Thursday, August 14, 2014

Early Computing

During a recent visit to Harvard U. I came across this monstrosity thing of beauty in the Science Center - the building where the Dept. of Statistics is housed:



It's an "Aiken-IBM Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator - I", and dates from 1944. (Obviously, those other people in the picture liked it a lot too - I couldn't get them out of the way! But they do give you a sense of scale.)

From left to right, the main components of the calculator are:
  1. Panel of 60 constants.
  2. Unit of 72 storage counters.
  3. The multiply/divide unit.
  4. Fractional counters.
  5. Interpolators - 1, 2, 3.
  6. Sequence control.
  7. Typewriters (barely visible).
  8. Card feed (out of sight).
  9. Card punch (even more out of sight!).
It's about the size of strech limo, and a great piece of computing history.

It reminded me of "The Monkey Run" - ah, those were the days!


© 2014, David E. Giles

1 comment:

  1. My advisor often used to speak of some sort of "matrix inversion machine" from the pre modern computer days. Whenever he mentioned it he would make a motion with his hand like he was pulling a lever. Something like this is more or less exactly what I imagined.

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