Dougloid
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Who Invented The Computer?

Thu Sep 11, 2008 1:50 pm

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?
If you believe in coincidence, you haven't looked close enough-Joe Leaphorn
 
MadameConcorde
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Thu Sep 11, 2008 2:09 pm

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.
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moo
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Thu Sep 11, 2008 2:22 pm



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
 
TransIsland
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Thu Sep 11, 2008 2:31 pm

This man deserves mention, too:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konrad_Zuse
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NAV20
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Thu Sep 11, 2008 2:43 pm

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......"
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baroque
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Thu Sep 11, 2008 4:20 pm



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.
 
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jetjack74
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Thu Sep 11, 2008 4:24 pm

You're all wrong. Al Gore did. Oh wait, that was the internet.
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baroque
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Thu Sep 11, 2008 4:27 pm



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!
 
metroliner
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Thu Sep 11, 2008 4:28 pm

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

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Goldenshield
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Thu Sep 11, 2008 4:32 pm

What about Charles Babbage? While the machine was big and unwieldy, it was accurate.
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MD11Engineer
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Thu Sep 11, 2008 4:33 pm



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
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Dougloid
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Thu Sep 11, 2008 5:07 pm



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.
If you believe in coincidence, you haven't looked close enough-Joe Leaphorn
 
baroque
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Thu Sep 11, 2008 5:33 pm



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.
 
Dougloid
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Thu Sep 11, 2008 6:33 pm



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.
If you believe in coincidence, you haven't looked close enough-Joe Leaphorn
 
AirframeAS
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Thu Sep 11, 2008 8:35 pm



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??
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metroliner
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Thu Sep 11, 2008 8:40 pm



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

An abacus?? Read my above post  Wink
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AirframeAS
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Thu Sep 11, 2008 8:47 pm



Quoting Metroliner (Reply 15):

I missed that. Thanks. I didn't know it was called the abacus. Learned something new. Thanks again!
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Dougloid
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Fri Sep 12, 2008 12:24 am



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.
If you believe in coincidence, you haven't looked close enough-Joe Leaphorn
 
Cadet57
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Fri Sep 12, 2008 12:39 am



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

That is what I was taught and assumed was the first computer.
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md80fanatic
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Fri Sep 12, 2008 1:29 am

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.
 
NAV20
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Fri Sep 12, 2008 2:50 am



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?
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oldeuropean
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Fri Sep 12, 2008 7:25 am

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]
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MD11Engineer
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Fri Sep 12, 2008 8:16 am



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
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Blackprojects
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Fri Sep 12, 2008 9:35 am

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 
 
MD11Engineer
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Fri Sep 12, 2008 9:42 am

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
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NAV20
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Fri Sep 12, 2008 1:38 pm

Quoting Baroque (Reply 5):
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.

Thoughtful observation, Baroque. Two 'celebrated' British inteligence coups spring to mind - both the work of Professor R.V.Jones, Head of British Air Intelligence in WW2, whose book 'Most Secret War' - still available on Amazon - is a must-read for anyone interested in the subject:-

1. Jones was asked to investigate agents' reports that the Germans had established radio stations on the French and Spanish coasts, providing 'fans' of directional radio beams by which U-boats homeward-bound from the Atlantic could fix their positions. He found that the reports were exactly true; but, in a classic piece of 'lateral thinking,' before doing anything else, he rang RAF Coastal Command (which was, of course, flying long dangerous patrols over the same area trying to find and attack said U-boats) whether a system of intercepting radio navigation beams covering the area, and giving them their exact position, would be of any possible use to them.  

"Coastal,' of course, said 'You bet! How soon can you give us it?" So Jones recommended letting the Germans get on with it, and just ordered the development of receivers by means of which the Royal Air Force - as well as the U-boats - could use the German beams. And followed up by providing them with further radio aids allowing them to intercept and read the U-boats' (Enigma-encoded) position reports....  

The basic system is in fact still in use today - it was the forerunner of what is now VOR (''Very-High-Frequency Omni-Range') navigation......

2. As he studied aerial reconnaissance photographs of the German radar installations being set up in 1941/2 in Holland and Belgium to resist the increasingly-destructive RAF raids, he was surprised to note that the Germans were installing not one, but two, Wurzburg 'dishes' at all the sites. He couldn't believe that the Germans had so much productive capacity that they could afford to establish 'reserve' radar sets in case one of them malfunctioned.

But the answer to the question was just as improbable - almost in the 'Believe it or not!' category. It dawned on him that the only practical answer was that the Germans had not cottoned on to the 'PPI' idea. PPI stands for 'Plan Position Indicator' - the glowing, revolving, screen that all of us are used to seeing (from experience or movies), giving the observers a clear ('plan') view of the whole area around the station, including all the plots within range. Previous (even Allied) radar displays had only shown the height and distance of each individual target on two separate screens.

So the Germans, for want of that simple idea, were setting up plotting stations with TWO radar sets - one to plot the bombers, and the other to plot the intercepting nightfighters. Which, of course, meant double the number of plotters, and double the number of controllers.......

And they went ON doing that, through most of the War. Jones' most urgent problem at the time was to organise an immediate ban on any filming or photographing of the screens in any Allied radar stations. Shots of 'PPI' screens had already been shown in newsreels and movies; it only needed one informed German to see a photograph and put two and two together and the Nazis could effectively have doubled their air defence 'capabilities' overnight........

[Edited 2008-09-12 07:07:49]
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Dougloid
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Fri Sep 12, 2008 1:38 pm



Quoting BlackProjects (Reply 23):
Iowa 1st Computer?!? Not.

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 are universal problems and universal languages to address these problems, and what you end up with is people all over the place working on the same problems and finding similar solutions, because that's what the environment dictates.

How's that? A chisel is a chisel is a chisel, no matter who thought it up. The problem and the solution are dictated by the physical environment.

Plus, as my old man once observed, people in a specialized field of work are generally very interested in what others in the field are doing, and they read all the published work in the field. Don't overlook reverse engineering, as in the case of ENIAC.
If you believe in coincidence, you haven't looked close enough-Joe Leaphorn
 
NAV20
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Fri Sep 12, 2008 2:00 pm



Quoting Dougloid (Reply 26):
Hmmmmm? Tested in 1941 or 1942 beats prototype working in December 1943.

Sorry, no, Dougloid mate. See post 20 above. Working (and arguably 'war-winning') in 1943 sure as hell beats working in 1947...........
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yowza
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Fri Sep 12, 2008 2:48 pm

Kansas School board "God"


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Dougloid
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Fri Sep 12, 2008 6:43 pm



Quoting NAV20 (Reply 27):
Sorry, no, Dougloid mate. See post 20 above. Working (and arguably 'war-winning') in 1943 sure as hell beats working in 1947...........

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.

Here's the stuff from the usual ultra reliable source if I may be permitted a small pun.

Defining characteristics of some early digital computers of the 1940s (In the history of computing hardware)
Name First operational Numeral system Computing mechanism Programming Turing complete
Zuse Z3 (Germany) May 1941 Binary Electro-mechanical Program-controlled by punched film stock Yes (1998)
Atanasoff–Berry Computer (US) Summer 1941 Binary Electronic Not programmable—single purpose No
Colossus (UK) January 1944 Binary Electronic Program-controlled by patch cables and switches No
Harvard Mark I – IBM ASCC (US) 1944 Decimal Electro-mechanical Program-controlled by 24-channel punched paper tape (but no conditional branch) No
ENIAC (US) November 1945 Decimal Electronic Program-controlled by patch cables and switches Yes
Manchester Small-Scale Experimental Machine (UK) June 1948 Binary Electronic Stored-program in Williams cathode ray tube memory Yes
Modified ENIAC (US) September 1948 Decimal Electronic Program-controlled by patch cables and switches plus a primitive read-only stored programming mechanism using the Function Tables as program ROM Yes
EDSAC (UK) May 1949 Binary Electronic Stored-program in mercury delay line memory Yes
Manchester Mark I (UK) October 1949 Binary Electronic Stored-program in Williams cathode ray tube memory and magnetic drum memory Yes
CSIRAC (Australia) November 1949 Binary Electronic Stored-program in mercury delay line memory Yes
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UltimateDelta
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Fri Sep 12, 2008 10:16 pm



Quoting Goldenshield (Reply 9):
What about Charles Babbage?

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 unwieldy, and to many insignificant, people forgot about it.
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David L
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Sat Sep 13, 2008 9:39 am



Quoting UltimateDelta (Reply 30):
It was steam-powered

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.
 
connies4ever
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Sat Sep 13, 2008 6:03 pm



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

Great historical link ! Thanks.

Quoting Goldenshield (Reply 9):
What about Charles Babbage? While the machine was big and unwieldy, it was accurate.

Yes, the Differencing Engine was the first machine that I might concede was recognizable in its' function as a computer, but of course was not electronic. Also responsible for the phrase "a bug in the machine", because at one time they found one gumming up the works.
Possibly apocryphal.

But by the start of WW2, several groups were racing to complete them.

Quoting MD11Engineer (Reply 10):
This was what Colossus was designed to crack (Project Ultra).

Yeah.. My late, great-uncle worked on this as a cryptanalyst. Occasionally in conversation he'd refer (but not in great detail) about his work at Bletchley Park. Must have been a hell of a circus of characters in those days. IIRC, he mentioned once that the Colossuses (Colossi ?) were reprogrammable on the fly -- as long as you knew what you were doing.
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Sat Sep 13, 2008 6:25 pm

Dougloid, I am really impressed with your knowledge of electronic devices and computer history!

Quoting Dougloid (Reply 29):
Name First operational Numeral system Computing mechanism Programming Turing complete

Yes, it all does come down to deciding what kind of computer you are describing.

Purely mechanical, like an abacus, or Babbage's machine
Electro-mechanical, with relays, like Zuse
Purely electronic

Decimal numbering (base 10)
Binary numbering (base 2), aka "digital"

Non-programmable
Non-stored program (programmed via switches and wires)
Stored program, seperate program and data
Stored program, unified memory

It would seem to me that the only thing we'd recognize as an instance of a true predecessor of the modern computer is the electronic, binary-based, unified memory computer, and the first implementation of that was EDSAC, although it was based on many ideas that became EDVAC several years later.

In one of those quaint British quirks, EDSAC's development was largely driven by J. Lyons and Co. which was a leading provider of foodstuffs in that era. As a result, they were the owner of the first commercially applied computer. Unfortunately they didn't have the resources to follow up their early lead in computing.

The Atanasoff–Berry Computer is electronc and digital but doesn't have a stored program. In fact it wasn't even programmable: it was designed for exactly one program, simultaneous solution of linear equations.

Colossus is digital and programmable, but not a stored-program computer either.
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Sun Sep 14, 2008 2:10 am



Quoting Revelation (Reply 33):
Dougloid, I am really impressed with your knowledge of electronic devices and computer history!

Hell, I ain't taking credit for that. It came from the usual source.

But thanks for the recognition.


 Wink  Wink  Wink
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Sun Sep 14, 2008 5:49 am



Quoting Dougloid (Reply 29):
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.

Sorry, Dougloid, misunderstanding, thought you meant ENIAC.....  Smile

The good thing about your original question is probably that there is no answer to it! From our respective researches, it's pretty clear that no one person, or organisation, or even country, achieved the whole 'invention' of the computer.

Interesting site here from the London Science Museum, which you'll note gives first mention to Babbage's 'Difference Engines' in the 1830s - almost certainly the first mechanical automatic calculators:-

http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/Search.aspx?keywords=clement

But what struck me most about the Museum's list was the mention of Clement Ader. I expect that few if any of us would dispute the fact that the Wright Brothers were the first to produce a practical powered aeroplane. But Ader was probably the first to produce an 'impractical' one that actually did fly a little - though not long enough to be worth going on with. Oddly enough, he was working under the same handicap that Babbage faced - the only practical source of mechanical power in their time was the steam engine, which was just too heavy and crude to do either job well.

So arguably the Wright Brothers owed a large part of their success to the inventors and developers of the internal combustion engine - and the 'inventors' of computers owed an awful lot to the people who put electrical power, in all its forms,'on the map.'

(If I'm allowed a momentary diversion - this being an aviation site  Smile - I suppose that a hero of mine, Geoffrey De Havilland, was the nearest thing to a 'complete' aircraft designer in the early days; he didn't just design and build his own aeroplane in 1909, and teach himself to fly it - being an engineer by profession, he was able to design and build the engine as well!).

I also found out that Turing had relatively little to do with the engineering side of computers. His (nevertheless very important) contribution, starting in 1936, was to analyse and communicate the sort of 'thinking' that a true computer would need to be capable of.

However, you'll have noted that his name lives on in the expression 'Turing complete.' That's a partly-theoretical concept - a machine that was designed and pre-programmed to be able to carry out any kind of calculation, on any required scale:-

"In his momentous paper "On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem"[14] (submitted on 28 May 1936), Turing reformulated Kurt Gödel's 1931 results on the limits of proof and computation, replacing Gödel's universal arithmetic-based formal language with what are now called Turing machines, formal and simple devices. He proved that some such machine would be capable of performing any conceivable mathematical problem if it were representable as an algorithm, even if no actual Turing machine would be likely to have practical applications, being much slower than practically realisable alternatives."

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

I understand that the phrase 'Turing complete' was subsequently modified to mean a machine that could be pre-programmed to carry out any computation, subject only to the limitations of 'storage space' for all the required programs. With that modification, the definition is still in use today.

Also according to the sites I've visited, the 1943 'Colossus' was not 'Turing complete,' since it wasn't programmable to carry out any sort of calculation - though some the nine other versions produced during the War may well have been (but subject to the Official Secrets Act). ENIAC was apprently the first recorded (and publicised) case of a 'Turing complete' computer.

Does rather cause one to examine the meaning of the word 'invent,' though. Does it mean the guy who had the original idea? In which case it was probably Babbage. Or the guy who first 'thought the thing through' and provided a 'roadmap' for others to follow? Which must surely have been Turing? Or the guy who first designed and built an efficent, working version? In which case it was probably Tommy Flowers, who built the first Colossus. Colossus failed the 'storage capacity' test of 'Turing complete,' but that may have been (probably was) because it was designed only to do the specific tasks most important in terms of winning the war.
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Mon Sep 15, 2008 2:53 pm



Quoting NAV20 (Reply 35):
The good thing about your original question is probably that there is no answer to it! From our respective researches, it's pretty clear that no one person, or organisation, or even country, achieved the whole 'invention' of the computer.

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 many things, that within my lifetime could not have been done with a warehouse full of power supplies and vacuum tubes.

The pace of information dissemination has proceeded to a point that It hardly seems possible to accelerate it. The first information revolution was popular literacy combined with movable type. The second information revolution was the development of high speed presses driven by steam and the dissemination of machine produced books and newspapers in the 19th century. The third information revolution was electronic-it started with Morse's telegraph, which makes the American civil war maybe the first war that was fought in real time, relatively speaking. The fourth information revolution was the development and popularization of radio, combined with the development of the Fleming/Deforest vacuum tube or valve if you will.

One of the earliest magazine ads for radio sets I've ever seen circa 1920 promoted them to farmers: "Want to know what the price of wheat is this morning? Buy a Radiola."

Radio brought information into every farmhouse and cabin in this country. I remember an old fellow I knew who'd heard the Dempsey Carpentier fight on a neighbor's radio set in 1920 or 1921 and it changed his life forever. He still had the first crystal radio he'd built, hand winding the coils and using a Quaker Oats cardboard container as a coil form.

Some have said that television was an information revolution but I do not see it that way. It looks more to me like radio with pictures.

But we're right in the middle of number 5, and we do not really know where it's going to lead.

There are several threads that tie the whole thing together-the development and proof of the math involved in computing, the self evident connection between a device capable of sorting out distinctions (as a diode valve is certainly a logic device if you want to look at it that way), the transitional phase of big lunkers like Colossus and ENIAC, and the reduction of printed circuit and transistor technology down to a microscopic level.
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Tue Sep 16, 2008 12:54 am



Quoting Dougloid (Reply 36):
He still had the first crystal radio he'd built, hand winding the coils and using a Quaker Oats cardboard container as a coil form.

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-transistor radio with a real imitation leather wrap on it. The height of technology !
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Tue Sep 16, 2008 1:50 am



Quoting David L (Reply 31):
assume that's a euphemism for "non-electronic"

Nope. It really was steam-powered. Look it up, and you'll see it.
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Tue Sep 16, 2008 3:31 am



Quoting UltimateDelta (Reply 38):
Nope. It really was steam-powered. Look it up, and you'll see it.

How about timing all those gears? Did Babbage ever actually build a part of the analytical engine?
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Tue Sep 16, 2008 6:09 am

Well, one issue is your definition of "computer."

Most people today think of a computer as a "Turing Complete Machine," which if I understand correctly, translates in English basically to a machine that, given infinite time and memory, could follow any algorhythm and complete any computable function.

(Don't confuse Turing-Completeness with the Turing Test, which is an interesting philosophical test applied to AI which states that a machine that can fool a human into thinking that the machine is a human is a truly intelligent machine.)

EINIAC was the first such machine.

Interestingly, I don't think the human brain would qualify as a Turing-Complete Machine.
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Tue Sep 16, 2008 7:19 am



Quoting Dougloid (Reply 36):
The pace of information dissemination has proceeded to a point that It hardly seems possible to accelerate it.

Not sure that's always a good thing, Dougloid. In the hands of incompetents, too much information frequently tends to obscure, rather than reveal, the essentials. My daughter (a lawyer) often has a 'moan' to me about the modern business strategy of the 'Friday evening email'; which, by adding lots of largely-useless 'further information' to a given question, effectively transfers responsibility for finding a solution from the sender to the recipient - for a few more days, anyway......  Smile

Different in my day, when we mostly communicated by means of carefully-written letters and reports, complete with a section at the end headed 'Conclusions and Recommendations.' Which were often actually posted instead of faxed.  Smile The ideal letters in those days were the ones where the recipient really only had to ring up and say, "Yes, OK, fine - I'll write and confirm." The big advantage in those days, in my view, was that everyone took time to think - and used it.

In light of recent events I wonder whether the current 1929-style financial meltdown possibly owes a lot of its genesis to too MUCH information and communication, rather than too little of either........not being able to see the wood for the trees.......

In other words, this one may actually have been caused by computers - in part, at any rate.

Quoting DocLightning (Reply 40):
Interestingly, I don't think the human brain would qualify as a Turing-Complete Machine.

I reckon that you're entirely right, DocLightning. But arguably the human brain remains a lot better than any computer at 'prioritising.'
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Tue Sep 16, 2008 1:22 pm



Quoting NAV20 (Reply 41):
n light of recent events I wonder whether the current 1929-style financial meltdown possibly owes a lot of its genesis to too MUCH information and communication, rather than too little of either........not being able to see the wood for the trees.......

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 say "Brown was a scientist who determined that atoms and molecules are in a state of constant flux vibrating back and forth, but that this was of no significance."

Then he'd say "A whole lotta heat but very little light."
If you believe in coincidence, you haven't looked close enough-Joe Leaphorn
 
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Tue Sep 16, 2008 1:36 pm



Quoting UltimateDelta (Reply 38):
Nope. It really was steam-powered. Look it up, and you'll see it.

His Analytical Engine, which came after the Difference Engine, was steam-powered. The earlier Difference Engine was hand-cranked.
 
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Thu Sep 18, 2008 10:51 am



Quoting Dougloid (Reply 42):
Then he'd say "A whole lotta heat but very little light."

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 of the armed services of most of the British Commonwealth; in various forms.

The way I heard it, two bulls were grazing in a field and the younger one said, "Hey! The farmer's left the gate open, and there are some cows in the next field. Let's dash down and screw a couple of them!"

The old bull chewed and swallowed his current mouthful, and said, "No. Let's finish our lunch, and wait till the farmer's sitting down to his. And then we'll WALK down.........and screw the effing lot........."
"Once you have flown, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards.." - Leonardo da Vinci
 
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Thu Sep 18, 2008 2:24 pm



Quoting NAV20 (Reply 44):
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 of the armed services of most of the British Commonwealth; in various forms.

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 in Hustler magazine a few years back that showed two sheep sitting under a tree observing the shepherd and conversing. The one speaking says something like "I'd call it even. He gave me AIDS but I gave him syphilis."

Apropos of the velocity of information I'm in mind of some recent television adverts for E-Trade, you know, the on line stock trading site that makes everyone a day trader in every market in the world?

There's one particularly offensive one where some aggressive nerd on a webcam says something like "Here it is midnight in Hoboken and I just bought a thousand shares of Cheng Dow Energy on the Shanghai exchange. That's in China, man. China."

If there were truth in advertising, this week's commercial would show the guy in the line for free government cheese saying "It's Thursday morning in Hoboken and I don't know how I'm going to pay my bills. That's busted, man. Busted."

Another thing that I'm reminded of is a cartoon that a friend had hung on a filing cabinet at work a number of years back. It shows a fat guy in a skimmer hat and overalls with a sign that says "the small investor" with a bucket saying "I'm going to milk me some of those excess profits" and the object of his intentions is a very large, very angry bull labeled "the stock market".
If you believe in coincidence, you haven't looked close enough-Joe Leaphorn
 
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Thu Sep 18, 2008 4:24 pm

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. Especially decimals and percentages and things. But once I got into business for myself I got the hang of it all very quickly.

"Simple, really. Not nearly as complicated as they make it out to be in school. Like, just today, I bought some shares for $1,000, and sold them a couple of hours later for $10,000.

"I've made that a rule, really - always look for at least ten per cent profit....."
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RE: Who Invented The Computer?

Thu Sep 18, 2008 5:58 pm



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

ROFL!!! That's what I was gonna say..
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