Origins of Cyberspace auction: brainiac memories

Click on thumbnail pics in this post for full-size. Following up on yesterday's Boing Boing post about the forthcoming Christie's auction "The Origins of Cyberspace," reader Mike Ransom says:

"One of the items in this auction is the Brainiac Electric Brain Kit, circa 1966 (aka Geniac in the U.S) Insulated wire, battery box, circular masonite multiple-switch disks, and brass jumpers. A kit to teach children the principles of electronic digital computing, designed by Edmund Berkeley, who worked on the Harvard Mark I and II computers. Value: $800-1,200.

"Here is a picture of me in 1967 with a Geniac, an analog computer, a Think-A-Dot, Digi-Comp I and Dr. Nim. I just posted it to the photo section of a Yahoo Group devoted to these early mechanical computers: Link.

"Almost 40 years later, I only have the Digi-Comp I and the one on which I'm typing this note."


Above: a photo of the Brainiac kit.

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  1. Brainiac? Wasn’t he a Superman villain?

    Yes, and there is a connection.

    In Superman 167 (February 1964), the “Metropolis Mailbag” contained this special announcement:

    “Shortly after the first ‘Brainiac’ story appeared in ACTION COMICS, in 1956, we learned that a REAL ‘Brainiac’ existed…in the form of an ingenious ‘Brainiac Computer Kit’ invented in 1955 by Edmund C. Berkeley. Mr. Berkeley is a distinguished scientist and a world authority on automation, computers, and robots.

    “In deference to his ‘Brainiac,’ which pre-dates ours, with this issue of SUPERMAN we are changing the characterization of our ‘Brainiac’ so that the master-villain will henceforth possess a ‘computer personality.’ We are confident that our readers will approve of this transformation; it should make ‘Brainiac’ a mightier adversary for the Man of Steel.

    “Readers will be interested to learn that they can build their own ‘Brainiac’ by purchasing one of Mr. Berkeley’s computer kits and assembling the parts. Thousands of youngsters, as well as adults, have bought these kits and, by following the simple directions, have been able to construct home-made computers which can solve interesting problems of all kinds. ‘Brainiac’ kits cost less than $20.00 and make an ideal educational hobby. For more information, write for free literature to: Berkeley Enterprises, Inc., 815 Washington Street, Newtonville 60, Mass.”

    —–

    So the existence of thethe Brainiac kit effected the transformation of the DC Comics Brainiac, forever changing the labyrinthine course of Superman history. To echo the Golden Age Brainiac, Ha, ha!

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