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Computing (FOLDOC) dictionary
grind crank
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A mythical accessory to a terminal. A crank on the side of
a monitor, which when operated makes a zizzing noise and
causes the computer to run faster. Usually one does not refer
to a grind crank out loud, but merely makes the appropriate
gesture and noise. See grind.
Historical note: At least one real machine actually had a
grind crank - the R1, a research machine built toward the
end of the days of the great vacuum tube computers, in 1959.
R1 (also known as "The Rice Institute Computer" (TRIC) and
later as "The Rice University Computer" (TRUC)) had a
single-step/free-run switch for use when debugging programs.
Since single-stepping through a large program was rather
tedious, there was also a crank with a cam and gear
arrangement that repeatedly pushed the single-step button.
This allowed one to "crank" through a lot of code, then slow
down to single-step for a bit when you got near the code of
interest, poke at some registers using the console typewriter,
and then keep on cranking.