Overtom's weblog

NOT BAD FOR A SNAIL  (31 january 2008)

If you want to find out how fast a computer is, one important factor will be its clock speed. For instance, a fast Pentium 4 computer has a clock speed of about 3 gigaHerz -- three billion (3,000,000,000) oscillations per second.

When the first personal computers appeared on the market, they were much slower than today's speed monsters. My first computer, for instance, was Tandy's TRS80. It had been introduced in 1977 -- the very same year that the first chess computer saw the light of day. The TRS80 worked at a speed of 1.77 MHz, which is 1.77 million oscillations per second. This may sound like quite a lot, but is a mere 0.06 percent of the speed of the Pentium 4 mentioned above.

TRS80 Model 1

Recently, the Overtom Chess Computer Museum acquired a very unusual chess computer, which consisted of a card that could be slid (or slided?) into an electronic organizer.

Sharp IQ-8400

You can see the card in the lid of the organizer (in the picture above: on the right).

This is what the card itself looks like:

What would the speed of this computer be?

Well, I won't keep you in suspense for too long. Its clock speed is only 32,768 Herz (oscillations per second), which -- I admit -- could be called fast if you had to shake your arms or legs at that speed. But believe me: for a computer it is snail's pace -- less than two percent of the speed of the old TRS80. Or less than 1/60 of the speed of the first chess computer.

I suppose the makers opted for such a low speed to save batteries. After all, not many people will want an organizer that operates at a breathtaking speed but whose batteries have to be replaced every few hours.

When a new chess computer enters the Overtom Collection, it first has to play at least one game against Fritz-one-ply. I can imagine you'll want to know how this snail played:

White: Fritz 8 (1 ply)

Black: Organizer Chess IQ-718M (± 10 sec. / move)

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Nxe5 Bxc3 5.dxc3 Nxe4 6.Qd5 Nd6 7.Bd3 O-O 8.O-O Ne8 9.Re1 Nf6 10.Qf3 Ne8 11.Be3 d6 12.Qh5 Nf6 13.Bxh7+ Nxh7 14.Rad1 Nf6 15.Qh4 Re8 16.Bg5 Be6 17.a3 d5 18.b3 c5 19.c4 Nc6 20.Bxf6 gxf6 21.Qg3+ Kf8 22.cxd5 fxe5 23.dxe6 Qf6 24.exf7 Qxf7 25.Re4 Ke7 26.Qg4 Rf8 27.Rd7+ Ke8 28.Rxf7 Rxf7 29.Qe6+ Ne7 30.Rxe5 Rd8 31.g4 Rd1+ 32.Kg2 Kf8 33.Rxc5 Rf4 34.Qh6+ Kf7 35.Qxf4+ Kg6 36.Rg5+ Kh7 37.Qf7+ Kh6 38.Rh5#

Een animatie van deze partij is te zien als u Java op de computer heeft.

"Bah, black loses," you may say. But be fair: Fritz's speciality is the king's side attack, in which it is probably greatly assisted by its huge hash-tables. The organizer's first fifteen moves were not played too badly.

I allowed the card to play a few more games against shackled Fritz -- as fellow-collector Mike Watters once called Frans Morsch's strong program set at one-ply.

One game went like this:

White: Fritz 8 (1 ply)

Black: Sharp IQ-718M (± 10 sec. / move)

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 O-O 9.d4 b4 10.cxb4 exd4 11.Nbd2 d3 12.a3 d5 13.exd5 Nxd5 14.Bc4 Bf5 15.b3 Bf6 16.Rb1 Nc3 17.Bxf7+ Rxf7 18.Ne5 Bxe5 19.Qf3 Nd4 20.Qe3 Re7 21.Ra1 Bxh2+ 22.Kxh2 Qd6+ 23.Kh1 Rxe3 24.Rxe3 Qh6+ 25.Kg1 Nc2 26.Re5 Qf6 27.Rxf5 Qxf5 28.Bb2 Ne2+ 29.Kf1 Rf8 30.Nf3 Nxa1 31.Bxa1 c6 32.Be5 Qe6 33.Ke1 Rxf3 34.gxf3 Qxe5 35.Kd1 Qb2 36.b5 Qc1#

Een animatie van deze partij is te zien als u Java op de computer heeft.

Well, I don't know what you think about this, but I'm pretty amazed about a victory gained by such a slow computer!

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