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Who Invented The Computer?  
User currently offlineDougloid From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Posted (6 years 6 days 16 hours ago) and read 2211 times:

One of my Anglo Australian colleagues says that the British invented the computer.

He points to the Bombe, a special purpose rig that was used to solve Enigma settings and thus decode Nazi commo as proof of the proposition. At least I think that's what he's doing....but it could be Colossus.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombe

As a citizen of the great state of Iowa, I must dissent. We have a pretty good argument that the Atanasoff Berry computer, part of which has been overhauled and is on display in the state Historical Society building takes pride of place.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atanasoff–Berry_Computer


But of many things is a computer made. Is it a computer because it can solve complex calculations? Is an old Burroughs ten key tabulator or an IBM Hollerith tabulating machine thus a mechanical computer?

How about the gunnery and torpedo range and vector calculators used on warships and in evaluating propellants and projectiles? In the UK submarine service the torpedo calculator was called the fruit box, and it was a machine to solve time/speed/distance equations. Were they computers?

Or is it the ability to retain a program? Is that what a computer is?

One thing's for sure. The history of the 20th century revealed the need for calculating machines, because it was a math intensive century.

As technology moved forward, so did the knowledge of electronics that ultimately led to the Fleming diode and DeForest triode-both of which borrowed from what was known as the Edison effect. The vacuum tube device-in the case of the diode, a one way electronic gate and the triode, capable of amplifying a signal, both provided the basis for electronic applications that led to the computer of today.

The first computer I ever saw was back in 1957 or thereabouts, and I did not know what it was, because nobody did, really. It took up one wall of a building and was protected from sticky fingers by a velvet rope like in the movie theaters. The Minders handed each awestruck little kid a piece of paper tape with holes punched in it like dominos. This had something to do with setting up the computer to do something or other.

The next one I saw was an IBM 34 I think, at the BRE/Interpart warehouse in California back around 1978. It had its own Air Conditioned Temple and its Priest, Delphos style. You did not ask the Oracle a question. You asked the Priest who agreed to consult the Oracle when it suited him and all the auguries were proper. Otherwise you stayed the hell out of the Temple. which was maintained at an icy cold 64 degrees to make sure the Oracle didn't break a sweat.



So....what do you think? Who owns the title? Is it premised on who set out the theoretical basis and the design, or who actually had a machine up and running?

47 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineMadameConcorde From San Marino, joined Feb 2007, 10893 posts, RR: 37
Reply 1, posted (6 years 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 2194 times:

My idea is that we owe the computers to Mr. Boole, the creator and developer of Boolean Algebra, the notation that allowed a first glance at contemporary computational logic.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Boole

George Boole (IPA: [buːl]) (November 2, 1815 – December 8, 1864) was a British mathematician and philosopher.

As the inventor of Boolean algebra, which is the basis of all modern computer arithmetic, Boole is regarded in hindsight as one of the founders of the field of computer science.



There was a better way to fly it was called Concorde
User currently offlineMoo From Falkland Islands, joined May 2007, 3947 posts, RR: 4
Reply 2, posted (6 years 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 2184 times:



Quoting Dougloid (Thread starter):

So....what do you think? Who owns the title? Is it premised on who set out the theoretical basis and the design, or who actually had a machine up and running?

It entirely depends on your criteria.

Three possibles that are normally noted in such discussions -

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colossus_computer

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ENIAC

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manchester_Baby


User currently offlineTransIsland From Bahamas, joined Mar 2004, 2046 posts, RR: 9
Reply 3, posted (6 years 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 2181 times:

This man deserves mention, too:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konrad_Zuse



I'm an aviation expert. I have Sky Juice for breakfast.
User currently offlineNAV20 From Australia, joined Nov 2003, 9909 posts, RR: 35
Reply 4, posted (6 years 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 2174 times:

If any one person can be said to have been the originator, Alan Turing gets my vote.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/turing/

http://www.turing.org.uk/turing/

Most remembered, of course, for the 'Bombe' and the 'Colossus,' which broke the German Enigma Code. Though 'broke' isn't quite the word; Polish intelligence first 'broke' it in 1939, but it sometimes took two weeks to decode a single message. Turing and hs team worked out the mathematics necessary to break it quickly enough for the information to be useful - and 'mechanised' the process.

Lovely story about Turing and his blokes - by all accounts they were a scruffy, weird-looking lot. The story goes that after Churchill visited them in their research establishment at Bletchley, he turned to the head of the Secret Intelligence Service and said, "When I told you to leave no stone unturned in recruiting people for this place, I did not expect you to take me literally......"



"Once you have flown, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards.." - Leonardo da Vinci
User currently offlineBaroque From Australia, joined Apr 2006, 15380 posts, RR: 59
Reply 5, posted (6 years 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 2144 times:



Quoting Dougloid (Thread starter):
One of my Anglo Australian colleagues says that the British invented the computer.

He points to the Bombe, a special purpose rig that was used to solve Enigma settings and thus decode Nazi commo as proof of the proposition. At least I think that's what he's doing....but it could be Colossus.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombe

No - one of your Anglo Aus perbodies was thinking of Colossus and you incorrectly assumed the Bombes were meant.

The Bombes were analogue mechanical machines, that later would be considered as specialized computers as they emulated (not a word in that use at the time) the Enigma machines. But the Bombes needed additional aids, commonly termed cribs to cut processing time.

The Colossus was designed around a different proposition, what if the Germans stop using Enigma or use a 5 rotor system or worst of all worked out that their procedures allowed cribs and stopped allowing cribs to be found. Colossus was designed to decipher without any hints as to the source of the code. It was electronic and programmable although programming was a touch laborious!

The Germans had an earlier machine that was programmable but electro-mechanical. It was Turing complete, Colossus was not but ENIAC in the US - 2 years after Colossus - was.

But Madame C is correct about the need for Boolean operations, and Babbage should be mentioned. If only he had known about electronics he would have had a working computer many moons ago.

Quoting Moo (Reply 2):
t entirely depends on your criteria.

Three possibles that are normally noted in such discussions -

Defintely correct!

Quoting NAV20 (Reply 4):
Most remembered, of course, for the 'Bombe' and the 'Colossus,' which broke the German Enigma Code. Though 'broke' isn't quite the word; Polish intelligence first 'broke' it in 1939, but it sometimes took two weeks to decode a single message. Turing and hs team worked out the mathematics necessary to break it quickly enough for the information to be useful - and 'mechanised' the process.

It is important to remember that the use of bombes was greatly helped by having cribs. These were commonly developed from weather reports. Also a tendency when the fourth rotor was introduced not to turn it from the previous position, thus limiting the number of combinations to be tested.

The German machine was pretty smart. All in all the success that the Allies had with German codes suggests that there was a problem in the German intell system. And to me, the most likely cause was an Admiral. But we will never know, just as we will never know who leaked a mass of German intelligence right at the beginning of WWII.

The England spiel suggests that when the Germans tried in Intell, the British came second.

Then again the same spiel worked well for the British too.


User currently offlineJetjack74 From United States of America, joined Jul 2003, 7410 posts, RR: 50
Reply 6, posted (6 years 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 2140 times:
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You're all wrong. Al Gore did. Oh wait, that was the internet.


Made from jets!
User currently offlineBaroque From Australia, joined Apr 2006, 15380 posts, RR: 59
Reply 7, posted (6 years 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 2136 times:



Quoting Jetjack74 (Reply 6):
You're all wrong. Al Gore did. Oh wait, that was the internet.

I will pay that one. Looks good for his age though!


User currently offlineMetroliner From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2007, 1067 posts, RR: 1
Reply 8, posted (6 years 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 2134 times:

My knowledge of computing is limited - but what about Babbage's computer, built sometime in the 1800s?

Quoting Dougloid (Thread starter):
So....what do you think? Who owns the title? Is it premised on who set out the theoretical basis and the design, or who actually had a machine up and running?

Without being too much of a smart-arse, I'd nominate the abacus as the earliest computer. It's been around since perhaps the third millennium B.C. (?) in Mesopotamia (I think).

Quoting Moo (Reply 2):
It entirely depends on your criteria.

Abacuses, like computers, can be used to solve relatively complex problems, and, like computers, they have an interactive input/output interface...  Smile

Toni



Set the controls for the heart of the Sun
User currently offlineGoldenshield From United States of America, joined Jan 2001, 6027 posts, RR: 14
Reply 9, posted (6 years 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 2131 times:

What about Charles Babbage? While the machine was big and unwieldy, it was accurate.


Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.
User currently offlineMD11Engineer From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 14026 posts, RR: 62
Reply 10, posted (6 years 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 2132 times:



Quoting Baroque (Reply 5):
But Madame C is correct about the need for Boolean operations, and Babbage should be mentioned. If only he had known about electronics he would have had a working computer many moons ago.

Don't forget Jaquard, who developed the punch card (for his automatic looms, but they were actually the first way to store machine readable digital data).

Quoting Baroque (Reply 5):
The German machine was pretty smart. All in all the success that the Allies had with German codes suggests that there was a problem in the German intell system. And to me, the most likely cause was an Admiral. But we will never know, just as we will never know who leaked a mass of German intelligence right at the beginning of WWII.

The German military had different levels of encoding. The enigma was normally used at the operational, tactical level. For really serious stuf the Germans used equipment like the Lorentz Geheimschreiber, an encoding / decoding teletype.
This was what Colossus was designed to crack (Project Ultra).
The three wheel enigma of the German army and Luftwaffe could be cracked using the Bombe (developed in Poland) . The Enigma had one weakness the Germans never realised:
The return wheel. Theoretically it doubled the number of possible permutations, but in fact it prevented a letter to be coded by itself. This gave the code crackers a starting point.
Then there existed sloppiness with the radio operators, who often tansmitted the same message twice, using different codes or routine stuff like weather reports contained standard phrases (which also included greetings like "Heil Hitler").

The four wheel enima used by the navy was more difficult to crack, since it had a much higher number of permutations, and the naval radio operators were more disciplined than their colleagues in the army or air force, but it still suffered from the same weaknesses.

Jan


User currently offlineDougloid From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 11, posted (6 years 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 2108 times:



Quoting Baroque (Reply 5):
The German machine was pretty smart. All in all the success that the Allies had with German codes suggests that there was a problem in the German intell system. And to me, the most likely cause was an Admiral. But we will never know, just as we will never know who leaked a mass of German intelligence right at the beginning of WWII

Enigma was also a homily on the evils of technological hubris, don't you think? There was a German fellow in Sweden ho forked over a lot of German G2 about the time you say. Also Canaris was as you say an enigmatic figure if I may be permitted a small pun.

I was incorrect about the bombe, a small mea culpa but that's all you get today.


User currently offlineBaroque From Australia, joined Apr 2006, 15380 posts, RR: 59
Reply 12, posted (6 years 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 2100 times:



Quoting Dougloid (Reply 11):
Quoting Baroque (Reply 5):
The German machine was pretty smart. All in all the success that the Allies had with German codes suggests that there was a problem in the German intell system. And to me, the most likely cause was an Admiral. But we will never know, just as we will never know who leaked a mass of German intelligence right at the beginning of WWII

Enigma was also a homily on the evils of technological hubris, don't you think? There was a German fellow in Sweden ho forked over a lot of German G2 about the time you say. Also Canaris was as you say an enigmatic figure if I may be permitted a small pun.

Not really tech hubris, unless it was that the technology meant that other issues were forgotten. They must have known how many of their own rules they were breaking.

However, I was not meaning the Enigma machine at that point but the German deciphering computer which was (also) electro-mechanical and programmable. That was along the lines of Colossus but was a couple of years earlier.

One thing we missed out of that was that Colossus would not have existed without that paradigm of government business, the POST OFFICE.

Who knows who did what to whom in the end. The Twenty Committee was about as cheeky as you could get given the Germans good classical education. All they had to do was write down 20, hmmm oh XX. Ahh now I know what they do. But the obvious can remain secret.

What was astonishing is that the Germans never figure out that the weather report was a weakness. No review, or if there was one, along fixed lines.


User currently offlineDougloid From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 13, posted (6 years 6 days 11 hours ago) and read 2081 times:



Quoting Baroque (Reply 12):
What was astonishing is that the Germans never figure out that the weather report was a weakness. No review, or if there was one, along fixed lines.

And the obligatory Heil Hitler too.


User currently offlineAirframeAS From United States of America, joined Feb 2004, 14150 posts, RR: 24
Reply 14, posted (6 years 6 days 9 hours ago) and read 2042 times:



Quoting Dougloid (Thread starter):
As a citizen of the great state of Iowa...

I thought you were living in France, hence your flag....

The first computer, I think, was created hundreds and hundreds of years ago by the chinese... didn't they have that bead board that is used for calculating numbers??



A Safe Flight Begins With Quality Maintenance On The Ground.
User currently offlineMetroliner From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2007, 1067 posts, RR: 1
Reply 15, posted (6 years 6 days 9 hours ago) and read 2040 times:



Quoting AirframeAS (Reply 14):
didn't they have that bead board that is used for calculating numbers??

An abacus?? Read my above post  Wink



Set the controls for the heart of the Sun
User currently offlineAirframeAS From United States of America, joined Feb 2004, 14150 posts, RR: 24
Reply 16, posted (6 years 6 days 9 hours ago) and read 2035 times:



Quoting Metroliner (Reply 15):

I missed that. Thanks. I didn't know it was called the abacus. Learned something new. Thanks again!



A Safe Flight Begins With Quality Maintenance On The Ground.
User currently offlineDougloid From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 17, posted (6 years 6 days 5 hours ago) and read 1999 times:



Quoting AirframeAS (Reply 14):

I thought you were living in France, hence your flag....

The tricolor is the closest thing to the state flag of Iowa. It is a tricolor with an eagle on it clutching a riband that says "Our liberties we maintain and our rights we will defend"

but I'm also something of a citizen of the world.


User currently offlineCadet57 From United States of America, joined Jul 2005, 9085 posts, RR: 30
Reply 18, posted (6 years 6 days 5 hours ago) and read 1994 times:



Quoting Moo (Reply 2):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ENIAC

That is what I was taught and assumed was the first computer.



Doors open, right hand side, next stop is Springfield.
User currently offlineMD80fanatic From United States of America, joined Apr 2004, 2660 posts, RR: 9
Reply 19, posted (6 years 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 1980 times:

The first computers were not machines, they were people....people whose profession was to compute. I heard a radio interview years ago with a man who was one of those computers. Very interesting. Theirs was the first profession to be eradicated by machines of the same name.

User currently offlineNAV20 From Australia, joined Nov 2003, 9909 posts, RR: 35
Reply 20, posted (6 years 6 days 3 hours ago) and read 1965 times:



Quoting Baroque (Reply 12):
What was astonishing is that the Germans never figure out that the weather report was a weakness.

I believe that, oddly enough, Enigma took so long to crack partly because the Germans used it for everything; not just 'Top Secret' traffic. So when it had to be done manually, the decoders might labour for many hours and then find that the message didn't say "Invade England tomorrow......" but instead said something like "Gefreiter Schulz has been excused boots for one week due to blisters." That was why high-speed electronic calculation was so desperately needed.


Quoting Cadet57 (Reply 18):
That is what I was taught and assumed was the first computer.

Easily established that ENIAC wasn't, Cadet57. From your link, development didn't start until 1943 and it didn't get into operation until 1947.

Colossus was in operation by 1943 and, according to this, ten versions were in service by 1945:-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colossus_computer

Point was, of course, that during the War Colossus was literally 'Ultra Top Secret.' Very few people even knew that it existed. Indeed, even the Americans very probably didn't know much about it until they entered the War. However, as an ally, US Intelligence would have been fully-briefed on the subject, and it's therefore not surprising that they began producing their own versions by 1943.

The same sort of thing happened with radar. Did you know that the radar set that first detected the Japanese air attack at Pearl Harbor was on loan from the British? And just about the only working one in the whole of the USA?



"Once you have flown, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards.." - Leonardo da Vinci
User currently offlineOldeuropean From Germany, joined May 2005, 2091 posts, RR: 4
Reply 21, posted (6 years 5 days 22 hours ago) and read 1922 times:

what about the Antikythera mechanism from 150 BC
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antikythera_mechanism

or Wilhelm Schickard, who built one of the first calculating machines in 1623.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelm_Schickard

or Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716), who may have been the first computer scientist and information theorist. (he also discovered the binary number system)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gottfried_Leibniz

or Konrad Zuse and his Z1 from 1936
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konrad_Zuse

and many more!

Axel

[Edited 2008-09-12 00:28:03]

[Edited 2008-09-12 00:36:32]

[Edited 2008-09-12 00:37:16]


Wer nichts weiss muss alles glauben
User currently offlineMD11Engineer From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 14026 posts, RR: 62
Reply 22, posted (6 years 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 1908 times:



Quoting MD80fanatic (Reply 19):
The first computers were not machines, they were people....people whose profession was to compute. I heard a radio interview years ago with a man who was one of those computers. Very interesting. Theirs was the first profession to be eradicated by machines of the same name.

Physics nobel price winner Richard Feynman described in his autobiographical book how he wrote algorythms for a whole hall of human computers during the Manhattan project and how the scientists, as soon as the first primitive electronic computers (actually banks of Hollerith / IBM punch card processors) were introduced in Los Alamos, discovered that you can write programs to play with them.

Jan


User currently offlineBlackProjects From United Kingdom, joined Jul 2007, 756 posts, RR: 3
Reply 23, posted (6 years 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 1884 times:

Iowa 1st Computer?!? Not.

The 1st Electronic Computer was Colosus which was Built by Mr Tommy Flowers and his team from the British Post office for use in breaking the German Enigma and then Lorenz Ciphers.

It was the worlds 1st Programmable Electronic Computer way ahead of the US in fact US Computing started when American Code Breakers got to work on the Several Colosuses at the then Secret Blechley Park Code Braking base which was Code named ULTRA!

A Video on YouTube Showing the Colosus rebuild Project.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8WXNPn1QKo

Baby the 1st Computer with RAM made at Manchester University England.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIaPWfEBVBc

The Babbage Engine Working.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCsBDNf9Mig&feature=related.

The Birth of the Home Computer age happened here in the UK not the US!

http://www.nvg.ntnu.no/sinclair/computers/computers.htm




 old 


User currently offlineMD11Engineer From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 14026 posts, RR: 62
Reply 24, posted (6 years 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 1882 times:

The problem is that ULTRA was only declassified in the 1980s, by this time history books had already been written. Though I wouldn't discount Konrad Zuse's work in Germany. His first digital programmable computer used electromechanical relays, but later versions (built during the early 40s) used electron tubes.

Jan


25 Post contains images NAV20 : Thoughtful observation, Baroque. Two 'celebrated' British inteligence coups spring to mind - both the work of Professor R.V.Jones, Head of British Ai
26 Dougloid : Hmmmmm? Tested in 1941 or 1942 beats prototype working in December 1943. It's not really important because what this discussion shows is that there a
27 NAV20 : Sorry, no, Dougloid mate. See post 20 above. Working (and arguably 'war-winning') in 1943 sure as hell beats working in 1947...........
28 YOWza : Kansas School board "God" YOWza
29 Dougloid : I saw that. It says the prototype was in operation in the end of 1943. Whereas the Berry-Atanasoff device was up and running in the summer of 1941. H
30 UltimateDelta : Yes, I think his was the first machine that you could call a computer. It was steam-powered, and as you say, it was accurate. But since it was so unw
31 David L : I assume that's a euphemism for "non-electronic", since the Difference Engine wasn't even steam-powered, it was hand-cranked, as far as I know.
32 Connies4ever : Great historical link ! Thanks. Yes, the Differencing Engine was the first machine that I might concede was recognizable in its' function as a comput
33 Post contains links Revelation : Dougloid, I am really impressed with your knowledge of electronic devices and computer history! Yes, it all does come down to deciding what kind of co
34 Dougloid : Hell, I ain't taking credit for that. It came from the usual source. But thanks for the recognition.
35 Post contains links NAV20 : Sorry, Dougloid, misunderstanding, thought you meant ENIAC..... The good thing about your original question is probably that there is no answer to it
36 Dougloid : It is an amazing technological development. I am not much of a visionary but I find it phenomenal that a device sitting underneath my desk can do so
37 Connies4ever : That takes me back ! Had one in the 50s and was able to listen to radio in bed as a kid -- not so good sound quality mind you. Succeeded by a Sony 8-
38 UltimateDelta : Nope. It really was steam-powered. Look it up, and you'll see it.
39 Dougloid : How about timing all those gears? Did Babbage ever actually build a part of the analytical engine?
40 DocLightning : Well, one issue is your definition of "computer." Most people today think of a computer as a "Turing Complete Machine," which if I understand correctl
41 NAV20 : Not sure that's always a good thing, Dougloid. In the hands of incompetents, too much information frequently tends to obscure, rather than reveal, th
42 Dougloid : A product of the acceleration of information is what my old man would hear about and say "Ahhhh! Brownian motion!" When I'd ask him to clarify, he'd
43 David L : His Analytical Engine, which came after the Difference Engine, was steam-powered. The earlier Difference Engine was hand-cranked.
44 NAV20 : Rather reminds me of the 'old bull/young bull' story which, according to my researches, is still told to recruits/conscripts in most branches of most
45 Dougloid : That's a universal observation that I heard from my old crew chief on one or two occasions. I think a more appropriate view of it is a cartoon I saw
46 NAV20 : The other side of the coin is probably the tale about a successful businessman who said:- "Funny thing is, as a kid I was always lousy at maths. Espec
47 Airlinelover : ROFL!!! That's what I was gonna say..
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