Carlton’s computer systems were a remarkable feat of theoretical pioneering.
Carlton’s computer systems were a remarkable feat of theoretical pioneering. The engineering was fairly simple, and the raw computing power was not great, but that was not the point. In a similar way to how fine art has an intrinsic value to culture and society, even though it may be just a few bits of wood, canvas and paint, Carlton’s computers were revolutionary. The fundamental basis was an idea that Carlton had in High School. There had been a big push back then to develop energy-efficient technology. There was a well sponsored National competition for clever inventions that Carlton decided to win. Carlton’s idea was to generate electrical power at the place where it was needed, rather than storing it elsewhere and using wires and connectors to get it where it was needed.
The human body, Carlton theorized, is powered by changes in electrical potential as electrons move across cell membranes. The energy to do this comes from biochemical reactions in the cells. This is called respiration. Power is not transported to the cells. Each cell can convert fuel into power. The fuel comes from metabolizing food. Blood transports everything to each cell, and takes the waste products away. Why not build a computer system that used a similar process?
Carlton wanted to generate the power for a computer right at the processor. The processor had to be small and have little power usage. However, if hundreds, maybe thousands, of these processors were linked together the computer should be fast enough. Most importantly it would not need a source of electricity.
The idea was simple enough but it was a practical nightmare. As Carlton thought and designed he built small replicas of human organs. A pump to circulate oxygenated solution was the heart. An aerator to add oxygen and remove carbon dioxide was the lung. A filter to remove waste products from the solution was the kidney. The solution in the machine was the blood. To keep it simple Carlton used real blood. This was Carlton’s obsession.