New-old stock of Bell Labs's cardboard teaching computer, the CARDIAC

Elizabeth sez, "In the 1960s, my husband's dad taught him to program computers with a Bell Labs Science Kit called the CARDboard Illustrative Aid to Computation (CARDIAC). My husband was so nostalgic for his first 'cardboard computer,' that a couple of years ago I tracked down a guy who still sells the kits - manufactured in the '60s but still brand new and unopened - and bought my husband a new CARDIAC for Christmas. Today, I just found out that the owner of Comspace, the lone remaining dealer of original Bell Labs Science kits (they also have lots of other cool stuff besides the CARDIAC) will be closing his business at the end of this month and is selling off his inventory. You can read more about the Bell Science Labs kits at the URL above. That page also contains a link to the Comspace site, where you can order the kits. (Note, though, that some things listed on the Bell Labs page are no longer available. Contact Phillip Dixon at Comspace for the current product/price list.) He's also offering 5% discounts to anyone who buys 20 or more kits. (Please note - I have no connection to or interest in Comspace. I just think this is a really, really cool sale of vintage-but-brand-new geeky stuff.)"

My dad taught me to program with these in the mid-1970s as well -- it was incredibly engrossing. Link (Thanks, Elizabeth!)

See also: CARDIAC: Bell Labs's old cardboard computer



    Our address (All pertinent information):
    243 Dixon Avenue
    P.O. Box 682, Amityville, NY 11701
    TELE: 516-789-0700
    FAX : 516-789-0890
    Irving Becker, President

    Here at Comspace Corp., we take pride in customer satisfaction!
    You always go away happy and then come back for more!
    Here’s a quick look at our fantastic product line…
    1) MEGAPHONES and PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEMS (Both Commercial and Military type)
    2) LOUDHAILERS (A Ship to Shore Communication device plus so much more!)
    5) CABLE ASSEMBLIES (made to order to specs)
    7) TEST SETS / MEASURING TEST SETS (which include MultiMeters)
    9) BELL LAB KITS…See listIngs below.
    10) The “CARDIAC” computer trainer.
    Just to name a few!

    {{ From: }}

  2. When I went to university back in the late 70’s the first language I learned was FACET. This did not exist in the real world, but was emulated in Fortran and came bundled with an excellent textbook. The virtual FACET computer had an 5 bit decimal accumulator, various other registers, about 60 instructions and a whopping 1K of memory. First you learned to hand compile into native machine code and then you got to use a simple compiler.

    Knowing FACET was a completely useless skill but because it was so simple it really drove home the fundamentals.

    After Christmas we graduated to Fortran which at the time was considered a useful skill.

  3. [crotchety old geezer voice]
    Fah! Back in my day we trained on CLAYTABLETIAC.
    [/crotchety old geezer voice]

  4. I was going to make some kind of witty remark about cardboard computers, but then I noticed the ladybugs, and I just couldn’t.

  5. Oh, yeah. I implemented a CARDIAC emulator on a PDP-11/RSTS in school, just because I could. It was fun, until I worked out how to use the machine’s real assembler.

    CARDIAC taught me what “stack linkage” meant by not having it.

  6. Headin’ in a somewhat tangential direction:

    The mention of the Bell Science Labs kits reminded me of something that was crucial to my own early education: Things of Science

    Here’s some history about it.

    I was a subscriber for several mid-70s years and still remember some of the units well to this day. I’ve been looking for something like this for the children in my life, and while I don’t hold much hope for finding NOS units from back in my day I’m glad to hear that the folks who put them out have retained rights to the program and might start production again.

    I wonder if contacting the Science Service (now the Society for Science and the Public and inquiring would make a difference?

    (Maybe not if one of us does it. If one person does it they might think he’s sick. And if two people do it in harmony… but if fifty people a day do they might call it a movement – a Things of Science movement!)

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