Valerio
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E6B Computer: Celebrating 75 Years Of Flight

The E6B flight computer was introduced to the US Army in 1940. Few devices have been around this long, have had cameo appearances in Star Trek, and remain in use today. We think that's worth celebrating.
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(Image: Public Domain via Wikimedia)

(Image: Public Domain via Wikimedia)

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nasimson
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nasimson,
User Rank: Ninja
12/30/2015 | 6:33:55 PM
stereotype
E6B has shattered all my stereo types for a computer. Without Silicon, without semiconductor, without a power source, without a screen. Am I the only one finding it odd to call it a computer? Or did some brilliant marketeer invented a beautiful label?
Pablo Valerio
100%
0%
Pablo Valerio,
User Rank: Ninja
12/31/2015 | 3:48:14 AM
Re: stereotype
@nasimson,

Our concept of "computer" was not the same 75 years ago. There was no silicon, nor semiconductors. But the E6-B performs complex calculations. It is truly a computer for flight planning, because it does compute!

Nowadays we are so used to complex software and ubiquitous connectivy that we forget that basic tools such as the E6-B can be lifesavers in some situations.

My flight instructors made me use the E6-B for all the flight planning during my training, and they always pointed out that internet is not available everywhere and batteries die. But the E6-B is always there to help.
tzubair
50%
50%
tzubair,
User Rank: Ninja
12/31/2015 | 12:02:56 PM
Re: stereotype
"My flight instructors made me use the E6-B for all the flight planning during my training, and they always pointed out that internet is not available everywhere and batteries die. But the E6-B is always there to help."

@Pablo: I think that's a good back up technology to have that can work without power. I wonder to what extent this can be used in terms of the computational capabilities. Something like this might be very handy to own for people traveling to places with no power such as mountain hiking. They may have certain needs which might be fulfilled through a device built on similar technology.
tzubair
50%
50%
tzubair,
User Rank: Ninja
12/31/2015 | 12:15:20 PM
Re: stereotype
"Am I the only one finding it odd to call it a computer? Or did some brilliant marketeer invented a beautiful label?"

@nasimson: Calculators have always been considered as the earliest form of computers and the first form of calculator ever developed was the Abacus which did not have any form of electronics or sillicon technology. It was a pure mechanical device and much less sophisticated than the E6B.
KenP166
50%
50%
KenP166,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/31/2015 | 2:35:54 PM
Re: stereotype
The original "computer" was a human employeed to make calculation for scientists.   The first computers were organic. :)
nasimson
50%
50%
nasimson,
User Rank: Ninja
1/6/2016 | 1:33:17 AM
Re: stereotype
@Kenp166: Thanks for adding this. I didn't know this. Maybe some of these organic computers are still alive. Eds: It'll be worth capturing their thoughts on the evolution of computers and computing and how this could be different.
Li Tan
50%
50%
Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
1/2/2016 | 1:59:27 AM
Re: stereotype
I think the beauty lies in the facts you mentioned - that's why it's so unique here. As long as it can still be used without low efficiency and problem, it can even live longer.
tigger2
50%
50%
tigger2,
User Rank: Strategist
12/31/2015 | 2:11:27 PM
Contemporary computers
At the same time the E6B was invented there were other computers at work. Scores of women used to sit in front of 10 key adding machines working on various problems, e.g., ballistics and air frame design. These women were called computers into the mid 1950's.
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