Book Chapter

Autobiographing our computing organs: Rereading past uses of Intel CPUs as xenotransplantation



McKeown C (2022) Autobiographing our computing organs: Rereading past uses of Intel CPUs as xenotransplantation. In: Lushetich N & Campbell I (eds.) Distributed Perception: Resonances and Axiologies. Routledge Studies in Science, Technology and Society. London: Routledge, pp. 261-274.

I suggest a view using CPUs, viewed in this paper as new computing organs; as still flawed, intricately material, distinctly not transcendental and most importantly our responsibility. To do this, I carry out three hetero-techno-biographies, reflecting on three cases in which the specifics of hardware have shaped the outcomes of software/human phenomena. The first draws on 1978’s Intel 8080 processor that was chosen to power the arcade release of Space Invaders. The chip’s constraints lead to a method of processing that triggered the emblematic speeding up experienced by players of the game. The second example, 1994’s Intel Pentium P5 suffered from what was called ‘FDIV’ or the floating point bug that lead to a significant financial loss for the company. The engineers of the chip took to wearing the later recalled processors close to their bodies, physically mimicking new organs. Finally, the third example comes from Neil Ferguson’s computational model of the UK’s control measures against COVID-19 and the “24 to 32 core [Intel] Xeon processor” required to run it.

Title of seriesRoutledge Studies in Science, Technology and Society
Publication date31/12/2022
Publication date online30/12/2021
Place of publicationLondon

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Dr Conor McKeown
Dr Conor McKeown

Lecturer in Digital Media, Communications, Media and Culture