4406 entries. 94 themes. Last updated December 26, 2016.

1940 to 1950 Timeline


Glamorous Film Actress Hedy Lamarr Invents Spread-Sprectrum 1940

In 1940 Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr and her neighbor, avant-garde composer George Antheil, invented “frequency-hopping” transmission, now called spread-spectrum. The following year Lamarr patented "frequency-hopping" under her then-married name of H. K. Markey, and assigned the patent to the U.S. Government. This early version of frequency hopping used a piano-roll to change between 88 frequencies, and was intended to make radio-guided torpedoes harder for enemies to detect or jam.

♦ In 2011 historian and writer Richard Rhodes told this unusual story in detail in Hedy's Folly. The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World.

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NIMATRON: An Early Electromechanical Machine to Play the Game of Nim 1940

For the Westinghouse Pavilion at the New York World's Fair in 1940 nuclear physicist Edward Condon, then associate director of research at the Westinghouse Electric Company in Pittsburgh, designed and patented an electromechanical machine called the Nimatron to play the ancient mathematical strategy game of Nim. Condon and associates applied for a patent on this early special purpose electromechanical computer in April 1940, after which the machine was displayed at the World's Fair. They received U.S. patent 2,215,544 for "Machine to Play Game of Nim" on September 24, 1940. The first two images of the machine reproduced with the patent presumably show the machine as it was built. Other drawings in the machine are logic diagrams. The machine played 100,000 games at the fair, winning about 90,000. Most of its defeats were apparently administered by attendants to demonstrate that possibility. When the machine did lose it would "present its opponent with a token coin stamped with the words 'Nim Champ' "

In 1939 Westinghouse produced a 55 minute promotional film illustrating "the contribution of free enterprise, technology, and Westinghouse products to the American way of life." Entitled The Middleton Family at the New York World's Fair, it may be viewed here: 

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Benjamin Lee Whorf Asks "Does Language Influence Thought?" April 1940

In April 1940 American chemist, anthropologist and linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf published "Science and Linguistics," M.I.T.'s Technological Review, 42: no. 6 (April, 1940) 229-231, 247-248, in which he developed controversial ideas concerning linguistic relativity— the hypothesis that language influences thought.

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The Fitzwilliam Museum Exhibition of Printing: Precursor to "Printing and the Mind of Man" May 6 – May 16, 1940

Detail of cover of catalogue for An Exhibition of Printing at the Fitzwilliam Museum.  Please click to view entire cover of catalogue.

An Exhibition of Printing at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge was planned for May 6 to June 23, 1940, taking the year 1940 as the quincentenary of Gutenberg's invention of printing, just as had been done in 1840 for the quatercentenary, in 1740 for the tricentennial, and in 1640 for the bicentennial. Exhibitions of this kind normally require years of advance planning, but from the brief account in Nicolas Barker's Stanley Morison (1972) it appears that the prospectus for this exhibition was sent out only at the beginning of March, 1940:

"At the beginning of March a prospectus was circulated to librarians, members of the Bibliographical Scoiety, the Roxburghe Club, and others.

"Though more than half Europe is at present too tragically absorbed in the future of its civilisation to be able to pay much thought to its past, the five-hundredth anniversary of Gutenberg's invention none the less demands to be recognized. The conditions which make it impractical to hold a worthy exhibition in London are happily absent in Cambridge; and plans for stage here a modest tribute to Gutenberg's memory have developed into a resolution to make good the general deficiency with a major exhibition.

"The theme of the exhibition was then set out; a full representation of every aspect of human thought and action served by Gutenberg's invention; 'wherever civilization has called upon the craft of printing from movable type to promote its ends, there is subject matter for this exhibition'.

"The response for the request for loans was conspicuously prompt and generous. Nearly 100 lenders produced over 600 exhibits. . . " (Barker, op. cit., 376-77).

According to Brooke Crutchley, "The Gutenberg Exhbition at Cambridge, 1940," Matrix 12 (1992) 77-82:

"The decision to celebrate the quincentenary of Gutenberg's invention by holding an exhibition in Cambridge in 1940 was largely an act of defiance. The outbreak of war in September 1939 and the swift conquest of Poland were followed by an uneasy quiet in western Europe while armies lined up against each other in preparation for the battle that was to come. Meanwhile the Fitzwilliam Museum had sent its principal treasures to Wales for safe keeping, the windows of King's College chapel were boarded up, civilisation seemed to have been put on ice. An exhibition to show the contribution that printing had made over five hundred years, and would continue to make when the madness was over, might be seen as a challenge to the forces of destruction." 

As a guide and record of the exhibition, an unillustrated catalogue describing 641 items was published by Cambridge University Press and offered for sale for one shilling. On the cover was an emblem symbolizing Gutenberg's type designed by wood engraver Reynolds Stone.

The Foreword to the catalogue read as follows:

"There is no moral to this exhibition. It aims at portraying, as objectively as possible, the uses to which printing from movable type has been put since Gutenberg and his associates invented it five hundred years ago; the spread of knowledge more quickly and accurately than was possible before, the storing of human experience, the providing of entertainment, the simplication of the increasingly complicated business of living. Those books, papers, and other printing have been chosen (so far as the difficulties of the times would permit) which made most effective use of the medium of type; in other words, those which, composed and multiplied, most strongly influenced people and events. Others have been chosen for their illustration of events and trends of particular importance or interest; others again for their intrinsic curiosity as examples of the exploitation of print. All are shewn so far as possible in the original editions in which they were first presented to the world.

"The exhibition has been designed therefore to illustrate the development of man's use of movable type as a tool; its spread from Mainz through the countries of the world, through all the fields of knowledge, through the whole range of man's activities. Running through the story another theme presents itself and draws occasional comment--the development of the actual form of printing. The technical display deals with the old and modern methods fo type-founding and composition, and briefly illustrates the development of type design. That part of the exhibition is education; for the rest, though there is much to learn from it, it does not set out to teach. It is simply an illustration to that proud but unattributed saying: With my twenty-six soldiers of lead I have conquered the world."

Persons involved with organizing the exhibition and writing catalogue entries included writer on typography Beatrice Warde, antiquarian bookseller and writer Percy Muir, typographer John Dreyfus, writer and antiquarian bookseller John Carter, economist and book collector John Maynard Keynes, and scientist, sinologist and historian of science Joseph Needham. According to Sebastian Carter, "Printing & the Mind of Man," Matrix  20 (2000) 172-180, typographer Stanley Morison, typographic advisor to Cambridge University Press, was involved in the planning, but the bulk of the organization of the exhbiition was done by the Assistant University Printer, Brooke Crutchley, helped by John Dreyfus. The largest private lender to the exhibition was stockbroker (later intelligence agent), book collector and writer, Ian Fleming, who had pioneered in collecting influential books, or those which, in the words of Sebastian Carter, had "started something."

Among several innovative aspects of the exhibition was a display of books published in the year 1859, including, among others, Darwin On the Origin of Species, Mill On Liberty, Fitzgerald's Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, and Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management.

The catalogue did not appear until June 1940, after the exhibition had been closed on May 16, only 10 days after it had opened, because of war. It was reprinted in the following month. In my copy of the second printing the following statement appeared:

"As this catalogue was about to go to press, a sudden change in the war situation made it appear advisable to close the Exhibition when it had been open only ten days. The catalogue was printed off, nevertheless, so that copies might be sent to all who had helped and others be available for sale. The demand proved greater than had been expected, and this reprint was in hand in which a few errors and oversights have been made good."

When I originally wrote this entry for From Cave Paintings to the Internet on October 25, 2011, I had never previously seen a copy of the 1940 exhibition catalogue, in spite of my roughly 50 years experience in the world of books. Until reading the catalogue I was unaware how much this forgotten exhibition held early in World War II had influenced the 1963 exhibition, Printing and the Mind of Man. The overlap in choices between the 1940 and 1963 catalogues is significant, especially as Carter & Muir were heavily involved in both exhibitions held 23 years apart, and some of the same lenders, especially Ian Fleming, contributed notable items to both exhibitions. It would be useful some day to compare the selections of the two exhibitions carefully.  Before doing that I would observe that the organizers of the 1940 exhibition must have been well aware of the significance of Hitler's writings leading up to World War II, as they included the  February 24, 1920 Munich Auszug aus dem Programm der national-sozialistischen Deutschen Arbeiterpartei as item 620 in their exhibition, and Hitler's Mein Kampf as item number 623.

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Sealing of the Crypt of Civilization May 25, 1940

On May 25, 1940 Presbyterian minister and president of Oglethorpe University in Brookhaven, GeorgiaThornwell Jacobs sealed the Oglethorpe Atlanta Crypt of Civilization in a cermony broadcast on Atlanta's WSB radio.  It was intended to be opened on May 28, 8113 CE.

Modelled after a chamber in an Egyptian pyramid, the Crypt of Civilization was a subterranean chamber, twenty feet long, ten feet wide, and ten feet high. Among the many elements of the time capsule were  microfilm media (film and thin metal) used to store written information, recorded sound, and moving pictures in the capsule. Apparently little or no print on paper material was included even though by the time of the creation of the capsule there was already sufficient evidence that print on paper, or writing on parchment, had survived for several thousand years, while microfilm or microform media was new and untested for durability.

"In this room had been a swimming pool, the foundation of which was impervious to water. The floor was raised with concrete with a heavy layer of damp proofing applied. The gallery's extended granite walls were lined with vitreous porcelain enamel embedded in pitch. The crypt had a two-foot thick stone floor and a stone roof seven feet thick. Jacobs consulted the Bureau of Standards in Washington for technical advice for storing the contents of the crypt. Inside would be sealed stainless steel receptacles with glass linings, filled with the inert gas of nitrogen to prevent oxidation or the aging process. A stainless steel door would seal the crypt."

"Articles on the crypt in the New York Times caught the attention of Thomas Kimmwood Peters (1884-1973), an inventor and photographer of versatile experience. Peters had been the only newsreel photographer to film the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. He had worked at Karnak and Luxor, Peters was also the inventor of the first microfilm camera using 35 millimeter film to photograph documents. In 1937 Jacobs appointed Peters as archivist of the crypt." 

"From 1937 to 1940, Peters and a staff of student assistants conducted an ambitious microfilming project. The cellulose acetate base film would be placed in hermetically sealed receptacles. Peters believed, based on the Bureau of Standards testing, that the scientifically stored film would last for six centuries; he took however, as a method of precaution, a duplicate metal film, thin as paper. Inside the crypt are microfilms of the greatest classics, including the Bible, the Koran, the Iliad, and Dante's Inferno. Producer David O. Selznick donated an original copy of the script of 'Gone With the Wind.' There are more than 640,000 pages of microfilm from over eight hundred works on the arts and sciences. Peters also used similar methods for capturing and for storing still and motion pictures. Voice recordings of political leaders such as Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Chamberlain, and Roosevelt were included, as were voice recordings of Popeye the Sailor and a champion hog caller. To view and to hear these picture and sound records, Peters placed in the vault electric machines, microreaders, and projectors. In the event that electricity would not be in use in 8113 A.D., there is in the crypt a generator operated by a windmill to drive the apparatus as well as a seven power magnifier to read the microbook records by hand. The first item one would see upon entering the chamber is a thoughtful precaution-a machine to teach the English language so that the works would be more readily decipherable if found by people of a strange tongue.

"Thornwell Jacobs envisioned the crypt as a synoptic compilation and thus aimed for a whole 'museum' of not only accumulated formal knowledge of over six thousand years, but also 1930s popular culture. The list of items in the crypt is seemingly endless. All of the items were donated, with contributors as diverse as King Gustav V of Sweden and the Eastman Kodak Company. Some of the more curious items Peters included in the crypt were plastic toys - a Donald Duck, the Lone Ranger, and a Negro doll, as well as a set of Lincoln Logs. Peters also arranged with Anheuser Busch for a specially sealed ampule of Budweiser beer. The chamber of the crypt when finally finished in the spring of 1940, resembled a cell of an Egyptian pyramid, cluttered with artifacts on shelves and on the floor" (http://www.oglethorpe.edu/about_us/crypt_of_civilization/history_of_the_crypt.asp, accessed 04-22-2011). 

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The Design and Principles of John Atanasoff's ABC Machine, and What John Mauchly Knew About It August – December 1940

In August 1940 American physicist and inventor John Atanasoff at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, wrote a thirty-five-page memorandum describing the design and principles of the what came to be known as the Atanasoff-Berry Computer or ABC machine. This may be the earliest extant document describing the principles of an electronic digital computer. It remained unpublished until 1973.

In December 1940 John Mauchly met Atanasoff at the Philadelphia meeting of the American Association of the Advancement of Science. After corresponding with Atanasoff about electronic calculating, Mauchly visited Atanasoff in Ames, and read the 35-page memorandum on the ABC machine that Atanasoff had written in August. Mauchly would later incorporate some of Atanasoff's ideas into his design for the ENIAC.

Because of World War II, in 1942 Atanasoff abandoned work on his special purpose ABC machine when it was nearly operational. The machine was largely forgotten until interest in it was revived for the lawsuit over the ENIAC patent. As a reference on Atanasoff and the ENIAC patent case I recommend the Iowa State University Department of Computer Science website on Atanasoff. In December 2014 it was available at this link.

(This entry was last revised on 12-31-2014.)

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IBM Introduces a Typewriter with Proportional Spacing 1941

In 1941 IBM announced the Electromatic Model 04 electric typewriter, featuring proportional spacing. By assigning varied rather than uniform spacing to different sized characters, the Type 4 recreated the appearance of a printed page, an effect that was enhanced by a typewriter ribbon innovation that produced clearer, sharper words on the page.

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Borges' Universe as a Library, or Universal Library or Archive 1941

In 1941 Argentine writer and librarian Jorge Luis Borges published the short story La biblioteca de Babel (The Library of Babel) in his collection of stories entitled El Jardín de senderos que se bifurcan (The Garden of Forking Paths) in Buenos-Aires through the publishing house of Editorial Sur. 

In 1944 the entire 1941 book was included in his Ficciones (1944), through which it received much larger circulation. In 1962 two different English-language translations of The Library of Babel appeared: one by James E. Irby in a collection of Borges's works entitled Labyrinths and the other by Anthony Kerrigan as part of a collaborative translation of the Ficciones. A new translation by Andrew Hurley appeared in 1998 as part of a translation of the Collected Fictions. Hurley's translation of The Library of Babel was republished separately in 2000 by David R. Godine with reproductions of eleven etchings by Erik Desmazières illustrating Borges' text.

Borges' story of a universe in the form of a library, or an imaginary universal library, has been viewed as a fictional or philosophical predictor of characteristics and criticisms of the Internet.

"Borges's narrator describes how his universe consists of an endless expanse of interlocking hexagonal rooms, each of which contains the bare necessities for human survival—and four walls of bookshelves. Though the order and content of the books is random and apparently completely meaningless, the inhabitants believe that the books contain every possible ordering of just a few basic characters (letters, spaces and punctuation marks). Though the majority of the books in this universe are pure gibberish, the library also must contain, somewhere, every coherent book ever written, or that might ever be written, and every possible permutation or slightly erroneous version of every one of those books. The narrator notes that the library must contain all useful information, including predictions of the future, biographies of any person, and translations of every book in all languages. Conversely, for many of the texts some language could be devised that would make it readable with any of a vast number of different contents.

"Despite — indeed, because of — this glut of information, all books are totally useless to the reader, leaving the librarians in a state of suicidal despair. However, Borges speculates on the existence of the 'Crimson Hexagon', containing a book that contains the log of all the other books; the librarian who reads it is akin to God" (Wikipedia article on The Library of Babel, accessed 05-25-2009).

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The First Application of Electric Punched Card Tabulating Equipment in Crystal Structure Analysis 1941 – 1946

At the suggestion of Wallace J. Eckert of Columbia University, physical chemist Linus Pauling and associates at Caltech used IBM electric punch card tabulating equipment to speed up the Fourier calculations in crystal structure analysis in their researches. The first paper resulting from these applications was David E. Hughes, "The Crystal Structure of Melamine," J. Amer. Chem. Soc. 63 (1941) 1737-52. 

Prior to this Leslie J. Comrie had attempted to introduce IBM Hollerith electric punched card tabulating to speed up Fourier calculations in crystal structure analysis in England, but the method did not gain acceptance.

Applications of IBM equipment in crystallographic research continued at Caltech but the method was not published until 1946: Shaffer, Philip. A., Jr.; Schomaker, Verner; and Pauling, Linus  The use of punched cards in molecular structure determinations. I. Crystal structure calculations [II. Electron diffraction calculations], Journal of Chemical Physics 14 (1946) 648–658, 659–664.  The offprint version of the first paper contained a 10-page supplement with 5 full-age diagrams.

"Shaffer, Schomaker, and Pauling developed methods of carrying out Fourier calculations on IBM punched-card machines, using a Type 11 electric keypunch, a Type 80 electric sorting machine, and a Type 405 alphabetic direct-subtraction tabulating machine. This paper cites work as early as 1941 performed on the structure of various less-complex organic crystals using electric tabulation methods.

"The supplement to Part I of this paper, which was included only in the offprint version, provided additional information on card design, plugboard wiring and operating procedures. 'The time factor is in all cases greatly in favor of the punched-card method relative to summation procedures used in the past. Fourier projections which by the Beevers-Lipson method required several days of calculation can now be made in 5 to 7 hours. At the same time the density of calculated points is much greater and the accuracy of the computation is assured. The machine steps in the least-squares calculations require only a few hours, as compared to one or two days with use of an adding machine, and again the accuracy of the work is assured. With the use of parameter cards and the structure-factor files the calculation of structure factors can be accomplished in about one-eighth of the time previously required.' (p. 658). Most of the detail in the technique of data processing, including information on card design, plugboard wiring, and operating procedures appears in the supplement" (Hook & Norman, Origins of Cyberspace [2002] no. 879).

Cranswick, "Busting out of crystallography’s Sisyphean prison: from pencil and paper to structure solving at the press of a button: past, present and future of crystallographic software development, maintenance and distribution," Acta Crystallographica Section A Foundations of Crystallography A64 (2008) 65-87. (Accessed 04-20-2010).

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The Maltese Falcon Film Prop Sells for $4,085,000 1941 – November 25, 2013

On November 25, 2013 Bonhams in New York sold the iconic lead statuette of the Maltese Falcon from the classic 1941 film noir, The Maltese Falcon, directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, and Sydney Greenstreet for $4,085,000.  According to Warner Brothers, the auctioned statuette was the only figurine of two made for the film that appeared in the movie.

"The statuette, which sold for $4,085,000 at Bonhams, has a Warner Brothers inventory number etched into its base and bears the name of the film.

"The figurine ranks as one of the most expensive pieces of film memorabilia ever sold at auction, beating the $2 million (£1.2m) paid for Judy Garland’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz in 2012 and the £2.6 million ($4.1 m) paid for the Aston Martin driven by Sean Connery in Goldfinger in 2010.

"Dr Catherine Williamson, director of the entertainment memorabilia department at Bonhams, said: 'The spectacular price achieved reflects the statuette’s tremendous significance. The Maltese Falcon is arguably the most important movie prop ever, and is central to the history of cinema.'

"In the 1940's film noir, the statuette features as a ‘priceless’ work of art, which is the cause of several murders, and at one point changes hands for $10,000" (http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/maltese-falcon-sells-for-4m-at-auction-8964038.html, accessed 11-26-2013).

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Fritz Albert Lipmann Discovers the Process by Which Cells Make Available the Energy to Drive Their Manufacturing Processes 1941 – 1945

In 1945 German-American biochemist Fritz Albert Lipmann co-discovered coenzyme A (CoA) and its importance for intermediary metabolism. For this and other research on coenzyme A Lipmann shared the 1953 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Biology with Sir Hans Krebs.  In “Metabolic Generation and Utilization of Phosphate Bond Energy,” Advances in Enzymology 1 (1941) 99-162 illuminated “the process by which cells make available the energy to drive their manufacturing processes” (Judson, Eighth Day of Creation, 246-48, quote from p.  245).

(This entry was last revised on 06-10-2015.)

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The Nazis Destroy the National Library of Serbia April 6, 1941

In the German bombing attack on Belgrade on April 6, 1941 4000 people were killed, and more than 8000 buildings were destroyed, including the National Library of Serbia

"This building was built in 1832 and was the only national library attacked on purpose and destroyed in WWII. The entire fund, of 350,000 books, including invaluable medieval manuscripts, was destroyed. The library also housed collections of Ottoman manuscripts, more than 200 old printed books dating from 15th to 17th centuries, old maps, engravings, works of arts and newspapers, including all the books printed in Serbia and neighbouring countries from 1832 on. The fate of Serbia, i.e. the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, had been decided upon with a putsch and protests of 27 March 1941 against the Trilateral Pact, signed by the then government two days before. The protests infuriated Hitler, who, on the same day, decided that, besides Greece, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia should also be destroyed as a state" (Radio Srbija: http://glassrbije.org/E/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=10494&Itemid=32 , accessed 04-06-2010).

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Key Events in the Development of the First General Purpose Electronic Digital Computer, the ENIAC June 1941 – October 2, 1955

In June 1941 J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly met at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering, now part of the University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Science, and began discussions on electronic computing. In August 1942 Mauchly wrote a privately circulated confidential memorandum on “The Use of High Speed Vacuum Tube Devices for Calculating.” This was after he had visited John Atanasoff in Iowa.

With the goal of speeding up the calculation of artillery firing tables, on April 8, 1943  Eckert and Mauchly submitted a proposal to the Ballistic Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground, near Aberdeen, Maryland. Their proposal was entitled Report on an Electronic Difference Analyzer. By calling their proposed device an electronic difference analyzer Eckert and Mauchly tried to make the distinction between the electromechanical analog differential analyzer that the United States Army was using and the new electronic digital machine that would be developed. The proposal was submitted to army ordnance in May.

When the first contracts were signed between the U. S. Army and the Moore School, the name of the machine was changed to Electronic Numerical Integrator. Because Mauchly stressed that the machine could be used for more general problems, the device was called an “Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC).” Eckert was appointed laboratory supervisor and chief engineer on the project. Mauchly, along with Eckert, was put in charge of engineering and testing. On May 31, 1943 construction of the ENIAC started at the Moore School. The actual contract between the Moore School and the army did not go into effect until July 1. For security reasons, the understandable rumor that the project was a “white elephant” was promoted rather than denied.

In July 1944 Eckert had two accumulators of the ENIAC operational.

About May 1945 the ENIAC was completed and tested at the Moore School. With eighteen thousand vacuum tubes and weighing thirty tons, the ENIAC was about one thousand times faster than the Harvard Mark I, and 10,000 times the speed of a human computer doing a calculation. Programming the ENIAC was accomplished by time-consuming plugging of patch cords from buses to panels for each individual problem.

On November 30, 1945 Eckert, Mauchly, John Brainerd, and Herman Goldstine issued the first confidential published report on the completed ENIAC, discussing how it operated and the methods by which it was programmed: Description of the ENIAC and Comments on Electronic Digital Computing Machines.The report was published under the auspices of theApplied Mathematics Panel, National Defense Research Committee. In the spring of 1945 the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC) was becoming very interested in electronic computers, and mathematician Warren Weaver, head of the NDRC’s Applied Mathematics Panel, asked John von Neumann to write a report on the Moore School’s ENIAC and EDVAC projects. Von Neumann was unable to fulfill Weaver’s request, so Weaver assigned the task to John Grist Brainerd, director of the ENIAC project. Brainerd was eager to have the report appear under his name, but Eckert and Mauchly objected, since Brainerd was largely unfamiliar with the scientific aspects of the project. After some internal dispute, it was agreed that the report’s authors should be listed on the title as Eckert, Mauchly, Goldstine, and Brainerd. The report was issued with a “Restricted” classification and 91 copies were distributed to military, Office of Scientific Research and Development and NDRC personnel, as indicated by the distribution list on the inside front cover.

Although confidential progress reports on ENIAC had been issued in 1944, this report of November 30, 1945, was the first account of the completed machine. As stated in the title, the report contained a detailed description of ENIAC, the world’s first large-scale electronic general-purpose digital computer, as well as chapters on the need for high-speed computing machines, the advantages of electronic digital machines, design principles for high-speed computing machines, and reliability and checking. At the end are three appendices discussing ENIAC’s arithmetic operations, programming methods, and general construction data. This may have been the earliest published report on how the first electronic digital computer was programmed. Even though the ENIAC was not a stored-program computer its design and mode of operation involved numerous programming firsts The report also provided information on the planned stored-program EDVAC, which was then in an early design stage. For the three years between May 1945 and June 1948, ENIAC remained the only functioning electronic, general purpose digital computer in the world until the short-lived Manchester “Baby” prototype became operational in 1948.

 On February 14, 1946 the ENIAC was publicly unveiled in Philadelphia.

On July 15, 1946 Eckert lectured at the Moore School on “A preview of a digital computing machine.” He proposed replacing the three different kinds of memory used in the ENIAC (flip-flops in accumulators, function tables [read-only memory] and interconnecting cables with switches) with a single erasable high-speed memory—the mercury delay-line memory that he invented for this purpose. This was a key step in the development of a stored-program computer. In 1947 the ENIAC was converted into an elementary stored-program computer by the use of function tables. 

At 11:45 p.m. on October 2, 1955, after roughly ten years of continuous service, power to the ENIAC was disconnected for the last time at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, and the machine was retired. It was estimated that this single machine did more computation during the ten years of its operation than the entire human race had done up till the time of its invention.

Hook & Norman, Origins of Cyberspace (2002) No. 1107 and other entries.

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The "One Gene- One Enzyme" Hypothesis November 1941

In November 1941 American geneticists at Stanford University George W. Beadle and Edward L. Tatum published the results of their experiments with the bread mold Neurospora crassa. They concluded that ultraviolet light treatment somehow caused a mutation in a gene that controls the synthesis of an enzyme involved in the synthesis of the essential nutrient. They also showed that the defect is inherited in typical Mendelian fashion. 

"...Beadle and Tatum first irradiated a large number of Neurospora, and thereby produced some organisms with mutant genes. They then crossed these potential mutants with non-irradiated Neurospora.

"Normal products of this sexual recombination could multiply in a simple growth medium. However, Beadle and Tatum showed that some of the mutant spores would not replicate without addition of a specific amino acid—arginine. They developed four strains of arginine-dependent Neurospora—each of which, they showed, had lost use of a specific gene that ordinarily facilitates one particular enzyme necessary to the production of arginine" (http://www.genomenewsnetwork.org/resources/timeline/1941_Beadle_Tatum.php, accessed 12-22-2013).

Beadle and Tatum's experiments are often considered the first significant result in what came to be called molecular biology. In 1948 their collaborator at Caltech, Norman Horowitz, characterized their results as the "one gene- one enzyme hypothesis." Although the concept was extremely influential, the hypothesis was recognized as an oversimplification soon after its proposal. More accurately, it was later understood that each gene specifies the production of a single polypeptide— a protein or protein component. Two or more genes may contribute to the synthesis of a particular enzyme, and some products of genes are not enzymes per se, but structural proteins.

Beadle & Tatum, "Genetic Control of Biochemical Reactions in Neurospora," Proceedings National Academy of Sciences 27 (1941) 499-506.

J. Norman, Morton's Medical Bibliography 5th ed (1991) no. 254.3.

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Japan Attacks Pearl Harbor; U.S. Declares War on Japan December 7, 1941

Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 caused the United States to declare war on Japan. Within days Germany and Italy declared war on the United States.

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Norbert Weiner Formulates Communication Theory as a Statistical Problem 1942

In 1942, having collaborated with engineer Julian Bigelow, mathematician Norbert Wiener published, as a classified document from MIT, The Extrapolation, Interpretation and Smoothing of Stationery Time Series. According to Claude Shannon, this work contained “the first clear-cut formulation of communication theory as a statistical problem, the study of operations on time series.”

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Book-Form Publication of the Library of Congress Catalogue Begins: 167 Volumes Plus 42 Volumes of Supplement 1942 – 1953

Starting in 1942 the Library of Congress published in 167 volumes of reproductions of its printed card catalogue as A Catalog of Books Represented by Library of Congress Printed Cards, issued to July 31, 1942. (1942-46).

In 1948 LC published a 42 volume supplement, and in 1953 a 23 volume supplement.

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development [1984] no. 163.

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The Birth of Ecosystem Ecology 1942

In 1942 ecologist Raymond L. Lindeman, a postdoctoral researcher under G. Evelyn Hutchinson at Yale, published "The Trophic-Dynamic Aspect of Ecology" in the journal Ecology XXIII, 399-418.  This work was characterized by Robert McIntosh as the "birth of ecosytem ecology". Lindeman described energy flow in ecosystems in a form amenable to productive abstract analysis.

J. Norman (ed.) Morton's Medical Bibliography 5th ed. (1991) no. 145.67.

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Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics + the Zeroth Law March 1942

In the March 1942 issue of Astounding Science Fiction science fiction author Isaac Asimov introduced The Three Laws of Robotics in his short story "Runaround."  The Three Laws are:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

"These form an organizing principle and unifying theme for Asimov's robotic-based fiction, appearing in his Robot series, the stories linked to it, and his Lucky Starr series of young-adult fiction. The Laws are incorporated into almost all of the positronic robots appearing in his fiction, and cannot be bypassed, being intended as a safety feature. Many of Asimov's robot-focused stories involve robots behaving in unusual and counter-intuitive ways as an unintended consequence of how the robot applies the Three Laws to the situation in which it finds itself. Other authors working in Asimov's fictional universe have adopted them and references, often parodic, appear throughout science fiction as well as in other genres.

"The original laws have been altered and elaborated on by Asimov and other authors. Asimov himself made slight modifications to the first three in various books and short stories to further develop how robots would interact with humans and each other. In later fiction where robots had taken responsibility for government of whole planets and human civilizations, Asimov also added a fourth, or zeroth law, to precede the others:

0. A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm."
(Wikipedia article on Three Laws of Robotics, accessed 10-20-2013).
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"Waldo" : Imagining Remote Manipulators and TeleRobotics August 1942

In his short story, "Waldo," published in Doubleday's Astounding Science Fiction Magazine in August 1942 under the pseudonym Anson MacDonald, American science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein wrote about a mechanical genius who developed a device patented as "Waldo F. Jones' Synchronous Reduplicating Pantograph."

"Wearing a glove and harness, Waldo could control a much more powerful mechanical hand simply by moving his hand and fingers. This and other technologies he develops make him a rich man, rich enough to build a home in space. In the story, these devices became popularly known as "waldoes". In reference to this story, the real-life remote manipulators that were later developed also came to be called waldoes" (Wikipedia article on Waldo (short story), accessed 03-13-2012).

Heinlein's idea was extensively implemented in telerobotics used in surgery, space, etc.

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IBM's Vacuum Tube Multiplier, the First Complete Machine to Perform Arithmetic Electronically 1943

In 1943 IBM at Endicott, New York developed the Vacuum Tube Multiplier. This was first complete machine to perform arithmetic electronically. By substituting vacuum tubes for electro-mechanical relays it could process information thousands of times faster than electro-mechanical calculators.

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Key Developments in Jay W. Forrester's Project Whirlwind 1943

In 1943 Project Whirlwind began as an analog flight simulator project at MIT. About November 1945 the project switched from analog to digital electronics. Formal design of the machine began in 1947.

By 1950 Project Whirlwind was in limited operation at MIT as a general purpose computer. It was the first computer that operated in real time, with the first video display for output, and it was the first computer that was not just an electronic replacement of older mechanical systems. On April 20, 1951 Whirlwind offically began operation at MIT. Whirlwind I included the first primitive graphical display on its vectorscope screen.

In 1952 three-dimensional magnetic-core memory replaced electrostatic memory on the Whirlwind I, leading to increased performance and reliability. 

In 1954 programmers J. H. Laning and Neil Zierler developed an algebraic compiler for theWhirlwind I—the first high-level algebraic language for a computer.

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McCulloch & Pitts Publish the First Mathematical Model of a Neural Network 1943

In 1943 American neurophysiologist and cybernetician of the University of Illinois at Chicago Warren McCulloch and self-taught logician and cognitive psychologist Walter Pitts published “A Logical Calculus of the ideas Imminent in Nervous Activity,” describing the McCulloch - Pitts neuron, the first mathematical model of a neural network.

Building on ideas in Alan Turing’s “On Computable Numbers”, McCulloch and Pitts's paper provided a way to describe brain functions in abstract terms, and showed that simple elements connected in a neural network can have immense computational power. The paper received little attention until its ideas were applied by John von Neumann, Norbert Wiener, and others.

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MTAC: The First Computing Journal 1943 – 1960

In 1943 Mathematical Tables and Other Aids to Computation (MTAC), the world’s first computing journal, began publication in Washington, D.C. At this time mathematical tables prepared by human computers were the primary calculating aid. The journal reported new mathematical tables, and on the new electromechanical and electronic “aids to computation” as they were developed.

By 1960, reflecting the obsolescence of mathematical tables as a result of the development of electronic computing, MTAC changed its name to Mathematics of Computation.

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Luria & Delbrück Demonstrate that Natural Selection Occurs in Bacteria 1943

In 1943 Salvador E. Luria of Indiana University in Bloomington and Max Delbrück, then of Vanderbilt University, reported the first quantitative study of mutation in bacteria. They demonstrated via the the Luria-Delbrück experiment, also known as the Fluctuation Test, that mutational alterations in bacteria occur randomly and before exposure to exogenous mutagenic influences. They showed that natural selection applies to bacteria as well as to more complex organisms. 

Luria & Delbrück, “Mutations of bacteria from virus sensitivity to virus resistance, ” Genetics 28 (1943) 491-511. 

Judson, The Eighth Day of Creation, 37. J. Norman (ed) Morton's Medical Bibliography 5th ed (1991) no. 2526.1.

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Schrödinger's "What is Life?" "The Program has to Build the Machinery to Execute Itself" March 1943 – 1944

In March 1943 quantum physicist and theoretical biologist Erwin Schrödinger delivered a series of lectures at Trinity College Dublin entitled What is Life? The Physical Aspect of the Living Cell. These lectures popularized ideas about the physical basis of biological phenomena developed by Max Delbrück and N. V. Timofeev-Ressovsky in a paper they published in 1935. Even during wartime in England Schrödinger's lectures gained enough publicity to be reported on in the April 5, 1943 issue of Time magazine. The lectures were published  as a small book in 1944 by Cambridge University Press.  In this form they profoundly influenced James D. Watson and others, such as Francis Crick, whose background was in physics.

Watson wrote: "From the moment I read Schrödinger's What is Life I became polarized toward finding out the secret of the gene" (Watson in Cairns, Phage and the Origins of Molecular Biology, 239).

In his autobiography molecular biologist Sydney Brenner pointed out a fundamental mistake in Schrödinger’s understanding of how genes would operate:

“Anyway, the key point is that Schrödinger says that the chromosomes contain the information to specify the future organism and the means to execute it. I have come to call this ‘Schrödinger’s fundamental error.’ In describing the structure of the chromosome fibre as a code script he states that. ‘The chromosome structures are at the same time instrumental in bringing about the development they foreshadow. They are code law and executive power, or to use another simile, they are the architect’s plan and the builder’s craft in one.’ [Schrödinger, p. 20,]. What Schrödinger is saying here is that the chromosomes not only contain a description of the future organism, but also the means to implement the description, or program, as we might call it. And that is wrong! The chromosomes contain the information to specify the future organism and a description of the means to implement this, but not the means themselves. This logical difference was made crystal clear to me when I read the von Neumann article [Hixon Symposium, 1948] because he very clearly distinguishes between the things that read the program and the program itself. In other words, the program has to build the machinery to execute itself” (Brenner, My Life in Science [2001] 33-34).

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The Bell Labs Relay Interpolator, Possibly the First Electromechanical Computer to Run Programs in the U.S. September 1943

In September 1943 the Bell Labs Relay Interpolator (later called the Model II) was operational for the first time. Using programs from punched tape, the Relay Interpolator, which used 440 relays, was possibly the first electromechanical computer to run programs in the United States. 

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Von Neumann & Morgenstern Issue "The Theory of Games and Economic Behavior" 1944

In 1944 mathematician, physicist, and economist John von Neumann, and economist Oskar Morgenstern published The Theory of Games and Economic Behavior in Princeton at the University Press.

Quantitative mathematical models for games such as poker or bridge at one time appeared impossible, since games like these involve free choices by the players at each move, and each move reacts to the moves of other players. However, in the 1920s John von Neumann single-handedly invented game theory, introducing the general mathematical concept of "strategy" in a paper on games of chance (Mathematische Annalen 100 [1928] 295-320). This contained the proof of his "minimax" theorem that says "a strategy exists that guarantees, for each player, a maximum payoff assuming that the adversary acts so as to minimize that payoff." The "minimax" principle, a key component of the game-playing computer programs developed in the 1950s and 1960s by Arthur Samuel, Allen Newell, Herbert Simon, and others was more fully articulated and explored in The Theory of Games and Economic Behavior, co-authored by von Neumann and Morgenstern.

Game theory, which draws upon mathematical logic, set theory and functional analysis, attempts to describe in mathematical terms the decision-making strategies used in games and other competitive situations. The Von Neumann-Morgenstern theory assumes (1) that people's preferences will remain fixed throughout; (2) that they will have wide knowledge of all available options; (3) that they will be able to calculate their own best interests intelligently; and (4) that they will always act to maximize these interests. Attempts to apply the theory in real-world situations have been problematical, and the theory has been criticized by many, including AI pioneer Herbert Simon, as failing to model the actual decision-making process, which typically takes place in circumstances of relative ignorance where only a limited number of options can be explored.

Von Neumann revolutionized mathematical economics. Had he not suffered an early death from cancer in 1957, most probably he would have received the first Nobel Prize in economics. (The first Nobel prize in economics was awarded in 1969; it cannot be awarded posthumously.) Several mathematical economists influenced by von Neumann's ideas later received the Nobel Prize in economics. 

Hook & Norman, Origins of Cyberspace (2002) no. 953.

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Using Microforms to Conserve Library Space 1944

In 1944 American writer, poet, editor, inventor, genealogist, librarian and director of Wesleyan's Olin Memorial Library Fremont Rider published The Scholar and the Future of the Research Library.

In this unusually well designed and produced book for its time Rider detailed the increasing shortage of space in research libraries, and described how his invention of the microcard, an opaque microform, would help to solve this problem. He also claimed that American research libraries were doubling in size every sixteen years—an assertion later proved incorrect.

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Demonstration that DNA is Responsible for Bacterial Transformation 1944

In 1944 Canadian-born American physician and researcher Oswald T. Avery, Canadian-American geneticist Colin M. McLeod, and American geneticist Maclyn McCarty, at the Rockefeller Institute in New york, published "Studies on the Chemical Nature of the Substance Inducing Transformation of Pneumococcal Types. Induction of Transformation by a Desoxyribonucleic [sic] Acid Fraction Isolated from Pneumococcus Type III," Journal of Experimental Medicine 79 (1944) 137-58. The results reported in this paper demonstrated that DNA is the material responsible for bacterial  transformation.

In 1928 English bacteriologist Frederick Griffith demonstrated that Streptococcus pneumoniae, implicated in many cases of lobar pneumonia, could transform from one strain into a different strain. This phenomenon he attributed to an unidentified transforming principle or transforming factor.  In the years that followed a series of Rockefeller researchers, including Oswald Avery, continued to study transformation.

"Though interrupted, sometimes for years at a time, these studies were from 1928 onwards the centerpiece of Avery's lab agenda. Around 1940, they were activated by Colin MacLeod's efforts to purify the chemical agent responsible for changes of serotype — whether proteinnucleic acid, or some other class of molecule — and demonstrate that it was necessary and sufficient to cause the Griffith phenomenon. Studies on pneumococcal transformation were grossly burdened by a wide variety of variables, which needed to be controlled to allow quantitative estimation of transforming activity in extracts undergoing various stages of purification. MacLeod, over a number of years of research, had resolved several thorny technical issues to render the experimental system somewhat more reliable as an assay for biological activity. By the time McCarty arrived at the Rockefeller University, Avery's team had just about decided that the active reagent was not a protein. But what was it then? Could it be a soluble saccharide, RNA, or, least likely, DNA? The progress of this research over the next three years is beautifully described in McCarty's memoirThe Transforming Principle, written in the early 1980s.

"As purification progressed, exposure of extracts to crystalline RNase and to proteinase preparations helped Avery's team determine that the biological activity of extracts was not dependent on RNA or protein. Crystalline DNase was not available until 1948, but biological activity was rapidly reduced by tissue extracts rich in DNase. McCarty's arrival at Rockefeller University was also marked by another milestone, namely, the development of a diphenylamine reagent assay to positively correlate DNA with biological activity. It gradually became evident that the active material in purified extracts had astonishingly high potency in micrograms of DNA that could consummate the pneumococcal transformation in vitro.

"McCarty, MacLeod, and Avery wrestled with the standard of proof required to claim that they had accomplished pneumococcal transformation with highly purified DNA from extracts. After much self-inquiry, in 1944, they published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine that the active material was, indeed, DNA, bereft of protein or any other known polymer" (Wikipedia article on MacLyn McCarty, accessed 12-22-2013).

J. Norman (ed) Morton's Medical Bibliograhy 5th ed (1991) no. 255.3.

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Key Developments Concerning the ENIAC Patent, the Patent on the General Purpose Electronic Digital Computer January 29, 1944 – October 19, 1973

On January 29, 1944, while Pres Eckert and John Mauchly were working on making the ENIAC operational at the Moore School at the University of Pennsylvania, Eckert wrote a three-page typewritten document entitled Disclosure of Magnetic Calculating Machine. This confidential document, which was not formally published until decades after it was written, very briefly and generally described a theoretical electronic computer that would store its program and data in an electronic memory— a type of magnetic disc or drum. Years later the document was unearthed in the trial over the ENIAC patent, to show that Eckert had conceived elements of the stored program concept before John von Neumann wrote down and distributed a complete theoretical description of a stored-program computer in his First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC

Mostly likely von Neumann and Eckert and Mauchly developed the stored-program computer concept jointly— Eckert from the engineering side and von Neumann from the theoretical side. Because von Neumann first described the design of the stored-program computer, its architecture has come to be known as the von Neumann architecture. In October 2013 I viewed the copy of Eckert's disclosure posted on the website of the Computer History Museum. This copy included an informative cover letter sent by John Mauchly to Donald Knuth on June 22, 1978.

About eight months after Eckert's "Disclosure," on September 27, 1944 Eckert and Mauchly declared that their conception of the ENIAC was complete. Eckert wrote a letter to other members of the project asking them to state written claims to inventions on the project. None was received. Also in September 1944, faced with mathematical computations regarding the Atomic bomb that were impossible for human computers, mathematician and physicist John von Neumann visited the ENIAC two-accumulator system for the first time, well before the computer was operational, and became deeply interested in the project. This visit represented the beginning of von Neumann's interest in electronic computing. As a result of his research, on June 30, 1945 von Neumann privately circulated copies of his First Draft on a Report on the EDVAC to twenty-four people connected with the EDVAC project. This document, written between February and June 1945, provided the first theoretical description of the basic details of a stored-program computer.

On April 8, 1947 Eckert and Mauchly learned from a patent lawyer that John von Neumann’s First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC was a publication barring their patenting the ENIAC because von Neumann's report, which described the theoretical principles of the machine, was issued more than a year before they planned to apply for a patent. Nevertheless, that knowledge did not, however, deter Eckert and Mauchly from applying for the patent. On June 26, 1947 Eckert and Mauchly applied for the broad ENIAC patent, essentially a patent on the stored-program electronic digital computer. They based their description of the machine to a large extent on the government report they issued on November 30, 1945.

While the ENIAC patent was being applied for, on August 21, 1956 Sperry Rand, to whom Eckert and Mauchly had transferred their patent rights, agreed to cross-license patents with IBM, thereby turning over strategic technology. On February 4, 1964 Eckert and Mauchly finally received U.S. patent no. 3,120,606 for the ENIAC—a general patent on the stored-program electronic computer, roughly 18 years after their application. Sperry Rand Univac, owner of the patent, charged a 1.5 percent royalty for all electronic computers sold by all companies except IBM, with which it had previously cross-licensed patents. Since IBM manufactured the majority of computers produced at this time, the royalties on the patent were not as large as they could have been.

On October 19, 1973 Eckert and Mauchly’s ENIAC patent was ruled invalid in the case of Honeywell Inc. v. Sperry Rand Corporation et al, largely because of John von Neumann's prior theoretical description of the machine that was circulated in his First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC. and evidence that John Mauchly obtained some of his key ideas for the design of the ENIAC from John Atanasoff's report of 1940.

Norman, From Gutenberg to the Internet, 

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Repeated Dispersal and Eventual Burning of the Greatest Library in Poland October 1944

During the Warsaw Uprisingin October 1944 the German army destroyed the Załuski Library, the first Polish public library, and the largest library in Poland. "Only 1800 manuscripts and 30,000 printed materials survived."

The Zaluski Library was built in Warsaw from 1747 to 1795 by bishops Józef Andrzej Załuski and his brother, Andrzej Stanisław Załuski. After the Kościuszko Uprising, the Russian troops acting on orders from Czarina Catherine II looted the library and dispatched them to St. Petersburg, where it became a nucleus of the Imperial Public Library, now the National Library of Russia.

"Parts of the collections were damaged or destroyed during the plunder of the library and the subsequent transport. According to the historian Joachim Lelewel, the Zaluskis' books, 'could be bought at Grodno by the basket'."

"The collection was subsequently dispersed among several Russian libraries. Some parts of the Zaluski collection came back to Poland on three separate dates: 1842, 1863.In the 1920s, in the aftermath of the Polish-Soviet War and the Treaty of Riga the Soviet Union government returned around 50,000 items from the collection to Poland" (Wikipedia article on the Zaluski Library, accessed 12-02-2008).

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The Fastest Digital Calculators in the U.S. December 1944

In December 1944 IBM produced the Pluggable Sequence Relay Calculator (PSRC) for the United States Army at Aberdeen Proving Ground. This special-purpose punched-card calculator, developed for calculating artillery firing trajectories, was capable of performing a sequence of up to fifty arithmetic steps.

For the rest of the war these punched-card calculators, programmed with plug boards, remained the fastest digital calculators in the United States.

“These are the fastest relay calculators in operation; they perform six multiplications a second together with a great deal of addition, subtraction, reading, writing and consulting tables. They are not as elaborate as the Sequence Calculator at Harvard in that they have less storage capacity and less sequencing facilities; however, they are about twenty times as fast. Consequently, for those problems which can be handled in this way, they will do in one day what the Sequence Calculator will do in twenty days” (W.J. Eckert, 1947).

Because the ENIAC did not become operational until 1945, and stored-program computers following the EDVAC design were a later development, the PSRC has sometimes been called "the missing link between punched card equipment and stored program computers."

"As late as 1947, the Aberdeen machines still had the fastest calculating unit in existence. Their basic operations included addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, square root, and column shift. These were the first punched-card machines to support division and square root. There were 36 storage and computing registers, and certain parallel processing capabilities, including the ability to read and process four input card streams simultaneously."

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The Use of Telegraphy Peaks in the U.S. 1945

In 1945 use of telegraphy peaked in the United States with the transmission of "236,169,000,000" messages during that year, presumably because this was the year in which so many soldiers returned home from World War II.

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Communication Theory of Secrecy Systems 1945 – 1949

Claude Shannon's report, originally issued as a classified document entitled A Mathematical Theory of Cryptography, Memorandum MM 45-110-02, September 1, 1945, was formally published in 1949 as "Communication Theory of Secrecy Systems" in Bell System Technical Journal, 28 (1949)  656–715.  This paper, discussing cryptography from the viewpoint of information theory, contained a proof that all theoretically unbreakable ciphers must have the same requirements as the one-time pad.

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The Hinman Collator 1945 – 1949

Between 1945 and 1949 Shakespeare scholar Charlton Hinman developed the Hinman Collator, a mechanical device for the visual comparison of different copies of the same printed text. By 1978, when the last machine was manufactured, around fifty-nine had been acquired by libraries, academic departments, research institutes, government agencies, and a handful of pharmaceutical companies. Though built for the study of printed texts and used primarily for the creation of critical editions of literary authors, the Hinman Collator was also employed in other projects where the close comparison of apparently identical images is required: from the study of illustrations to the examination of watermarks to the detection of forged banknotes. 

"Hinman's invention greatly increased not only the speed at which texts could be compared but also the effectiveness of such comparisons, and it made collation on a large scale possible for the first time. The most famous use of the machine was by its inventor and resulted in his Printing and Proof-reading of the First Folio of Shakespeare (1963) and the Norton facsimile of the First Folio (1968). Hinman estimated that without the aid of his machine, the research for these projects would have taken over forty years. Without the collator, as he himself recognized, his study would have been a "practical impossibility", as would have the work of the many scholars who compiled dozens of bibliographies, produced hundreds of volumes of critical editions, and undertook countless bibliographical and textual investigations on his machine over the next five decades.

"The purpose of the machine for which he was seeking a patent was straightforward and grew directly from the needs of his research. During the Renaissance, the period of his specialty, books were proofread and corrected continually during the printing process, and early uncorrected sheets were commonly bound up with corrected ones from later in the print run. Thus the printed matter in the last book sold could, and usually did, differ substantially from that of the first, as it also could and quite often did from nearly every other copy in the printing. These variations are precisely the details the collator was developed to help detect. The operation of the device Hinman would eventually build was also straightforward. The operator sets up one book turned to a particular page on a platform on one side of the machine and another copy from the same printing turned to the same page on a platform on the other. He or she then views these items, which are superimposed via a set of mirrors, through a pair of binocular optics. After making adjustments to bring the two objects into registration, the operator activates a system of lights that alternately illuminates each page. If the pages are identical, they more or less appear as one; if they are not identical, the points of difference are called to the operator's eye by appearing to dance or wiggle about" (Smith, " 'The Eternal Verities Verified': Charlton Hinman and The Roots of Mechanical Collation," Studies in Bibliography, Vol. 53 [2000] includes images of the machines). 

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The Initial Interrogations of the Nazi Rocket Team and the First Publication Outside of Nazi Germany of Rocketry Research at Peenemunde East 1945

In 1945, after the end of World War II, the Research and Intelligence Branch of the U. S. Army Forces in the Branch European Theatre issued a secret report entitled The story of Peenemünde or what might have been [cover title; title-page reads “Peenemünde east, through the eyes of 500 detained at Garmisch”]. After the classification was reduced from "Secret" to "Restricted" they issued a few copies of this 749-page collection of reports reproduced from typescript. The report included numerous halftone reproductions of photographs, and diagrams. The punched sheets were held together by metal clips. The front wrapper was illustrated with an aerial photograph of Peenemünde.

Compiled by the U. S. Army between May and September 1945, describing rocketry research conducted by the Nazi regime between 1937 and 1945 at Peenemünde East, this document marks the first account published outside of Nazi Germany of the rocketry program conducted at Peenemünde East. The Story of Peenemünde is also the first document to record the transfer of German rocketry technology to the United States as part of what came to be known as Operation Paperclip, which culminated in the development of America’s space program, and advanced missile weapons systems, and helped transform the United States into a global superpower. Many historians have stated that had the United States not essentially smuggled the Rocket Team into the U.S., the United States might have fallen behind drastically in the post war arms race.

The document consists of 118 separate reports, including transcripts of the U.S. Army’s original interrogations of key German rocket scientists at Garmisch, Germany, and heavily illustrated plans of various advanced rocket designs, guidance systems, etc., which only appeared in print in this form. The quality of typescript and printing varies considerably throughout, indicating a rushed, relatively non-professional production. When we checked in February 2013 OCLC cited seven copies of The Story of Peenemünde in libraries, five of which were U.S. government institutions (Naval Postgraduate School, U.S. Air Force Academy, Smithsonian Institution, Combined Arms Res. Library, U. S. Army Heritage and Education Center); the remaining two were the University of Illinois and the University of Alabama at Huntsville, the city close to the Redstone Arsenal where the Wernher von Braun and the Nazi Rocket Team were eventually based in the U. S. 

In the final years of World War II the Peenemünde East facility developed the V-2 rocket, the world’s first long-range supersonic combat-ballistic missile. Under the guidance of Wernher von Braun, head of Peenemünde’s scientific and engineering team, the Peenemünde rocketry group also worked on several other pioneering designs including the Wasserfall surface-to-air antiaircraft missile and the A-9 intercontinental ballistic missile, both of which were still under development at the war’s end (the Nazis planned to use the A-9 to attack the United States). The Nazi rocketry program was at least a generation more advanced than anything developed by the Allied Forces, and when the American military learned of it in 1943 they immediately started a project to study the V-2 and to capture the people who had designed it.

As for the Peenemünde team, when it became clear that the Allies would defeat Germany, General Dornberger and Wernher von Braun “decided it would be best to seek out the Americans, particularly as they wanted to continue working on rockets after the war. It looked as though the Red Army would reach Peenemünde first. Surrendering to the Soviets was never an option, and they knew that the British and French could not afford a major post-war rocket program. They concluded their best opportunity to continue building large rockets would be in America” (Kennedy, p. 25).

On May 2, 1945 the Peenemünde group surrendered to the American 44th Infantry division. Shortly afterwards the Americans seized about 100 V-2 rockets, which were eventually shipped to the proving ground in White Sands, New Mexico to form the basis of America’s new rocketry program; they also captured the entire Peenemünde archive of scientific and engineering documents (totaling nearly 14 tons), and drew up a list of key German rocket personnel to be found and interrogated. This was the start of the American intelligence project that became famous under the name of Operation Paperclip, which was responsible for bringing von Braun, Dornberger and over one hundred other German rocketry experts to the United States. The Story of Peenemünde dates from the very beginning of this operation, when captured German rocket scientists were still being held and interrogated at the U.S. military garrison at Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Bavaria. Among the 118 separate documents, mostly in English but with a few in German, are:

• Interrogations conducted by U.S. Army Intelligence of key Nazi scientific and engineering personnel, including Walter Dornberger (director of Peenemünde East), and Wernher von Braun, both of whom played critical roles in the creation of the U.S. rocketry and space programs

• Illustrated plans for the Wasserfall surface-to-air antiaircraft missile and the A-9 intercontinental ballistic missile, taken from the Peenemünde archives

• Accounts of rocket components, guidance systems, and liquid and solid fuels

• Ballistics reports

• Description of the Peenemünde wind tunnel—then the largest supersonic wind tunnel in the world—and wind tunnel experiments along with other documents crucial to the establishment of America’s postwar rocketry and space programs. The separately printed mimeographed index indicates that these materials were brought to Washington by “Colonel McCoy”; i.e. Col. Howard McCoy, head of the Air Documents Research Center, which was responsible for translating, cataloguing and indexing captured German documents.

Kennedy, The Rockets and Missiles of White Sands Proving Ground, 1945-1958, pp. 24-26. Neufeld, The Rocket and the Reich, p. 346 (bibliographical citation). Ordway & Sharpe, The Rocket Team, chs. 4-5, p. 294 (bibliographical citation). Von Braun, Ordway & Dooling, Space Travel: A History, pp. 114-118.

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An Antiquarian Bookseller Predicts an Alternative to the Printed Codex 1945

In June 2013 American antiquarian bookseller Donald "Rusty" Mott reminded our ABAA chatline that in 1945 the imaginative English antiquarian bookseller Percy H. Muir in his book, Book-Collecting as a Hobby, in a Series of Letters to Everyman (1945) predicted, in a somewhat dystopian fashion, the eventual development of an alternative to the printed codex. From the online version of Muir's book made available by Hathitrust.org, I quote the relevant passage on pp. 172-173:

"I have tried to show you that the first fifty years of printing established all the essentials of the craft, that the ensuing three hundred years or so were spent in perfecting and developing the potentialities of the invention, and that the last hundred years or so have revolutionized it out of all knowledge. Probably little remains to be done to the book as we know it beyond the perfection of detail. . . .

"Is there any future beyond that? Will the reading matter of the future resemble our printed books as little as they resemble the clay tablets of the Assyrians? Probably, and if so, it will be along the lines of greater portability and cheapness. These two things have dominated the evolution of books since the beginning, and it would be idle to suggest that the limits of that evolution have been reached.

"The flood of inventiveness that is already flowing will not leave books as they are. I will venture few predictions except to suggest that in the future books will remain largely visual. There is, in my opinion, no general future for the talking book. It may be, of course, that a new kind of conditioned reflex will arise as a result of broadcasting. More and more people seem to find a radio background essential to their daily lives. In many households the radio is switched on all day. People tend increasingly to overhear rather than to listen to radio programs. The housewife welcomes music while she works, and may equally welcome the reading aloud of a novel while she knits or sews—with headphones, we may hope. It may be, therefore, that a cheap method of supplying talking books with a circulating library as the obvious method of distributing the records will find a larger audience than I anticipate.

"But such a method would obviously supplement rather than supplant the printed book. It is much more likely that some development of photography will supplant typography in the production of at any rate some kinds of books. An extension of the use of microfilm with a simple miniature form of illumination, coupled with a magnifier and perhaps a 'proto-book' on to the blank pages of which the miniature slides would be projected may be already on the way.

"On the brink of such horrors I take my leave of you, dear Everyman, to plunge nostalgically into the pleasant waters of the past."

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"From Script to Print. An Introduction to Medieval Literature" 1945

In July 2014, just about the time that I celebrated my 69th birthday, I found a reference online to the 1945 book by H. J. Chaytor, From Script to Print. An Introduction to Medieval Literature. At the time of publication Chaytor was Master of St. Catharine's College, Cambridge. As readers of my "About the Database" may know, HistoryofInformation.com began as an effort to understand and compare the transition from print to electronic information in our time with the transition from manuscript to print in the second half of the fifteenth century. This topic became a focus of my reading since about 2003, and I was surprised to learn that there was a relatively early study in English touching on the fifteenth century transition that was previously unknown to me. So, as is my habit, I obtained a copy of Chaytor's relatively short book of 156 pages, which remained in print from Cambridge University Press.

I did not hear of Chaytor's work previously because it was probably not cited in the standard works on the book history of the fifteenth century since it is primarily a study of medieval literature, especially that of the French troubadour. Rather than focusing on the standard issues that concern book historians of the period, Chaytor was primarily interested in the effect of printing on aspects of French literature. Because he was interested in a class of literature that was primarily performed orally to an audience that was primarily illiterate, rather than written, he did not discuss the medieval manuscript tradition in ways familar to the book historian. Instead he concentrated on the difference between a literature distributed and published orally through "performance" during the medieval period prior to print, and a literature published and understood, after the introduction of printing, by an increasingly literate audience, through the reading of printed books.  As Chaytor put it toward the end of his introduction, p. 4:

"In short, the history of the progress from script to print is a history of the gradual substitution of visual for auditory methods of communicating and receiving ideas." 

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Bombing of Dresden Destroys Books and Manuscripts February – March 1945

With the onset of World War II, the most precious holdings of the Sächsische Landesbibliothek at Dresden were dispersed to eighteen castles and offices. As a result they largely survived the bombing raids of February and March 1945 on this major industrial center by the British and American Air Forces.

However, the raids destroyed the former library buildings and virtually the whole historic center of Dresden— with losses of about 200,000 volumes of twentieth-century manuscript and printed holdings. The losses included  irreplaceable musical manuscripts, including the major corpus of Tomasso Albinoni's unpublished music, though Georg Philipp Telemann's manuscripts were preserved. After the war, some 250,000 books from the library were taken to Russia.

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The Collapse of the Third Reich is Followed by VE Day April 27, 1945

The collapse of the Third Reich occurred after the meeting of Western and Russian armies at Torgau in Saxony on April 27, 1945. Less than two weeks later unconditional surrender of Germany took place on "Victory in Europe" (VE) Day, May 8, 1945.

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Von Neumann Privately Circulates the First Theoretical Description of a Stored-Program Computer June 30, 1945

On June 30, 1945 mathematician and physicist John von Neumann of Princeton privately circulated copies of his First Draft on a Report on the EDVAC to twenty-four people connected with the EDVAC project. This document, written between February and June 1945, provided the first theoretical description of the basic details of a stored-program computer—what later became known as the Von Neumann architecture.

To avoid the government's security classification, and to avoid engineering problems that might detract from the logical considerations under discussion, von Neumann avoided mentioning specific hardware. Influenced by Alan Turing and by Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitts, von Neumann patterned the machine to some degree after human thought processes.

In November 2013 the text of von Neumann's report was available at this link

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World War II Ends September 2, 1945

The surrender of Japan on September 2, 1945 marked the end of World War II.

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The First Use of "Bug" in the Context of Computing September 9, 1945

On September 9, 1945 Grace Hopper, testing Aiken’s Harvard Mark II Relay Calculator, found that a large dead moth, trapped between points at Relay #70, Panel F,  caused the relay to fail. She removed the bug and entered the dead insect into a log book with the note, "First actual case of bug being found." This was first use of the term “bug” within the context of computing, and also perhaps the origin of the concept of “debugging” within the context of computing.

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The First Engineering Report on the EDVAC September 30, 1945

On September 30, 1945 J. Presber Eckert and John Mauchly published Automatic High-Speed Computing. A Progress Report on the EDVAC.  Parts 5,6, and 7 of the report were written by Harry Huskey. This report, written from the engineering point of view, was the first detailed report on the EDVAC published after John von Neumann's theoretical First Draft of the Report on the EDVAC, which had been published on June 30, 1945. 

In their Acknowledgments to the report published by the Moore School at the University of Pennsylvania Eckert & Mauchly credited Arthur Burks, Herman Goldstine and "especially Dr. John von Neumann" for their participation in "discussions of EDVAC plans." Eckert and Mauchly's confidential report was issued in only 50 copies.

Notably in the "Historical Comments" beginning the report Eckert and Mauchly referred to Eckert's unpublished 1944 memorandum, Disclosure of Magnetic Calculating Machine, and indicated that they planned to use the delay line memory that Eckert had recently invented instead of any type of magnetic disk or drum to which the 1944 "disclosure" alluded. When Eckert and Mauchly left the Moore School to start their own business, the Electronic Control Company, to commercialize electronic computers, they used Eckert's delay line memories on their first products, the BINAC and the UNIVAC.

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Turing's Main Hardware Design After World War II, the Automatic Computing Engine (ACE) Circa October 1945 – February 20, 1947

About October 1945 Alan Turing arrived at the National Physical Laboratory,Teddington, England, to work on the Automatic Computing Engine (ACE). There Turing prepared a typed proposal, “Proposed electronic calculator,” outlining the development of the ACE. In February 2012 Turing's report could be read at the Turing Digital Archive, at this link: http://www.turingarchive.org/browse.php/C/32.

In a lecture on February 20, 1947 to the London Mathematical Society that remained unpublished until 1986 Turing stated that “digital computing machines such as the ACE. . . are in fact practical versions of the universal machine,” i.e. the Turing machine.

(This entry was last revised on 12-31-2014.)

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Arthur C. Clarke Predicts Communication by Geosynchronous Satellites October 1945

In October 1945 British science fiction writer and futurist Arthur C. Clarke published "Extra-Terrestrial Relays: Can Rocket Stations Give World-wide Radio Coverage?," Wireless World (October 1945) 205-308. In article Clarke envisaged a group of three manned space stations arranged in a triangle around the earth, launched by versions of the German V-2 (A4), or the larger planned, but not constructed, German A10 intercontinental ballistic missile.

The idea of satellites in geostationary orbit was first proposed by Herman Potočnik in his 1929 book issed in Berlin, Das Problem der Befahrung des Weltraums - der Raketen-Motor. Clarke cited this work as a reference in his 1945 paper.

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The First Working Phototypesetting Machine and the First Book it Typeset 1946 – 1953

Though offset lithography from photographic printing plates gained wide acceptance as a printing technology in the first half of the 20th century, until well into the second half of the century typesetting continued in hot metal either by Linotype or Monotype.  In 1946 René Higonnet and Louis Moyroud, electrical engineers at a subsidiary of ITT (formerly International Telephone & Telegraph) in Lyon, France, invented the first successful phototypesetting or photo-composing machine called the Lumitype, and developed the first prototype. 

Finding little interest in the development of their invention in France, Higgonet and Moyroud turned to the American corporation Lithomat which decided to back development, and both Higonnet and Moyroud moved to the United States to develop their product, presenting the first commercial machine, the Lumitype Photon, in New York in 1949.  

Development of the Lumitype moved slowly, and it was not until 1953 that the first book typeset entirely by a phototype imagesetter from Photon, Inc. rather than from hot metal was published: Albro T. Gaul's The Wonderful World of Insects , issued in New York by Rinehart & Company.  It contained 290,[2] pp. and 46 black and white half-tones. The book was typeset on a prototype machine.

On its final leaf Gaul's book contained an unusual colophon which read:

"The Wonderford World of Insects derives added significance from the manner it which it was composed. It is the first volume composed with the revolutionary Higonnet-Moyroud photographic type-composing machine. Absolutely no type, in the conventional [hot metal] sense, was used in the preparation of this book.

"For over five hundred years movable type has been the tradition and the basis of printing, and its invention, credited to Gutenberg, has been hailed as one of man's greatest inventions. The first book printed from movable type, the famouse Gutenber Bible, has become a rare collector's item.

"Until late in the nineteenth century all metal type was set by hand. The Linotype, in 1885, and the Monotype, in 1887, provided equipment for the casting of type by keyboard operation. Today these three methods remain the accepted ways for composing type.

"In 1949, the Graphic Arts Research Foundation, Inc. of Cambridge, Massachusetts was formed to provide high-level research in the printing industry. It has as its objective the creation of new, better and less costly printing methods. In the Higgonet-Moyroud, or Photon, photographic type composing machine—its first project—the Foundation has perfected an entirely new, faster and far more versatile means of composition which does not employ metal type.

"If, as we believe, time proves the Photon to be the replacement for past typesetting methods, then the printing and publishing industry is on the threshold of a new era. Rinehart & Company is proud that its book was chosen to be the first work composed with this revolutionary machine. . . ."

A year later, The Patriot Ledger of Quincy, Massachusetts became the first newspaper to convert its typesetting from hot metal to the Lumitype. 

The first book published in Europe with typesetting from phototype done on a a Lumitype machine was Beaumarchais's La Folle journée ou Le Mariage de Figaro issued in Paris by Berger-Levrault in 1957.

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DuMont Television: The First Commercial Television Network 1946 – 1956

In 1946 the world's first commercial television network, DuMont Television Network, began operation in the United States.

"It was owned by DuMont Laboratories, a television equipment and set manufacturer. The network was hindered by the prohibitive cost of broadcasting, by Federal Communications Commission regulations which restricted the company's growth, and even by the company's partner, Paramount Pictures. Despite several innovations in broadcasting and the creation of one of television's biggest stars of the 1950s, the network never found itself on solid financial ground. Forced to expand on UHF channels during an era when UHF was not profitable, DuMont ceased broadcasting in 1956." (Wikipedia article on Dumont Television Network, accessed 12-07-2008).

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The Macy Conferences on Cybernetics Occur 1946 – 1953

At the initiative of Warren McCulloch, from 1946 to 1954 the Macy Conferences occurred in New York to set the foundations for a general science of the workings of the human mind. They resulted in breakthroughs in systems theory, cybernetics, and what eventually became known as cognitive science.

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Avery, McLeod & McCarty Discover that Bacteria Share Genetic Information Through Bacterial Conjugation 1946

Inspired by the 1944 Avery, McLeod and McCarty demonstration that that DNA is the material responsible for bacterial  transformation, medical student Joshua Lederberg began to investigate his hypothesis that, contrary to prevailing opinion, bacteria did not simply pass down exact copies of genetic information, making all cells in a lineage essentially clones. After making little progress at Columbia, Lederberg wrote to geneticist Edward Tatum, his post-doctoral mentor, proposing a collaboration. In 1946 Lederberg took a leave of absence to study under Tatum at Yale University. Later that year Lederberg and Tatum showed that the bacterium Escherichia coli entered a sexual phase during which it could share genetic information through bacterial conjugation. In their very brief paper (less than one page) the authors reported the discovery of sexual processes in the reproduction of bacteria: "Gene Recombination in Escherichia coli," Nature 158 (1946) 558. 

J. Norman (ed) Morton's Medical Bibliography (1991) no. 255.4.

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Humphrey Bogart and Dorothy Malone Appear in Probably the Most Famous Bookstore Scene in Movie History 1946

Probably the most famous bookstore scene in movie history was in The Big Sleepa classic 1946 film noir of Raymond Chandler's 1939 novel, with a screenplay co-written by William FaulknerLeigh Brackett, and Jules Furthman. In the bookstore scene detective Philip Marlow played by Humphrey Bogart visited the Acme Book Shop and enjoyed a witty, pseudobibliophilic and teasing interchange with the seductive bookstore owner played by Dorothy Malone

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Key Developments in von Neumann's IAS Electronic Computer Project March 1946 – 1947

In March 1946 John von Neumann attempted to set up an electronic stored-program computer project at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) at Princeton. He tried to hire Pres Eckert, but Eckert refused the job, preferring to go into the computer business with John Mauchly as the Electronic Control Company.

In June 1946 engineer Julian Bigelow, who previously had collaborated with Norbert Wiener at MIT, joined von Neumann and Herman Goldstine at the Princeton IAS Electronic Computer Project. He was to a large extent responsible for implementing von Neumann's stored-program concepts.

At Princeton in June 1946 Arthur W. Burks, von Neumann, and Goldstine issued their Preliminary Discussion of the Logical Design of an Electronic Computing Instrument, discussing ideas to be incorporated into the stored-program computer at the IAS.

Around June 1947 Julian Bigelow and his team at Princeton redesigned the IAS machine to include error checking and parallel processing, essential features of what became known as the von Neumann architecture.

(This entry was last revised on 01-01-2015.)

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Eckert & Mauchly Found Electronic Control Co., the World's First Electronic Computer Company March 15, 1946

On March 15, 1946 Pres Eckert and John Mauchly left the Moore School of Electrical Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania and established their own firm, Electronic Control Company in Philadelphia. Electronic Control Company was the first electronic computer company in the world. Eckert and Mauchly's business plan stated that they expected to sell an electronic computer for between $5000 and $30,000.

In September 1946 the company received a grant of $75,000 from the National Bureau of Standards for a research project involving Eckert's mercury delay line memory system, and tape input/output devices.

"With the prospect of receiving some money," the company rented their first offices at 1215 Walnut Street in Philadelphia and began to hire employees.

(This entry was last revised on 01-01-2015.)

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The First Speculation that Amino Acids are Determined by Nucleic Acids July 1946

In July 1946 The Society for Experimental Biology held its first symposium on the topic of Nucleic Acids at Cambridge. At this meeting William Astbury "pointed out "the relationship between the step size of nucleic acid—3.3 angstrom units—and the step size of amino acids—3.5 angstrom units. Astbury discussed the notion of the amino acids being determined by the nucleic acid" (Sydney Brenner, My Life in Science, 30).

Astbury, "X-ray Studies of Nucleic Acids," Symposium Society Experimental Biology 1 (1947) 67-76.

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The Moore School Lectures Take Place July 8 – 1946

From July 8 to August 30, 1946 the Moore School lectures on “The theory and techniques for design of electronic digital computers” occurred at the University of Pennsylvania. This series of lectures, attended by twenty-eight highly qualified experts, led to widespread adoption of the EDVAC-type design—including stored programs—for nearly all subsequent computer development. 

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A Soroban Beats an Electric Calculator November 12, 1946

On November 12, 1946  contest was held in Tokyo between the Japanese soroban, used by Kiyoshi Matsuzaki, a champion operator in the Savings Bureau of the Japanese postal administration, and an electric calculator, operated by US Army Private Thomas Nathan Wood of the 240th Finance Distributing Section of General MacArthur's headquarters. Wood was the most experienced calculator operator in Japan at the time. The bases for scoring in the contest were speed and accuracy of results in all four basic arithmetic operations, and a problem which combined all four. The soroban won 4 to 1, with the electric calculator prevailing in multiplication.

"About the event, the Nippon Times newspaper reported that "Civilization ... tottered" that day, while the Stars and Stripes newspaper described the soroban's "decisive" victory as an event in which "the machine age took a step backward. . . ."

"The breakdown of results is as follows:

"* Five additions problems for each heat, each problem consisting of 50 three- to six-digit numbers. The soroban won in two successive heats.

"* Five subtraction problems for each heat, each problem having six- to eight-digit minuends and subtrahends. The soroban won in the first and third heats; the second heat was a no contest.

"* Five multiplication problems, each problem having five- to 12-digit factors. The calculator won in the first and third heats; the soroban won on the second.

"* Five division problems, each problem having five- to 12-digit dividends and divisors. The soroban won in the first and third heats; the calculator won on the second.

"* A composite problem which the soroban answered correctly and won on this round. It consisted of:

"o An addition problem involving 30 six-digit numbers

"o Three subtraction problems, each with two six-digit numbers o Three multiplication problems, each with two figures containing a total of five to twelve digits

"o Three division problems, each with two figures containing a total of five to twelve digits" (Wikipedia article on Soroban, accessed 04-15-2009). 

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Couffignal Decides against Building a Stored-Program Computer in France 1947

In 1947 French mathematician Louis Couffignal and French-American physicist Leon Brillouin held a small conference on “large computers” in Paris, at which Couffignal discussed French work, and Brillouin summarized American accomplishments in electronic digital computing.

Having researched computing theory as early as 1942, when he delivered a lecture to the Comité National de l'Organisation Française on the future of computingCouffignal decided against building a stored-program computer. This mistake caused France to fall behind England and America in computing technology. The government agency where Couffignal worked, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), did not obtain a stored-program computer (a British model) until 1955. Only in 1956 was the first stored-program computer manufactured in France.

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Booth & Britten Write the Earliest Program Leading toward Machine Translation 1947

In 1947, while working with the IAS machine at Princeton, Andrew D. Booth and Kathleen Britten wrote a program for realizing a translation dictionary on an electronic computing machine, provided that the necessary storage capacity was available. This may be the earliest work leading toward machine or computer translation.

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The First Phototypesetter 1947

In 1947 the Fotosetter, the first phototypesetter, was invented. The first phototypesetters were mechanical devices that replaced the metal type matrices with matrices carrying the image of the letters. They replaced the caster of hot metal typesetting machines with a photographic unit.

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Kurt Herzstark Invents the Curta, the Most Advanced Small Mechanical Calculator 1947

In 1947 Contina Ltd of Vaduz, Liechtenstein began production of the Curta Model 1 pocket mechanical calculator. The most advanced small mechanical calculator ever built, the Curta was designed by Curt Hertzstark, a calculating machine manufacturer, while he was a prisoner in Buchenwald concentration camp from 1943 to 1945. The Nazis operating the concentration camp encouraged Hertzstark to complete the design while he was in Buchenwald, and produced a prototype by the end of the war. The Curta calculator was manufactured until 1973.

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Discovery of the "Dead Sea Scrolls" 1947 – 1956

In 1947 young Bedouin shepherds, searching for a stray goat in the Judean Desert, entered a long-untouched cave and found jars filled with ancient scrolls. This initial discovery by the Bedouins yielded seven scrolls and began a search that lasted nearly a decade. During the same years, archaeologists searching for a habitation close to the caves that might help identify the people who deposited the scrolls, excavated the Qumran ruin, a complex of structures located on a barren terrace between the cliffs where the caves were found on the West Bank and the Dead Sea. In the Qumran ruin archaeologists found the Dead Sea Scrolls—a collection of 972 texts from the Hebrew Bible, and extra-biblical documents.

"The scrolls were found in a series of eleven caves around the [Qumran] settlement, some accessible only through the settlement. Some scholars have claimed that the caves were the permanent libraries of the sect, due to the presence of the remains of a shelving system. Other scholars believe that some caves also served as domestic shelters for those living in the area. Many of the texts found in the caves appear to represent widely accepted Jewish beliefs and practices, while other texts appear to speak of divergent, unique, or minority interpretations and practices. Some scholars believe that some of these texts describe the beliefs of the inhabitants of Qumran, which, may have been the Essenes, or the asylum for supporters of the traditional priestly family of the Zadokites against the Hasmonean priest/kings. A literary epistle published in the 1990s expresses reasons for creating a community, some of which resemble Sadducean arguments in the Talmud. Most of the scrolls seem to have been hidden in the caves during the turmoil of the First Jewish Revolt, though some of them may have been deposited earlier" (Wikipedia article on Qumran, accessed 11-30-2013).

In September 2011 The Digital Dead Sea Scrolls website, a partnership between the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and Google, made five of the scrolls searchable online as part of a project to provide searchable online facsimiles of all the scrolls.

In December 2012 the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library was launched by the Israel Antiquities Authority in partnership with Google Israel, making high resolution images of the scrolls freely available. The site was launched 11 years after the completion of the publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls, initiated and sponsored by the IAA, and 65 years after the first scrolls were unearthed in the Caves of Qumran.

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The Society of Archivists (England) is Founded 1947

In 1947 the (British) Society of Archivists was founded.

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Filed under: Archives

The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB) is Founded 1947

In 1947 The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers was founded in The Hague "to uphold and improve professional standards in the trade, to promote honorable conduct in business, and to contribute in various ways to a broader appreciation of the history and art of the book."

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Dennis Gabor Invents Holography 1947

In 1947 Hungarian electrical engineer and physicist Dennis Gabor, working at British Thomson-Houston, Rugby, England invented holography.

"Holography is a technique that allows the light scattered from an object to be recorded and later reconstructed so that it appears as if the object is in the same position relative to the recording medium as it was when recorded. The image changes as the position and orientation of the viewing system changes in exactly the same way as if the object was still present, thus making the recorded image (hologram) appear three dimensional. Holograms can also be made using other types of waves. The technique of holography can also be used to optically store, retrieve, and process information. While holography is commonly used to display static 3-D pictures, it is not yet possible to generate arbitrary scenes by a holographic volumetric display" (Wikipedia article on holography, accessed 04-26-2009).

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Documentary Film on Letterpress Book Production 1947

In 1947, in collaboration with Luther H. Evans, tenth Librarian of Congress, Encyclopaedia Britannica Films issued a black and white documentary entitled Making Books. This nearly 11 minute film depicted then-current technology in book production including typesetting from hot-type, make-ready, letter-press printing, and machine binding.

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"The Cathodre Ray Tube Amusement Device," Probably the Oldest Interactive Electronic Game 1947

A patented invention from 1947 called The Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device is probably the earliest interactive electronic game. American television pioneer Thomas T. Goldsmith Jr. of Cedar Grove, New Jersey, and Estle Ray Mann constructed the game from analog electronics and a cathode ray tube (CRT) .

Goldsmith and Mann's patent application dated January 25, 1947

"describes a game of skill in which a player sits or stands facing a cathode ray tube (CRT) video screen mounted in a cabinet. Goldsmith and Mann designed the game to resemble a World War II radar display, but with airplanes or some other targets painted onto a transparent overlay (since this invention preceded the era of computer graphics).

"The player turns a control knob to position the CRT beam on the screen; to the player, the beam appears as a dot, which represents a reticle or scope. The player has a restricted amount of time in which to maneuver the dot so that it overlaps an airplane, and then to fire at the airplane by pressing a button. If the beam falls within the preprogrammed coordinates of a target when the user presses the button, then the CRT beam defocuses, simulating an explosion. . . ." (Wikipedia article on Cathode ray tube amusement device, accessed 02-29-2012).

U.S. Patent 2,455,992 which describes the device, granted to Goldsmith and Estle Ray Mann in December 1948, and assigned to Allen B. DuMont Laboratories, is the earliest patent for an electronic game. The product was never commercially manufactured.

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One of the First Studies of Pattern Recognition 1947

In 1947 American logician Walter Pitts and psychiatrist neuroscientist Warren S. McCulloch published "How we Know Universals. The Perception of Auditory and Visual Forms," Bulletin of Mathematical Biophysics 9 (1947) 127-147. In this expansion of McCulloch and Pitts' "A Logical Calculus of the Ideas Immanent in Nervous Activity" (1943) Pitts and McCulloch implemented their notions by showing how the anatomy of the cerebral cortex might accommodate the identification of form independent of its angular size in the image, and other such operations in perception.

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Vocational Film about the Printing Industry 1947

A vocational film about the printing industry, 1947, illustrates the opportunities and training available in printing, and shows hand typesetting, linotype, monotype, display, make-up and layout. 

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The First Large Conference on Electronic Computers is Held in Cambridge, Massachusetts January 7 – January 10, 1947

The first large conference on electronic and electromechanical digital computers was held at Cambridge, Massachusetts from January 7-10, 1947. About 250 people attended. At the conference Samuel H. Caldwell suggested the formation of an organization of people engaged in this new field. This organization was later named the Eastern Association for Computing Machinery. It was the predecessor of the ACM (Association of Computing Machinery).

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Edwin Land Demonstrates the Polaroid Land Camera Model 95, the First "Instant" Film Camera February 21, 1947

On February 21, 1947, American inventor Edwin H. Land, founder of Polaroid Corporation in Cambridge, Massachusetts, demonstrated an instant camera and associated film, called the Land Camera, Polaroid originally manufactured sixty units of this first camera, named the Polaroid Land Camera Model 95. It produced prints in about 1 minute. Fifty-seven were offered for sale at the Jordan Marsh department store in Boston before the 1948 Christmas holiday. Polaroid marketers guessed that the camera and film would remain in stock long enough to manufacture a second run based on customer demand, but all 57 cameras and all of the film were sold on the first day. 

As I recall, my mother purchased a Model 95 and used it to take pictures of our young family. It was very exciting and convenient to see the image almost instantly after it was taken, compared to waiting several days or weeks to have film developed and printed. Over the years I owned and used several different later models of the camera. The technology was, of course, superceded by digital photography, but, like its larger cousin Kodak, Polaroid was slow to realize the extent of the disruption, and the final Polaroid "instant" film camera, the Polaroid One 600, was designed as late as 2004, before Polaroid Corporation folded in 2007.

Here is an early, and funny, commercial for the camera. Beneath that is film in which Land speaks about his portable camera in 1970 and his philosophy of instant imaging, which would occur after his death, after the invention of digital photography, and the incorporation of digital cameras into cell phones.

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Warren Weaver Suggests Applying Cryptanalysis Techniques to Translation March 4 – May 9, 1947

On March 4, 1947 mathematician and Director of the Division of Natural Sciences at the Rockefeller Foundation in New York Warren Weaver sent the following letter to Norbert Wiener, suggesting that cryptanalysis techniques might be applied to translation, and that a computer could be built for the purpose. This letter, preserved at the Rockefeller Archives Center, may the origin of efforts at machine translation: 

"Dear Norbert:

I was terribly sorry, when in Cambridge recently, that I got un- avoidably held up by several unexpected jobs, and did not get a chance to see you.

One thing I wanted to ask you about is this. A most serious problem, for UNESCO and for the constructive and peaceful future of the planet, is the problem of translation, as it unavoidably affects the communication between peoples. Huxley has recently told me that they are appalled by the magnitude and the importance of the translation job.

 Recognizing fully, even though necessarily vaguely, the semantic difficulties because of multiple meanings, etc., I have wondered if it were unthinkable to design a computer which would translate. Even if it would translate only scientific material (where the semantic difficulties are very notably less), and even if it did produce an inelegant (but intelligible) result, it would seem to me worth while.

Also knowing nothing official about, but having guessed and inferred considerable about, powerful new mechanized methods in cryptography - methods which I believe succeed even when one does not know what language has been coded - one naturally wonders if the problem of translation could conceivably be treated as a problem in cryptography. When I look at an article in Russian, I say "This is really written in English, but it has been coded in some strange symbols. I will now proceed to decode."

Have you ever thought about this? As P. linguist and expert on computers, do you think it is worth thinking about?


Warren Weaver

In his reply dated April 30, 1947 Wiener was not optimistic regarding the possibility of machine translation:

"Dear Warren:  

First, I want to thank you and The Rockefeller Foundation for the almost unlimited number of favors that I have been receiving. I think and hope, at any rate, that we shall be able to come across in such a way as to at least partly justify your expenditure.

Second - as to the problem of mechanical translation, I frankly am afraid the boundaries of words in different languages are too vague and the emotional and international connotations are too extensive to make any quasi mechanical translation scheme very hopeful. I will admit that basic English seems to indicate that we can go further than we have generally done in the mechanization of speech, but you must remember that in certain respects basic English is the reverse of mechanical and throws upon such words as "get," a burden, which is much greater than most words carry in conventional English. At the present time, the mechanization of language, beyond such a stage as the design of photoelectric reading opportunities for the blind, seems very premature. By the way, I have been fascinated by McCulloch's work on such apparatus, and, as you probably know, he finds the wiring diagram of apparatus of this kind turns out to be surprisingly like the microscopic analogy of the visual cortex in the brain.

"I have heard that your health is much better, and I certainly hope so. I shall try to look you up before I sail for France.  

"Sincerely yours,

"Norbert Wiener

Weaver, however, maintained his belief in the possibility of machine translation in spite of Wiener's pessimism, writing back on May 9, 1947:

"Dear Norbert:

Thank you for your letter of April 30. I am sure that Dr. Morrison and I will both be very glad to have you tell us, from tine to time, about the progress of your collaborative program with Rosenblueth. And I will be most interested, after your re- turn from France, to hear your comments on your trip there.

"I am disappointed but not surprised by your comments on the translation problem. The difficulty you mention concerning Basic seems to me to have a rather easy answer. It is, of course, true that Basic puts multiple use on an action verb such as "get." But even so, the two-word combinations such as "get up," "get over," "get back," etc., are, in Basic, not really very numerous. Suppose we take a vocabulary of 2,000 words, and admit for good measure all the two-word combinations as if they were single words. The vocabulary is still only four million: and that is not so formidable a number to a modern computer, is it?


Warren Weaver"

(http://www.mt-archive.info/Weaver-1947-original.pdf, accessed 10-25-2011).


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Goldstine & von Neumann Write the First Theoretical Discussion of Programming a Stored-Program Computer April 1947 – August 16, 1948

The first part of Herman Goldstine and John von Neumann’s Planning and Coding Problems for an Electronic Computing Instrument was published at Princeton in April 1947. The remaining two parts appeared on April 15 and August 16, 1948. This was the first theoretical discussion of programming for stored program computers—none of which yet operated. (See Reading 9.2.)

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The First Published Photographs of the Earth Taken From Space April 1947

Photography from the V-2 rocket at altitudes ranging up to 160 kilometers, by T. A. Bergstrahl,  N. R. L. report no. R-3083, issued by the Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, D.C. in April 1947 in an edition of only 47 copies, contains the first published photographs of the earth taken from space. The photographs, which show a large portion of the American southwest, were taken from cameras mounted on a V-2 (V2) rocket launched from the proving ground at White Sands, New Mexico. The rocket, which bore the number 21 but was the 20th V-2 launched at White Sands after number 1 misfired, was one of over 60 V-2 rockets captured from the Germans at the end of World War II in 1945. At that time the German rocketry program at Peenemunde was at least 20 years ahead of any other program. As part of Project Paperclip, the United States government brought both the captured V-2s and over 100 German rocketry experts (headed by Wernher von Braun) to America, where they began what became the U. S. space program. In 1946 the Upper Atmosphere Research Panel (also known as the V-2 panel) was formed to oversee a program of high-altitude experiments conducted using the V-2 rockets. On October 24, 1946 the research team was able to obtain photographs of the Earth taken from 65 miles above the surface; however, perhaps for quality reasons, these photographs were not published until 1950 (see Newell, High Altitude Rocket Research p. 288).

Berghstrahl's report announced that photographs were taken from more than 100 miles above the earth. “On 7 March 1947 the twentieth V-2 to be launched in America took to the air from the Army Ordnance Proving Ground at White Sands, New Mexico. As on several of the previous flights, an attempt was made to obtain photographs of the features of interest on the rocket and, of course, of the earth. In this attempt the effort met with considerable success. Included among the group of pictures obtained are the first ever to be taken from altitudes greater than 160 kilometers (100 miles). The quality of the photographs is fairly good. For the first time, in pictures taken at such high altitudes, it is possible to recognize clearly many geographical features. In addition a large number and variety of cloud formations were recorded by the cameras and other information of meteorological value” (p. 1).

Photographs 11 and 12 are especially notable. Number 11 includes an overlay showing landmarks in New Mexico, Arizona and the Gulf of California. The caption to number 12 states that “this picture covers approximately 500,000 square miles of southwestern United States and northern Mexico. The photographs [making up the composite] do not match exactly due to the varying camera angles.” Newell, High Altitude Rocket Research (1953), pp. 284-288. Krause, “High altitude research with V-2 rockets,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 91 (1947) 430-446. Reichhart, “The first photo from space,” Air & Space Magazine, Smithsonian Institution, 1 Nov. 2006.

According to Reichhart, photography from V-2s launched at White Sands began on October 24, 1946, and there was a Universal newsreel on the topic issued in November 1946. 

In 1947 the U.S. War Department produced a documentary film on the launching of V2 rockets from White Sands. The documentary excluded reference to photography done from the V-2 rockets:

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Key Events in the Development of the UNIVAC, the First Electronic Computer Widely Sold in the United States April 24, 1947 – November 4, 1952

On April 24, 1947 the Electronic Control Company (Pres Eckert and John Mauchly) in Philadelphia developed the tentative instruction code C-1 for what they called  “a Statistical EDVAC.” This was the earliest document on the programming of an electronic digital computer intended for commercial use. On May 24, 1947 they renamed the planned “Statistical EDVAC” the UNIVAC. About November 1947 Electronic Control Company  issued the first brochure advertising the UNIVAC —the first sales brochure ever issued for an electronic digital computer. A special characteristic of the brochure was that it did not show the product, since at this time the product was not yet fully conceptualized either in design or external appearance. 

On October 31, 1947 Eckert and Mauchly applied for a U.S. patent on the mercury acoustic delay-line electronic memory system. This was the "first device to gain widespread acceptance as a reliable computer memory system." (Hook & Norman, Origins of Cyberspace [2002]1191).  The patent 2,629,827 was granted in 1953.

In 1948 a contract was drawn up between the renamed company, Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation, and the United States Census Bureau for the production of the UNIVAC. On October 31, 1947 Pres Eckert and John Mauchly of Philadelphia applied for a U.S. patent on the mercury acoustic delay-line electronic memory system. This was the "first device to gain widespread acceptance as a reliable computer memory system." (Hook & Norman, Origins of Cyberspace [2002]1191). The patent 2,629,827 was granted in 1953.

As the first UNIVAC was being developed, in 1949 Betty Holbertson  developed the UNIVAC Instructions Code C-10. C-10 was the first software to allow a computer to be operated by keyboarded commands rather than dials and switches. It was also the first mnemonic code. Also in 1949, Grace Hopper left the Harvard Computation Laboratory to join Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation as a senior mathematician/programmer. In June 1949 John Mauchly conceived the Short Code—the first high-level programming language for an electronic computer—to be used with the BINAC. It was also the first interpreted language and the first assembly language. The Short Code first ran on UNIVAC I, serial 1, in 1950. [In 2005 no copies of the Short Code existed with dates earlier than 1952.]

UNIVAC I, serial 1, was signed over to the United States Census Bureau on March 31, 1951. The official dedication of the machine at the government offices occurred on June 14, 1951. Excluding the unique BINAC, the UNIVAC I was the first electronic computer to be commercially manufactured in the United States. Its development preceded the British Ferranti Mark 1; however, the British machine was actually delivered to its first customer one month earlier than the UNIVAC I.

Though the United States Census Bureau owned UNIVAC I, serial 1, the Eckert-Mauchly division of Remington Rand retained it in Philadelphia for sales demonstration purposes, and did not actually install it at government offices until twenty-one months later.

In 1951 magnetic tape was used to record computer data on the  UNIVAC I with its UNISERVO tape drive. The UNISERVO was the first the tape drive for a commercially sold computer.

It's "recording medium was a thin metal strip of ½″ wide(12.7 mm) nickel-plated phosphor bronze. Recording density was 128 characters per inch (198 micrometre/character) on eight tracks at a linear speed of 100 in/s (2.54 m/s), yielding a data rate of 12,800 characters per second. Of the eight tracks, six were data, one was a parity track, and one was a clock, or timing track. Making allowance for the empty space between tape blocks, the actual transfer rate was around 7,200 characters per second. A small reel of mylar tape provided separation from the metal tape and the read/write head" (Wikipedia article on Univac I, accessed 04-26-2009).

In 1952 Grace Hopper wrote the first compiler (A-0) for UNIVAC, and on October 24, 1952 he UNIVAC Short Code II was developed. This was the earliest extant version of a high-level programming language actually intended to be used on an electronic digital computer.

On November 4, 1952 UNIVAC I, serial 5, used by the CBS television network in New York City, successfully predicted the election of Dwight D. Eisenhower as president of the United States. This was the first time that millions of people (including me, then aged 7) saw and heard about an electronic computer. The computer, far too large and delicate to be moved, was actually in Eckert-Mauchly's corporate office in Philadelphia. What was televised by Walter Cronkite from CBS studios in New York was a dummy terminal connected by teletype to the machine in Philadelphia.

Univac 1, serial 5 was later installed at Lawrence Livermore Laboratories in Livermore, California.

♦ In 2010 journalist Ira Chinoy completed a dissertation on journalists' early encounters with computers as tools for news reporting, focusing on election-night forecasting in 1952. The dissertation, which also explored methods journalists used to cover elections in the age of print, was entitled Battle of the Brains: Election-Night Forecasting at the Dawn of the Computer Age.

In 1954 UNIVAC I, serial 8, was installed at General Electric Appliance Park, Louisville, Kentucky. Serial 8 was the first stored-program electronic computer sold to a nongovernmental customer in the United States. It ran the "first successful industrial payroll application."

This humorous promotional film for the Remington Rand UNIVAC computer features J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly in leading roles. Produced in 1960, the film outlines the earlier history of computing leading to the development and application of the UNIVAC.

(This entry was last revised on 12-31-2014.)
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The EACM, Predecessor of the ACM, Holds its First Meeting September 15, 1947

On September 15, 1947 the Eastern Association for Computing Machinery, predecessor of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), held its first meeting at Columbia University in New York. Seventy-eight people attended. John H. Curtiss was elected president, John Mauchly, vice president, and Edmund Berkeley, secretary.

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Innovative Aspects of the BINAC, the First Electronic Computer Ever Sold October 1947 – September 1950

In October 1947 Northrop Aircraft, Inc. of Hawthorne, California, ordered the BINAC (BINary Automatic Computer) from Pres Eckert and John Mauchly’s Electronic Control Company in Philadelphia. The BINAC consisted of two identical serial computers operating in parallel, with mercury delay-line memories, and magnetic tape as secondary memories and auxiliary input devices.

On September 9, 1948 the second module of the BINAC was completed in Philadelphia. Among its numerous innovations were germanium diodes in the logic processing hardware—probably the first application of semiconductors in computers. Until its delivery to Northrop Aircraft in September 1949, the BINAC remained in Philadelphia for use in numerous sales demonstrations.

In February 1949 Albert A. Auerbach, one of the designers of the BINAC CPU at Pres Eckert and John Mauchly's Electronic Control Company, ran a small test routine for filling memory from the A register. This was the first program run on the first stored-program electronic computer produced in the United States. 

On August 22, 1949 Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation of Philadelphia issued a press release describing the sale of the BINAC. This was the first press release ever issued for the sale of an electronic computer.

In 2014 it was my privilege and pleasure to handle the only known copy of the first manual ever written for a functioning electronic computer: the Operating and Maintenance Manual for the BINAC Binary Automatic Computer Built for Northrop Aircraft CorporationThis 37-page document, reproduced from typescript by Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corp. in Philadelphia in 1949, was the model for countless numbers of operating manuals for computers that were written in the following decades. As only one BINAC was ever built it is likely that only a handful of copies of the manual were ever produced.

Eckert and Mauchly’s BINAC was the first stored-program computer ever fully operational, since the Moore School’s EDVAC, which was designed to be the first stored-program computer, did not become operational until 1952. The BINAC was also the first stored-program computer that was ever sold.

The BINAC was extremely advanced from a design standpoint: It was a binary computer with two serial CPUs, each with its own 512-word acoustic delay line memory. The CPUs were designed to continuously compare results to check for errors caused by hardware failures. It used approximately 1500 vacuum tubes, making it virtually a mini-computer compared to its predecessor, the large-room-sized ENIAC, which used approximately 18,000 vacuum tubes. The two 512-word acoustic mercury delay line memories were divided into 16 channels each holding 32 words of 31bits, with an additional 11-bit space between words to allow for circuit delays in switching. The clock rate was 4.25 MHz (1 MHz according to one source) which yielded a word time of about 10 microseconds. The addition time was 800 microseconds and the multiplication time was 1200 microseconds. New programs or data had to be entered manually in octal using an eight-key keypad. BINAC was significant for being able to perform high-speed arithmetic on binary numbers, although it had no provisions for storing characters or decimal digits.

In 1946, after developing and building the ENIAC (the first general-purpose electronic computer) for the U. S. Army during World War II, J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly founded their own company for the purpose of designing and manufacturing electronic stored-program computers on a commercial basis. In October 1947, needing money to keep their business afloat while working on their UNIVAC machine for the U.S. Census Bureau, Eckert and Mauchly entered into a contract with Northrop Aircraft to build the Binary Automatic Computer (BINAC). Northrop, based in Hawthorne, California, was then engaged in a project to build a long-range guided missile for the U.S. Air Force, and had the idea of using electronic computers for airborne navigation; the BINAC, while not designed to work in flight, would perhaps be an initial step toward that eventual goal. Airborne computers did not become feasible until the 1960s, when miniaturized solid-state transistorized components became available.

The BINAC was completed in August, 1949, $178,000 over budget; Eckert and Mauchly absorbed the loss themselves. Built with two serial processors, the BINAC functioned more like two computers than one, with the goal of providing a safety back-up for airplanes. Each part of the device was built as a pair of systems that would check each step. All instructions were carried out once by each unit, and then the result would be compared between the units. If they matched, the next instruction would be carried out; but if there was a discrepancy between the two parts of the machine, it stopped. The processors were only five feet tall, four feet long and a foot wide, tiny for those days. The machine could only do 3,500 additions per second compared to 5,000 on the ENIAC, but it could do 1,000 multiplications per second, compared to only 333 on the ENIAC.

Many histories of computing state that the BINAC never operated successfully; however, Northrop’s “Description of Northrop Computing Center,” an internal company document dated September 16, 1950, which I also handled in 2014, listed the BINAC as one of its three main pieces of computing equipment, and even though the machine was currently “being revised and improved for more reliable operation,” it was still functioning at least somewhat satisfactorily a year after its delivery.

"This machine has solved in seven minutes a problem on the effect of a certain wind pressure on a rubber diaphragm that would have occupied a mathematician for a year. It has solved Poisson’s Equation and obtained a network of 26 solutions in only two hours. For each of these solutions, the BINAC performed 500,000 additions, 200,000 multiplications, and 300,000 transfers of control, all in the space of five minutes. . . . This machine, which is a general purpose computer calculating in the binary system but receiving and emitting its instructions in the octal system, will be demonstrated today on a short test problem (“Description of Northrop Computing Center,” p. 2).

The task of writing the BINAC’s operating manual was assigned to Joseph D. Chapline, an EMCC employee who had helped Eckert and Mauchly on the ENIAC project at the Moore School. Realizing that the BINAC’s users at Northrop would not be electronic computer specialists, Chapline decided to model his BINAC guide on the owner’s manuals issued by automobile companies, rather than on the technical reports written for the Moore School’s ENIAC and EDVAC, which were intended for highly trained engineers and scientists already familiar with the respective machines. Chapline’s Operating and Maintenance Manual provided the BINAC user with a full overview of the machine’s construction, operations and maintenance in a step-by-step, readable manner, with clear diagrams illustrating the BINAC’s various components. Chapline’s instructional, user-oriented approach set the pattern for the millions of computer manuals that would follow it.

Chapline, who also wrote the documentation for the ENIAC, was a pioneer in the field of modern technical writing, which “translate[s] complex technical concepts and instructions into a series of comprehensible steps that enable users to perform a specific task in a specific way” (Wikipedia). Chapline taught over 200 classes in technical writing at the Moore School before leaving the computer profession in 1953 to become the organist and choirmaster at the Unitarian Church of Germantown in Philadelphia. Brockman, From Millwrights to Shipwrights to the Twenty-First Century, ch.7.

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Origins of NLM's Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) December 1947

In December 1947 the Army Medical Library (now the National Library of Medicine) sponsored a Symposium on Medical Subject Headings. 

Participants, including Seymour Taine, Thelma Charen, and Eugene Garfield, noted that the increasing complexity of scientific literature necessitated increasingly sophisticated approaches to organization and access. The participants recognized that the issue of a subject authority was not an academic exercise. Rather, subject cataloging and the subject indexing of journal articles were acknowledged as the essence of bibliographic control. The needs of the user of scientific information was to be always at the forefront in creating a set of medical subject headings that were made equally for subject description of books and for indexing of journal articles.

This was the origin of NLM's Medical Subject Headings (MeSH), a key step in the eventual automating of the indexing and searching process for medical information that evolved into Medlars (operational in January 1964) and Medline (operational in October 1971). 

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Bardeen, Brattain & Shockley Invent the Point-Contact Transistor December 23, 1947

On December 23, 1947 the point-contact transistor was invented at Bell Labs by John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley. Much smaller than vacuum tubes and consuming only a fraction of the energy, the transistor was able to switch currents on and off at substantially higher speeds.

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First Assemblage of Digital Electronics Replaceable as a Unit 1948

In 1948 IBM produced the 604 Card-Programmed Electronic Calculator (CPC). Based on vacuum-tube technology, and programmed by making wired connections on a plugboard, the mass-produced CPC 604 featured the industry’s first assemblage of digital electronics replaceable as a unit.

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Norbert Wiener Issues "Cybernetics", the First Widely Distributed Book on Electronic Computing 1948

"Use the word 'cybernetics', Norbert, because nobody knows what it means. This will always put you at an advantage in arguments."

— Widely quoted: attributed to Claude Shannon in a letter to Norbert Wiener in the 1940s.

 In 1948 mathematician Norbert Wiener at MIT published Cybernetics or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine, a widely circulated and influential book that applied theories of information and communication to both biological systems and machines. Computer-related words with the “cyber” prefix, including "cyberspace," originate from Wiener’s book. Cybernetics was also the first conventionally published book to discuss electronic digital computing. Writing as a mathematician rather than an engineer, Wiener’s discussion was theoretical rather than specific. Strangely the first edition of the book was published in English in Paris at the press of Hermann et Cie. The first American edition was printed offset from the French sheets and issued by John Wiley in New York, also in 1948. I have never seen an edition printed or published in England. 

Independently of Claude Shannon, Wiener conceived of communications engineering as a brand of statistical physics and applied this viewpoint to the concept of information. Wiener's chapter on "Time series, information, and communication" contained the first publication of Wiener's formula describing the probability density of continuous information. This was remarkably close to Shannon's formula dealing with discrete time published in A Mathematical Theory of Communication (1948). Cybernetics also contained a chapter on "Computing machines and the nervous system." This was a theoretical discussion, influenced by McCulloch and Pitts, of differences and similarities between information processing in the electronic computer and the human brain. It contained a discussion of the difference between human memory and the different computer memories then available. Tacked on at the end of Cybernetics were speculations by Wiener about building a chess-playing computer, predating Shannon's first paper on the topic.

Cybernetics is a peculiar, rambling blend of popular and highly technical writing, ranging from history to philosophy, to mathematics, to information and communication theory, to computer science, and to biology. Reflecting the amazingly wide range of the author's interests, it represented an interdisciplinary approach to information systems both in biology and machines. It influenced a generation of scientists working in a wide range of disciplines. In it were the roots of various elements of computer science, which by the mid-1950s had broken off from cybernetics to form their own specialties. Among these separate disciplines were information theory, computer learning, and artificial intelligence.

It is probable that Wiley had Hermann et Cie supervise the typesetting because they specialized in books on mathematics.  Hermann printed the first edition by letterpress; the American edition was printed offset from the French sheets. Perhaps because the typesetting was done in France Wiener did not have the opportunity to read proofs carefully, as the first edition contained many typographical errors which were repeated in the American edition, and which remained uncorrected through the various printings of the American edition until a second edition was finally published by John Wiley and MIT Press in 1961. 

Though the book contained a lot of technical mathematics, and was not written for a popular audience, the first American edition went through at least 5 printings during 1948,  and several later printings, most of which were probably not read in their entirety by purchasers. Sales of Wiener's book were helped by reviews in wide circulation journals such as the review in TIME Magazine on December 27, 1948, entitled "In Man's Image." The reviewer used the word calculator to describe the machines; at this time the word computer was reserved for humans.

"Some modern calculators 'remember' by means of electrical impulses circulating for long periods around closed circuits. One kind of human memory is believed to depend on a similar system: groups of neurons connected in rings. The memory impulses go round & round and are called upon when needed. Some calculators use 'scanning' as in television. So does the brain. In place of the beam of electrons which scans a television tube, many physiologists believe, the brain has 'alpha waves': electrical surges, ten per second, which question the circulating memories.

"By copying the human brain, says Professor Wiener, man is learning how to build better calculating machines. And the more he learns about calculators, the better he understands the brain. The cyberneticists are like explorers pushing into a new country and finding that nature, by constructing the human brain, pioneered there before them.

"Psychotic Calculators. If calculators are like human brains, do they ever go insane? Indeed they do, says Professor Wiener. Certain forms of insanity in the brain are believed to be caused by circulating memories which have got out of hand. Memory impulses (of worry or fear) go round & round, refusing to be suppressed. They invade other neuron circuits and eventually occupy so much nerve tissue that the brain, absorbed in its worry, can think of nothing else.

"The more complicated calculating machines, says Professor Wiener, do this too. An electrical impulse, instead of going to its proper destination and quieting down dutifully, starts circulating lawlessly. It invades distant parts of the mechanism and sets the whole mass of electronic neurons moving in wild oscillations" (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,886484-2,00.html, accessed 03-05-2009).

Presumably the commercial success of Cybernetics encouraged Wiley to publish Berkeley's Giant Brains, or Machines that Think in 1949.

♦ In October 2012 I offered for sale the copy of the first American printing of Cybernetics that Wiener inscribed to Jerry Wiesner, the head of the laboratory at MIT where Wiener conducted his research. This was the first inscribed copy of the first edition (either the French or American first) that I had ever seen on the market, though the occasional signed copy of the American edition did turn up. Having read our catalogue description of that item, my colleague Arthur Freeman emailed me this story pertinent to Wiener's habit of not inscribing books:

"Norbert, whom I grew up nearby (he visited our converted barn in Belmont, Mass., constantly to play frantic theoretical blackboard math with my father, an economist/statistician at MIT, which my mother, herself a bit better at pure math, would have to explain to him later), was a notorious cheapskate. His wife once persuaded him to invite some colleagues out for a beer at the Oxford Grill in Harvard Square, which he did, and after a fifteen-minute sipping session, he got up to go, and solemnly collected one dime each from each of his guests. So when *Cybernetics* appeared on the shelves of the Harvard Coop Bookstore, my father was surprised and flattered that Norbert wanted him to have an inscribed copy, and together they went to Coop, where Norbert duly picked one out, wrote in it, and carried it to the check-out counter--where he ceremoniously handed it over to my father to pay for. This was a great topic of family folklore. I wonder if Jerry Wiesner paid for his copy too?"

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Andrew D. Booth Invents the First Magnetic Drum Memory 1948

In 1948 British electrical engineer, physicist and computer scientist Andrew D. Booth of Birkbeck College, London, created a magnetic drum memory, two inches long and two inches wide, and capable of holding 10 bits per square inch.

Booth offered his magnetic memory units for sale in 1952.

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The First Electronic Autonomous Robots: the Origin of Social Robotics 1948 – 1949

In 1948 and 1949 American neurophysiologist and robotician William Grey Walter, associated with the Burden Neurophysiological Institute in Bristol, England (now Bristol Neuroscience) constructed some of the first electronic autonomous robots. His work is considered the origin of social robotics.  

Grey Walter's first three-wheel machines, which he called"Machina Speculatrix" and named Elmer and Elsie (for ELectroMEchanical Robot, Light-Sensitive), were often described as tortoises because of their shape and slow rate of movement. They were capable of phototaxis— movement that occurs in response to light stimulus.

"He [Walter] wanted to prove that rich connections between a small number of brain cells could give rise to very complex behaviors - essentially that the secret of how the brain worked lay in how it was wired up....Walter stressed the importance of using purely analogue electronics to simulate brain processes at a time when his contemporaries such as Alan Turing and John Von Neumann were all turning towards a view of mental processes in terms of digital computation. His work inspired subsequent generations of robotics researchers such as Rodney BrooksHans Moravec and Mark Tilden. Modern incarnations of Walter's turtles may be found in the form of BEAM robotics" (Wikipedia article on William Grey Walter, accessed 11-09-2013).

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Columbia Records Introduces the First Long Playing Record (LP) 1948

In 1948 Columbia Records of New York introduced the 33 1/3 rpm Long Playing (LP) microgroove record with 17 minutes of music on each side. The first microgroove LP pressing released was Columbia ML4001, the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E Minor performed by soloist Nathan Milstein, and Bruno Walter conducting the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. 

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The Final Edition of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum is Published 1948

In 1948 The Catholic Church published the 32nd and final edition of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, the first of which had appeared in 1559. The edition was printed on inexpensive paper by the Typis Polyglotis Vaticanis, in Vatican City, and issued in drab printed boards. Its 24 preliminary pages contained a preface in Italian and another in Latin, strongly suggesting that the book was intended mainly for priests, all of whom would have read Latin at this time. The index consisted of 508pp. Relatively few 20th century works were included.

"This 32nd edition contained 4,000 titles censored for various reasons: heresy, moral deficiency, sexual explicitness, political incorrectness, and so on. Among the notable writers on the list were Desiderius Erasmus, Lawrence Sterne, Voltaire, Daniel Defoe, Nicolaus Copernicus, Honore de Balzac, Jean-Paul Sartre, as well as the Dutch Sexologist Theodor Hendrik van de Velde, author of the sex manual The Perfect Marriage. A complete list of the authors and writings present in the subsequent editions of the index are listed in J. Martinex de Bujanda, Index librorum prohibitorum, 1600-1966, Geneva, 2002. Almost every great Western philosopher was, or is, included on the list--even those that believed in God, such as Descartes, Kant, Berkeley. . . .That some atheists are not included is to to the general (Tridentine) rule that heretical works (i.e. works of non-Catholics) are ipso facto forbidden. That some important works are absent is due to the fact that nobody bothered to denounce them."

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The "Survivor's Talmud" is Published by the U.S. Army 1948

In 1948 the U. S. Army in Germany issued a full-sized edition of the Talmud in Hebrew from Munich and Heidelberg in 19 folio volumes, printed photo-offset from the standard Vilna edition of the Talmud. This became known as the "Survivor's Talmud." The title page depicted an idyllic Land of Israel above an image of barbed wire surrounding a work camp. Only 100 sets were printed.

The project was the result of an agreement signed in September 1946 by commander in chief, U.S. Occupying Forces in Germany, General Joseph T. McNarney, and the Joint Distribution Committee. The edition took longer than expected to produce because of the shortage of paper and the difficulty of finding a complete set of the Talmud in Germany after the Holocaust. The edition was printed at the Carl Winter Printing Plant in Heidelberg, which had previously printed Nazi propaganda. This is the sole instance of a national government publishing the Talmud.

The edition contained a dedication in English which stated:

"This edition of the Talmud is dedicated to the United States Army. This army played a major role in the rescue of the Jewish people from total annihilation, and after the defeat of Hitler bore the major burden of sustaining the DPs of the Jewish faith. This special edition of the Talmud published in the very land where, but a short time ago, everything Jewish and of Jewish inspiration was anathema, will remain a symbol of the indestructibility of the Torah. The Jewish DPs will never forget the generous impulses and the unprecedented humanitarianism of the American forces, to whom they owe so much.

 "In the name of the Rabinical Organization

 Rabbi Samuel A. Snieg

Chairman and Chief Rabbi of the U.S. Zone"

Mintz & Goldstein, Printing the Talmud from Bomberg to Schottenstein (2005) No. 64, reproducing the title page.

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Sven Furberg First Proposes a Helical Structure for DNA 1948

In 1948 Sven Furberg, a Norwegian scientist working in London at Birkbeck College under J. D. Bernal, conducted researches leading to the first correct determination of the structure of a nucleotide, the main building block of DNA. Furberg was the first to propose a helical structure for DNA and the first to attempt building a model of DNA nucleotides. His original paper models of DNA were pasted into the back of his laboratory notebook, now preserved at the J. Craig Venter Institute.

Furberg's model was "an imaginative synthesis and constructive leap forward in the case of DNA by putting together a model that was single-stranded, eight-fold helix of nucleotides with stacked bases, 3.4Å apart as chemists knew aromatic rings should be, and with puckered five membered sugar rings displaying the conformation he had obtained from his own X-ray crystallographic analysis of cytidine, itself a virtuoso achievement in the late 1940s. Furberg's model was informally well publicized before its formal publication and surely was a striking advance despite being somewhat inaccurate, incomplete and devoid of insight as regards DNA function. The last flaw presumably was the reason that its other promising qualities were ignored even although they could have formed the basis of a further analysis by chemical crystallographers" (Arnott, Kibble & Shallice, "Maurice Hugh Frederick Wilkins," Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society [2006] 464-65).

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IBM's SSEC, the First Computer that Can Modify a Stored Program January 1948

In January 1948 IBM announced its first large-scale digital calculating machine, the Selective Sequence Electronic Calculator (SSEC). The SSEC was the first computer that could modify a stored program. It featured 12,000 vacuum tubes and 21,000 electromechanical relays.

“IBM's Selective Sequence Electronic Calculator (SSEC), built at IBM's Endicott facility under the direction of Columbia Professor Wallace Eckert and his Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory staff in 1946-47, . . . was moved to the new IBM Headquarters Building at 590 Madison Avenue in Manhattan, where it occupied the periphery of a room 60 feet long and 30 feet wide. . . . [Estimates of the] dimensions of its "U" shape [were] at 60 + 40 + 80 feet, 180 feet in all, (about half a football field!)”

 "Designed, built, and placed in operation in only two years, the SSEC contained 21,400 relays and 12,500 vacuum tubes. It could operate indefinitely under control of its modifiable program. On the average, it performed 14-by-14 decimal multiplication in one-fiftieth of a second, division in one-thirtieth of a second, and addition or subtraction on nineteen-digit numbers in one-thirty-five-hundredth of second... For more than four years, the SSEC fulfilled the wish Watson had expressed at its dedication: that it would serve humanity by solving important problems of science. It enabled Wallace Eckert to publish a lunar ephemeris ... of greater accuracy than previously available... the source of data used in man's first landing on the moon". "For each position of the moon, the operations required for calculating and checking results totaled 11,000 additions and subtractions, 9,000 multiplications, and 2,000 table look-ups. Each equation to be solved required the evaluation of about 1,600 terms — altogether an impressive amount of arithmetic which the SSEC could polish off in seven minutes for the benefit of the spectators" (http://www.columbia.edu/acis/history/ssec.html#sources, accessed 03-24-2010).

The SSEC remained sufficiently influential in the popular view of mainframes that it was the subject of a cartoon by Charles Addams published on the cover of The New Yorker magazine in February 11, 1961, in which the massive machine produced a Valentine's Day card for its elderly woman operator!

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Cable Television is Introduced, First in the Mountains of Pennsylvania June 1948

In June 1948 John Walston introduced cable television, initially in the mountains of Pennsylvania.

"Walson, owner of a Mahanoy City General Electric appliance store, needed to solve problems receiving signals from Philadelphia television stations, which were blocked by the mountains surrounding the town. Walson erected an antenna on a utility pole on a local mountaintop that enabled him to demonstrate the televisions in his store with strong broadcasts coming from the three Philadelphia stations. He connected the antenna to his appliance store via a cable and modified signal boosters. He then connected several of his customers who were located along the cable path. This was the first community antenna television (CATV) system in the United States.

"Walson's company grew over the years, and he is recognized as the founder of the cable television industry. He was also the first cable operator to use microwave to import distant television stations, the first to use coaxial cable to improve picture quality, and the first to distribute pay television programming" (Wikipedia article on John Waltson, accessed 11-30-2013).

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Filed under: Television

Milton Berle, "Mr. Television," Causes the Sale of TV Sets to Double June 1948

As host of NBC's Texaco Star Theater beginning in June 1948, Milton Berle's highly visual, sometimes outrageous vaudeville style proved ideal for the burgeoning new medium of television. Berle became the first great television star.

"Berle and Texaco owned Tuesday nights for the next several years, reaching the number one slot in the Nielsen ratings and keeping it, with as much as an 80% share of the recorded viewing audience. Berle and the show each won Emmy Awards after the first season. Fewer movie tickets were sold on Tuesdays. Some theaters, restaurants and other businesses shut down for the hour or closed for the evening so their customers wouldn't miss Berle's antics. Berle's autobiography notes that in Detroit, 'an investigation took place when the water levels took a drastic drop in the reservoirs on Tuesday nights between 9 and 9:05. It turned out that everyone waited until the end of the Texaco Star Theater before going to the bathroom.' Berle is credited for the huge spike in the sale of TV sets. (Other comedians turned this into a punchline: 'I sold mine, my uncle sold his. . .') After Berle's show began, set sales more than doubled, reaching two million in 1949. His stature as the medium's irst superstar earned Berle the sobriquet 'Mr. Television' " (Wikipedia article on Milton Berle, accessed 12-07-2008).

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The Williams Tube and the "Manchester Baby," the First Operational Stored-Program Computer Runs its First Program June 21, 1948

In July 1946 mathematician Max Newman founded the computer laboratory at Manchester University via a grant from the Royal Society. Early on engineers in the department recognized that building an electronic memory would be the most difficult task in building a stored-program computer. In June 1946, English engineer F.C. (Freddie) Williams had begun research on the storage of both analog and digital information on a cathode ray tube at the Telecommunications Research Establishment. By November 1946 he was able to store a single bit (with the "anticipation" method), based around a standard radar CRT, and filed a provisional patent for the mechanism in December 1946.

"In December 1946 Freddie Williams was appointed to a chair at the University of Manchester, and left TRE. However both he and TRE wanted the research to continue, so Tom Kilburn, who was in his group at TRE, was seconded to the University of Manchester to continue the work with Freddie Williams on digital CRT storage. A Scientific Officer from TRE was also seconded full time to help him, initially Arthur Marsh, who left after a few months, and was replaced in the summer of 1947 by Geoff Tootill.

"By March 1947 Tom Kilburn had discovered a different and better method of storing information, more suited to storing a large number of bits on the same tube. By November 1947 they had succeeded in storing 2048 bits for a period of hours, having investigated a number of variations on storing a set of bits (dot-dash, dash-dot, defocus-focus, focus-defocus)" (http://www.computer50.org/mark1/new.baby.html#tootill, accessed 10-09-2011).

"The Williams tube tended to become unreliable with age, and most working installations had to be "tuned" by hand. By contrast, mercury delay line memory was slower and also needed hand tuning, but it did not age as badly and enjoyed some success in early digital electronic computing despite its data rate, weight, cost, thermal and toxicity problems. However, the Manchester Mark 1 was successfully commercialised as the Ferranti Mark 1. Some early computers in the USA also used the Williams tube, including the IAS machine, originally designed for Selectron tube memory, the UNIVAC 1103, IBM 701, IBM 702 and the Standards Western Automatic Computer (SWAC). Williams tubes were also used in the Soviet computer, Strela-1" (Wikipedia article on Williams Tube, accessed 10-09-2011).

After two years of research and development, on June 21, 1948 the Manchester Small Scale Experimental Machine,or  Manchester "Baby" prototype computer (Manchester Baby), ran its first program, written by Tom Kilburn. This small pilot version of a larger computer was the first stored-program electronic digital computer. It operated for only a short time.  The machine was built at the Victoria University of Manchester in England by Frederic C. Williams, Tom Kilburn and Geoff Tootill to test the Williams-Kilburn cathode ray tube (CRT) memory (Williams tube).

"The machine was not intended to be a practical computer but was instead designed as a testbed for the Williams tube, an early form of computer memory. Although considered 'small and primitive' by the standards of its time, it was the first working machine to contain all of the elements essential to a modern electronic computer. As soon as the SSEM had demonstrated the feasibility of its design, a project was initiated at the university to develop it into a more usable computer, the Manchester Mark 1. The Mark 1 in turn quickly became the prototype for the Ferranti Mark 1, the world's first commercially available general-purpose computer.

"The SSEM had a 32-bit word length and a memory of 32 words. As it was designed to be the simplest possible stored-program computer, the only arithmetic operations implemented in hardware were subtraction and negation; other arithmetic operations were implemented in software. The first of three programs written for the machine found the highest proper divisor of 218 (262,144), a calculation it was known would take a long time to run—and so prove the computer's reliability—by testing every integer from 218 − 1 downwards, as divisions had to be implemented by repeated subtractions of the divisor. The program consisted of 17 instructions and ran for 52 minutes before reaching the correct answer of 131,072, after the SSEM had performed 3.5 million operations (for an effective CPU speed of 1.1 kIPS)" (Wikipedia article Manchester Small Scale Experimental Machine, accessed 10-09-2011).

You can watch a streaming video of a 1948 BBC newsreel about the Manchester "Baby" at this link. [You will need to scroll down the web page.]

None of the original Manchester Baby exists; however, a working replica 5.2 meters long and 1 ton in weight is on display at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI). In June 2013 its operation was demonstrated every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 11AM to 3PM.

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Shannon's "A Mathematical Theory of Communication" July – October 1948

During July and October 1948 Claude Shannon of MIT and Bell Labs published his Mathematical Theory of Communication. The theory determined how much information could be sent per unit of time in a system with a given, limited amount of transmission power. In this work Shannon also introduced the term "bit" into the literature, and provided its current meaning in the context of information.  Shannon attributed the origin of this word usage to John W. Tukey, who had written a Bell Labs memo on January 9, 1947 in which Tukey contracted "binary digit" to simply "bit".  

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Alan Turing's Contributions to Artificial Intelligence July 1948 – 1950

In July and August 1948 Alan Turing wrote a report for the National Physical Laboratory entitled Intelligent Machinery. In the report he stated that a thinking machine should be given the blank mind of an infant instead of an adult mind filled with opinions and ideas. The report contained an early discussion of neural networks. Turing estimated that it would take a battery of programmers fifty years to bring this learning machine from childhood to adult mental maturity. The report was not published until 1968.

In September 1948 Turing joined the computer project at Manchester University as Deputy Director and chief programmer.

In 1950 Turing published Computing Machinery and Intelligence, in which he described the “Turing Test" for determining whether a machine is “intelligent.”

"Turing predicted that machines would eventually be able to pass the test; in fact, he estimated that by the year 2000, machines with around 100 MB of storage would be able to fool 30% of human judges in a five-minute test, and that people would no longer consider the phrase "thinking machine" contradictory. (In practice, from 2009-2012, the Loebner Prize chatterbot contestants only managed to fool a judge once, and that was only due to the human contestant pretending to be a chatbot.) He further predicted that machine learning would be an important part of building powerful machines, a claim considered plausible by contemporary researchers in artificial intelligence.

"In a 2008 paper submitted to 19th Midwest Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Science Conference, Dr. Shane T. Mueller predicted a modified Turing Test called a "Cognitive Decathlon" could be accomplished within 5 years.

"By extrapolating an exponential growth of technology over several decades, futurist Ray Kurzweil predicted that Turing test-capable computers would be manufactured in the near future. In 1990, he set the year around 2020. By 2005, he had revised his estimate to 2029.

"The Long Bet Project Bet Nr. 1 is a wager of $20,000 between Mitch Kapor (pessimist) and Ray Kurzweil (optimist) about whether a computer will pass a lengthy Turing Test by the year 2029. During the Long Now Turing Test, each of three Turing Test Judges will conduct online interviews of each of the four Turing Test Candidates (i.e., the Computer and the three Turing Test Human Foils) for two hours each for a total of eight hours of interviews. The bet specifies the conditions in some detail" (Wikipedia article on Turing Test, accessed 06-15-2014).

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Comparing the Functions of Genes to Self-Reproducing Automata September 20, 1948

At the Hixon Symposium in Pasadena, California on September 20, 1948 John von Neumann spoke on The General and Logical Theory of Automata. Within this speech von Neumann compared the functions of genes to self-reproducing automata. This was the first of a series of five works (some posthumous) in which von Neumann attempted to develop a precise mathematical theory allowing comparison of computers and the human brain.

“For instance, it is quite clear that the instruction I is roughly effecting the functions of a gene. It is also clear that the copying mechanism B performs the fundamental act of reproduction, the duplication of the genetic material, which is clearly the fundamental operation in the multiplication of living cells. It is also easy to see how arbitrary alterations of the system E, and in particular of I, can exhibit certain typical traits which appear in connection with mutation, which is lethality as a rule, but with a possibility of continuing reproduction with a modification of traits.” (pp. 30-31).

Molecular biologist Sydney Brenner read this brief discussion of the gene within the context of information in the proceedings of the Hixon Symposium, published in 1951. Later he wrote about in his autobiography:

“The brilliant part of this paper in the Hixon Symposium is his description of what it takes to make a self-reproducing machine. Von Neumann shows that you have to have a mechanism not only of copying the machine, but of copying the information that specifies the machine. So he divided the machine--the automaton as he called it--into three components; the functional part of the automaton, a decoding section which actually takes a tape, reads the instructions and builds the automaton; and a device that takes a copy of this tape and inserts it into the new automaton. . . . I think that because of the cultural differences between most biologists on the one hand, and physicists and mathematicians on the other, it had absolutely no impact at all. Of course I wasn’t smart enough to really see then that this is what DNA and the genetic code was all about. And it is one of the ironies of this entire field that were you to write a history of ideas in the whole of DNA, simply from the documented information as it exists in the literature--that is, a kind of Hegelian history of ideas--you would certainly say that Watson and Crick depended upon von Neumann, because von Neumann essentially tells you how it’s done. But of course no one knew anything about the other. It’s a great paradox to me that in fact this connection was not seen” (Brenner, My Life, 33-36).

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The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is Adopted by the United Nations December 10, 1948

On December 10, 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly at the Palais de Chaillot, Paris. The Declaration, which arose from the experience of the Second World War, represented the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled. In January 2015 the full text of the declaration was available from the United Nations website at this link.  

"The Declaration consists of thirty articles which have been elaborated in subsequent international treaties, regional human rights instruments, national constitutions, and other laws. The International Bill of Human Rights consists of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its two Optional Protocols. In 1966, the General Assembly adopted the two detailed Covenants, which complete the International Bill of Human Rights. In 1976, after the Covenants had been ratified by a sufficient number of individual nations, the Bill took on the force of international law.

"During World War II, the Allies adopted the Four Freedomsfreedom of speechfreedom of religion,freedom from fear, and freedom from want—as their basic war aims. The United Nations Charter"reaffirmed faith in fundamental human rights, and dignity and worth of the human person" and committed all member states to promote "universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion".

"When the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany became apparent after the war, the consensus within the world community was that the United Nations Charter did not sufficiently define the rights to which it referred. A universal declaration that specified the rights of individuals was necessary to give effect to the Charter's provisions on human rights" (Wikipedia article on Universal Declaration of Human Rights, accessed 01-10-2015).

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The Nyquist-Shannon Sampling Theorem 1949

In 1949 American mathematician, electrical engineer, and cryptographer Claude Shannon published Communication in the Presence of Noise

"The sampling theorem was implied by the work of Harry Nyquist in 1928 ('Certain topics in telegraph transmission theory'), in which he showed that up to 2B independent pulse samples could be sent through a system of bandwidth B; but he did not explicitly consider the problem of sampling and reconstruction of continuous signals. About the same time, Karl Küpfmüller showed a similar result, and discussed the sinc-function impulse response of a band-limiting filter, via its integral, the step response Integralsinus; this bandlimiting and reconstruction filter that is so central to the sampling theorem is sometimes referred to as a Küpfmüller filter (but seldom so in English).

"The sampling theorem, essentially a dual of Nyquist's result, was proved by Claude E. Shannon in 1949 ('Communication in the presence of noise'). V. A. Kotelnikov published similar results in 1933 ('On the transmission capacity of the 'ether' and of cables in electrical communications', translation from the Russian), as did the mathematician E. T. Whittaker in 1915 ('Expansions of the Interpolation-Theory', 'Theorie der Kardinalfunktionen'), J. M. Whittaker in 1935 ('Interpolatory function theory'), and Gabor in 1946 ('Theory of communication')" (Wikipedia article on Nyquist-Shannon Sampling Theorem, accessed 01-04-2010).

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Edmund Berkeley's "Giant Brains," the First Popular Book on Electronic Computers 1949

In 1949 mathematician and actuary Edmund Berkeley issued Giant Brains or Machines that Think, the first popular book on electronic computers, published years before the public heard much about the machines. The work was published by John Wiley & Sons who were enjoying surprising commercial success with Norbert Wiener's much more technical book, Cybernetics.

Among many interesting details, Giant Brains contained a discussion about a machine called Simon, which has been called the first personal computer. 

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Foundation of MIT's Lincoln Laboratory and SAGE 1949 – 1951

In August 1949, the Soviet Union exploded an atomic bomb. When Truman administration broke the news a month later the disclosure provoked a wave of fear and confusion — a reaction that intensified with the equally frightful revelation that the Soviets had developed long-range bombers capable of crossing the North Pole and attacking the United States.

To develop an automated detection and interception system to protect the entire U.S. from incoming bombers, in 1949, under the name Project Charles, the Air Force funded a project proposed by George Valley and Jay Forrester of MIT to develop a military grade version of the Whirlwind computer. The Final Report of the Air Defense Systems Engineering Committee (1950) concluded that the United States was unprepared for the threat of an air attack, and, as a result, in 1951 MIT's Lincoln Laboratory was founded in Lexington, Massachusetts, as a federally funded research and development center, initially focused on improving the nation's air defense system through advanced electronics. 

Because of MIT's management of the Radiation Laboratory  during World War II, and the experience of some of its staff on the Air Defense Systems Engineering Committee, and MIT's proven competence in electronics, the U.S. Air Force recommended that MIT could provide the research needed to develop an air defense that could detect, identify, and ultimately intercept air threats. However, it was soon determined that technology based on the Whirlwind computer, which Valley and Forrester had originally recommended for the purpose, was clearly inadequate. Instead, the project evolved into the huge Semi-Automatic Ground Environment or SAGE system, development of which occurred from 1954 to 1963.

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The Antiquarian Booksellers Association of American (ABAA) is Founded 1949

In 1949 the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America was founded in New York to promote ethical standards in the antiquarian booktrade both in America and internationally.

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Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four" is Published 1949

In 1949 English author Eric Arthur Blair, writing under his pseudonym, George Orwell, published the dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four in London. The story followed the life of Winston Smith, an apparently minor civil servant whose job was to falsify records and political literature, and thus perpetuate propaganda. Becoming disillusioned with this system and his meagre existence, Smith began a futile rebellion against the system. Orwell's novel became famous for its satirical portrayal of surveillance, and of society's increasing encroachment on the rights of the individual. Since its publication the terms Big Brother and Orwellian became widely used in popular speech.

"Nineteen Eighty-Four's impact upon the English language is extensive; many of its concepts: Big Brother, Room 101 (the worst place in the world), the Thought Police, the memory hole (oblivion), doublethink (simultaneously holding and believing two contradictory beliefs), and Newspeak (ideological language), are common usages for denoting and connoting overarching, totalitarian authority; Doublespeak is an elaboration of doublethink; the adjective "Orwellian" denotes that which is characteristic and reminiscent of George Orwell's writings, specifically 1984. The practice of appending the suffixes "-speak" and "-think" (groupthink, mediaspeak) to denote unthinking conformity. Many other works, in various forms of media, have taken themes from Nineteen Eighty-four" (Wikipedia article on Nineteen Eighty-Four).

As an aside, I remember reading Nineteen Eighty-Four in school in the 1950s. During the Cold War it, along with Orwell's Animal Farm, were required reading in many schools.  When I first read Nineteen Eighty Four I found much of it scary, but it seemed like it was set in the distant future. Later, when 1984 rolled around, I reread the novel and thought how "unlikely" it would be that Orwellian ideas would propagate in our free society. In 2013 with the disclosures by Eric Snowden of extensive secret electronic surveillance of Americans by the U.S. National Security Agency, Orwellian ideas did not seem so far-fetched, even in America.

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" A Sand County Almanac," Classic of the Environmental Movement 1949

In 1949 A Sand County Almanac by American ecologist, forester, and environmentalist Aldo Leopold was published in New York one year after Leopold's death. A combination of natural history, philosophy, and poetic writing, it informed the environmental movement. "It is perhaps best known for the following quote, which defines his land ethic: 'A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.' The concept of a trophic cascade is put forth in the chapter Thinking Like a Mountain, wherein Leopold realizes that killing a predator wolf carries serious implications for the rest of the ecosystem" (Wikipedia article on Aldo Leopold, accessed 01-18-2209).

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Roberto Busa & IBM Adapt Punched Card Tabulating to Sort Words in a Literary Text: The Origins of Humanities Computing 1949 – 1951

In 1949 Roberto Busa, Jesuit priest, professor of Ontology, Theodicy and Scientific Methodology and, for some years, librarian in the "Aloisianum" Faculty of Philosophy of Gallarate, in Northern Italy,  began the monumental task of creating an index verborum of all the words in the works of St Thomas Aquinas and related authors, totaling some 11 million words of medieval Latin. This was, of course, before any electronic digital computers were available. What was available was a single operating example of Vannevar Bush's Rapid Selector in Washington, D.C., and various versions of electric punched card tabulators, some of which could be programmed. Busa's first published report on this project appears to be Sancti Thomae Aquinatis hymnorum ritualium varia specimina concordantiarum. Archivum Philosophicum Aloisianum, Ser. II, no. 7. (Milan, 1951), in which the specimen of the concordance was, of course, published in Latin, while Busa's introductory text was published in English and Italian. The bilingual subtitle of the work read in English, "A First Example of Word Index Automatically Compiled and Printed by IBM Punched Card Machines." In this work Busa first summarized notable examples of indices verborum compiled before his project, and then analyzed five stages of the process:

"1- transcription of the text, broken down into phrases, on to separate cards;

"2- multiplication of the cards (as many as there are words on each);

"3- indicating on each card the respective entry (lemma);

"4- the selection and placing in alphabetical order of all the cards according to the lemma and its purely material quality;

"5 - finally, once that formal elaboration of the alphabetical order of the words which only an expert's intelligence can perform, has been done, the typographical composition of the pages to be published.

"A kind of mechanisation has been working for years so far as regards caption 2: the T.L.L. and the Mitellateinisches Wörterbuch use the services of Copying Bureaux, where one of the many well known systems of duplicating are used; Prof. J.H. Defarrari of Washington used electrical typewriters which can make many copies; Prof. P. O'Reilly of Notre Dame. . .had each side of the page repeated as many times as there were words contained theron" (Busi, op. cit., p. 20).

Busa ruled out the Rapid Selector and approached IBM in New York and in IBM's head office in Milano, where he obtained funding and cooperation. Busi's summary of his progress to date published in 1951 is perhaps the earliest detailed discussion of the methods used and problems encountered in applying punched card tabulators to a humanities project. Therefore I quote it in detail. Readers will notice some pecularities in the English translation published:

" Now what I intend publishing, are the results of a first series of experiments carried out with electric accounting machines operating by means of punched cards. Of the three companies using this system, the International Business Mchines (IBM), the Powers of the Remington Rand, and the Bull, it was at the Milan Head Office of the Italian organisation of the first, which is also the most important, that I continued the research I had commenced at the New York Headquarters.

"What had first appeared as merely intuition, can today be presented as an acquired fact: the punched card machines carry out all the material part of the work mentioned under captions 2, 3, 4, and 5 [above].

"I must say that if this success has its origin in the multiple adaptability, characteristic of the equipment in question, it was nonetheless due to the openmindedness and intelligence of the IBM people, who have honoured me with their patient confidence, that the method for such application has been found. I will give a brief description of the stages of the process and the first trials which were carried out on one of Dante's Cantos.

"The Automatic Punch, controlled by a keyboard similar to that of an ordinary typewriter, «wrote» by holes or perforations, one for each card, all the lines; a total of 136 cards. This is the sole work done by human eyes and fingers directly and responsibly; if at this point oversights occur, the error will be repeated from stage to stage; but if no mistakes were made, or were elminated, there is no fear of fresh errors; human work from now onwards is reduced to mere supervision on the proper functioning of the various machines.

"The contents of each card can be made legible either on the punch itself which, if required, can simultaneously write in letters on the upper edge of the card what is «written» in holes on the various lines of columns thereon; or else on a second machine, the so-called Interpreter, which transcribes in letters the holes it encounters on the cards (previously punched). This offers not only a more accurate transcription in virtue of the better type and greater spacing of the characters, but a transcription which can be effected on any desired portion of the card.

"The 136 cards thus punched were then processed through a third machine, the Reproducer: this automatically copied them on another 136 cards, but adding, sideways of the lines and their quotations, the first of the words contained in each. Subsequently it makes a second copy, adding on the side the second word, then a third copy adding the third, and so forth. There were finally 943 cards, as many as were the words of the third canto of Dante's Inferno; thus each word in that canto had its card, accompanied by the text (or rather, here, by the line) and by the quotation. This is equivalent to state that each line was multiplied as many times as words it contained. I must confess that in actual practice this was not so simple as I endeavoured to make it in the description; the second and the successive words did not actually commence in the same column on all cards. In fact, it was this lack of determined fields which constituted the greatest hindrance in transposing the system from the commercial and statistical uses to the sorting of words from a literary text [bold text mine, JN] The result was attained by exploring the cards, column by column, in order to identify by the non-punched columns the end of the previous word and the commencement of the following one; thus, operating with the sorter and reproducer together, were produced only those words commencing and finishing in the same columns.

"This operation is rather a long one; theoretically as many sortings and groups of reproductions as there are columns occupied by the longest line, multiplied by the number of letters contained in the longest word; in practice various devices make it possible to shorten this routine a good deal. It must be borne in mind that the amount of human work entailed by all ths processing the words and setting up of the reproducer panels--about two persons' one day work--remains unchanged notwithstanding the increased number of cards. While it is true that there are longer intervals, namely those intervals during which the machines carry out their own operations, it is equally true that the operations which in the case of a few cards are inevitably consecutive, with many cards can be simultaneous; the time taken by the reproducer to copy one stack can be used to sort others or to set up the panel for the next reproduction. At present the reproducer can reproduce 6,000 cards an hour, and the sorter can explore 36,000.

"Having reached this point, it is a trifle to put the words into alphabetical order; the Sorter, proceeding backwards, from the last letter, sorts and groups gradually column by column, all the identical letters; in a few minutes the words are aligned and the card file, in alphabetical order, is already compiled.

"This order can be obtained again with the same ease, as often as required. If the scholar, while making his research on the carried conceptual content, disturbed the alphabetical order of the items, this same order can be very easily obtained once more merely by the use of the sorter, which is the most elementary IBM machine.

"The philologist, however, must group or sort further on what the machine has not been able to «feel»; thus have, had are different forms of the same verb; thus, in Italian, andiamocene, diamogliene are several words joined into one, and for the Latin mortuus est is a single word form which means died, but could also mean the dead man is and then they would be two items; and so on for the whole wide range of homonyms.

"When the order has thus been properly modified and attains its final form, the cards are ready to be process in the Alphanumerical Accounting Machine, or Tabulator.

"The tabulator retranscribes on a sheet of paper, in letters and numbers— no longer in holes— line after line, the contents represented by the holes in the cards, at the rate of 4,800 cards per hour; and this is a page of the concordance or index in its final arrangement. The published edition can now obtained by some kind of reproduction; for ex. employing ribbon and paper of the kind that allows the use of lithographical dupicators.

"The concordance which I am presenting as an example is precisely an off-set reproduction of tabulated sheets turned out by the accounting machine.

"The flexibility of these machines offers the possibility of making varied and sometimes extremely useful, applications. I am making a brief mention of the most salient ones.

"The tabulated document can be printed on a continuous paper roll or else on separate sheets of varying sizes; in other words, the machine can be made to change the sheet automatically after a given number of lines.

"The distance between lines can also be automatically differentiated; it is possible to arrange the machine so as to make, for example, without further human intervention, a double space when it goes on to a new word (for example from anima to animato) and, say, four spaces between the words commencing with the letter A and those commencing with B, and so on,. The data which are, for example, at the right of the card can be tabulated, if desired, at the left, viceversa; so that the quotation can be placed prior or subsequent to the line independently of its position on the card.

"The card contents can be reproduced also partially, which makes it possible to obtain only an index of the quotations for those words of which it is not deemed desirable to have the concordance.

"The tabulator's performance is extremely useful when, to use, the current technical phrase, it is running in tab.

"Then it turns out only the list of the words which are different if, for example, the cards containing the preposition ab total two hundred, the machine will print ab once only, but, if desired, will add at the side thereof the number of times, that is 200, and so on for each word. The list thus obtained is very useful in studying those intelligent integrating touches to be given to the alphabetical order of the words, which, as I said, is effected by the machine on the mere basis of the purely material quality of the printed word. It is also useful as an entry table for all who wish to peruse the whole vocabulary of an author for determined purposes; still more useful when beside the word is shown the frequency with which it is used. When another machine called the Summary Punch is connected to the accounting machine running in tab, while the latter is turning out the long tabulated list of different words, the former, electrically controlled by the accounting machine, simultanteously punches a new card for each of these words, thus providing ready headings to be placed before the single groups of lines or quotations. If necessary, these can be inserted in their proper place among all the others automatically by the collator.

"This Collator which searches simultaneously two separate groups of cards at the rate of 20,000 per hour, and can insert, substitute and change cards from one with the cards from the other group, also offers some initial solutions to the problem of finding phrases or compound expressions. Taking, for example the expression according to: the group of cards containing according and that containing to are processed in the machine; on the basis of the identical quotation, the machine will extract all those cards on which both appear. It is true that they may be separated by other words, but one thing is certain, namely that all the cards bearing according to will be among those extracted; the eye and the hand must do the rest. It is still easier to obtain the same result when a card beaing the phrase sought for can be used as a pilot-card.

"The collator can also be used to verify and correct the cards which have been manually punched at the beginning, and thus guarantee the accuracy of the transcription, an indispensable condition for philological works, particularly in the light of their peculiar function. Two separate typists punch the same text, each on his own; the collator compares the two series of cards, perceiving the discrepancies; of the cards not coinciding, at least one is wrong. This control allows only the following case to pass unobserved, namely two typists make the same error in the same place. This case is very improbable and so much the less probable in as much as the qualities and circumstances of typing and typist are different.

"This method of verifying, although substantially the same, offers perhaps some advantages over the other, usually employed by IBM in the intent of not doubling the number, and consequently the cost, of the cards purposely, whereas in our case this is no hindrance, since each card already has to be multiplied as many times as the words it contains; the punched cards are put through the Verifier on the keys of which a typist repeats the sane text; the machine signals him when his punching does not concord with the existing holes; one of the two is wrong.

"Before concluding, a criticism of these initial results should be made, also to justify the lines along which I am working to perfect the method: only the first man [an allusion to Adam] happened to begin his life as an adult.

"In the first place, the machines I used— those commonly used in Europe up to 1950— produce a final tabulated page the appearance of which is still perceptibly less satifactory than that of printed material. Many will hold the opinion that this is compensated by the automatic performance and the high speed of their writing. But it is indeed hard to sacrifice accents and punctuation as well as the difference between capitals and small letters. Similar considerable limitations are involved by the card capacity; eighty spaces.

"Since each card includes both quotation and lemma, the average text for each word could not therefore surpass, by much, a hendecasyllable. And this is little, the more so one bears in mind that the machines do not allow the omission of subordinate phrases or even words, by which the penworker instead can choose only those few words, which constitute the substance of an expression. This brevity in the text, perceptible in a printed concordance and even more so in the case of prose instead of verse, is extremely distressing when the card file is used for research work; infinite occasions will indeed arise where the scant surrounding will not give the lexicographer sufficient elements for a well-grounded interpretation and, by compelling him to a too frequent and aggravating recourse to the text, will tempt him—there are even little devils specialised in leading philologists into sin!— with the bait of a hasty judgment.

"Even with only the groups of machines above mentioned, it is quite possible to obviate the latter hindrance, but I will not set forth the various means of doing this. Not only so as not to disconcert the reader; it does happen indeed that when one glimpses at the unimagined possibility of carrying out, for example, in four years a work which would have required otherwise half a century (this is the case of the concordance I have in mind for 13,000 in folio pages of the works of St.Thomas Aquinas) everyone becomes so confident and at the same time so exacting with the new method, that all feel deluded when told that the operations involved in making it possible to have an abundance of text on every card will delay, let us say, by twelve months, the conclusion of the work. But it would above all be purposeless to devote time and attention to such devices, for new model IBM machines already in public use in the United States, but not yet in Europe, will allow a more aesthetically precise final printing, punctuation, accents and texts longer than the usual card capacity. I refer to the Cardatype and the type 407 Accounting Machine. I hope to write about this in the near future" (Busa, op. cit. 22-34).

(This entry was last revised on 03-15-2015.)

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Discovery of the Sex Chromatin: Beginning of Cytogenetics 1949

In 1949 Canadian physician and medical researcher Murray L. Barr and his graduate student Edwart G. Bertram, working at the University of Western Ontario, showed that it is possible to determine the genetic sex of an individual according to whether there is a chromatin mass present on the inner surface of the nuclear membraine of cells with resting or intermittent nuclei (sex chromatin). In Barr's words:

"After several years spent on several research projects, all of which were in the field of neurocytology, i.e. the cells of the nervous system, I decided in 1948 to start a project that was designed to learn whether heightened nerve cell activity produced any structural changes in these cells. The experiment required stimulation of a nerve in cats, during which they were anaesthetized. The animals were anaesthetized again when the portion of the brain containing the stimulated cells was removed for microscopic examination. The cats were therefore subjected to no discomfort or pain.

Just after the details of the experiment had been worked out, Ewart G. Bertram applied for a position as a graduate student leading to the Master of Science degree and we worked together on the project.... Examination of the sections showed that the nerve cell nuclei contained an especially prominent mass of chromatin, i.e. the particulate matter derived from the chromosomes, these being the nuclear components that bear the genes. However, it was soon found that the special mass of chromatin was present in the cell nuclei of some animals and not of others. Checking the experimental records showed that the mass was present in the nuclei of female cats and absent from those of male cats. It was therefore named the sex chromatin because of the sex difference and this discovery was the beginning of the new science of human cytogenetics, i.e. the relation of chromosome abnormalities to developmental defects. Methods of testing suitable for use in humans were devised and before long, it was shown that numerical or structural abnormalities of the chromosome were responsible for a number of developmental defects. The best known are Turner's syndrome in females, Klinefelter's syndrome in males and Down's syndrome in persons of both sexes. The use of testing for chromosomal abnormalities is of particular interest to paediatricians, endocrinologists and psychiatrists, especially those who are involved with the mentally retarded."

Barr & Bertram, "A Morphological Distinction between Neurones of the Male and Female, and the Behaviour of the Nucleolar Satellite during Accelerated Nucleoprotein Synthesis," Nature 163 (4148) (1949) 676-7. doi:10.1038/163676a0.

J. Norman (ed) Morton's Medical Bibliography 5th ed (1991) no. 255.5

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Donald Hebb Formulates the "Hebb Synapse" in Neuropsychological Theory 1949

In 1949 Canadian psychologist Donald O. Hebb, then professor at McGill University, issued The Organization of Behavior. A Neuropsychological Theory. This work contained the first explicit statement of the physiological learning rule for synaptic modification that became known as the "Hebb synapse." His theory became known as Hebbian theory, Hebb's rule, Hebb's postulate, and cell assembly theory. Models which follow this theory are said to exhibit "Hebbian learning." As Hebb wrote in the book: "When an axon of cell A is near enough to excite cell B and repeatedly or persistently takes part in firing it, some growth process or metabolic change takes place in one or both cells such that A's efficiency, as one of the cells firing B, is increased."

"This is often paraphrased as 'Neurons that fire together wire together.' It is commonly referred to as Hebb's Law.

"The combination of neurons which could be grouped together as one processing unit, Hebb referred to as 'cell-assemblies'. And their combination of connections made up the ever-changing algorithm which dictated the brain's response to stimuli.

"Not only did Hebb's model for the working of the mind influence how psychologists understood the processing of stimuli within the mind but also it opened up the way for the creation of computational machines that mimicked the biological processes of a living nervous system. And while the dominant form of synaptic transmission in the nervous system was later found to be chemical, modern artificial neural networks are still based on the transmission of signals via electrical impulses that Hebbian theory was first designed around" (Wikipedia article on Hebbian theory, accessed 01-01-2014).

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One of the Earliest Attempts at Automating Information Retrieval April 1949 – January 1953

In April 1949 physician and medical librarian at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Sanford Larkey, published The Army Medical Library Research Project at the Welch Medical Library. This was one of the first reports on one of the earliest projects in automating information retrieval, the expression for which was coined by Calvin Mooers the following year. 

From Larkey's 1949 report I quote:

"The use of machine methods may appear somewhat Utopian but one must look to the possibilities of the future. As present the machines are in a sense ahead of our ideas as to how they can be used and we must determine what we want them to do. Machines can probably be designed to do what we desire but it must be determined how well they do it and if it is worth doing, in terms of cost, in terms of the needs of medical research, and in light of the operating policies of the Army Medical Library and of the various indexing services.

"One of the most important features of machine operation is the working out of a coding systme that will be complete enough and at the same specific enough. Classified and alphabetical bases for coding will studied and a tentative coding system developed. Using this coding system, pilot runs of controlled material will be set up on IBM equipment and the results compared with bibliographies prepared by careful direct analysis of the material. Further pilot runs will be made using other types of machine methods. From these studies it is hoped that some conclusions can be drawn as to the practicability of the use of machine methods in indexing services or as supplementary to them" (pp. 123-24).

In January 1953 Larkey issued an extended update on progress made entitled "The Welch Medical Library Indexing Project." This is available from PubMedCentral at this link.

(This entry was last revised in December 2016.)

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The EDSAC, the First Easily Used Fully Functional Stored-Program Computer, Runs its First Program May 6, 1949

On May 6, 1949 Maurice V. Wilkes’s EDSAC, fully operational at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory, ran a program written by Wilkes for calculating a table of squares. It also ran a program written by David Wheeler for calculating a sequence of prime numbers. The EDSAC was the first easily used, fully functional stored-program computer to run a program.

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"The Key to the Whole Double Helix Story" Before Watson & Crick June 1949 – 1952

In June 1949 Norwegian chemist, biologist and crystallographer Sven Furberg, who was first to propose a helical structure for DNA, distributed only about five or six copies of his typed PhD dissertation at Birkbeck College London, entitled An X-ray Study of Some Nucleosides and Nucleotides.

"Furberg, reasoning with marked brilliance and luck from data that were meager but included his own x-ray studies, got right the absolute three-dimensional configuration of the individual nucleotide: where Astbury had set sugar parallel to base, Furberg, in what he called the standard configuration, set them at right angles. As a structural element, that standard configuration was a powerful help. 'Furberg's nucleotide—correcting Astbury's error—was absolutely essential to us,' Crick told me. Furberg went on to draw a couple of models of DNA, one of which was a single chain in helical form with the bases sticking out flat and parallel to each other, rising 3.4 angstroms from one to the next, eight nucleotides making one complete turn of the screw in about 27 angstroms. Plausible physically, this helix had too little in it; it failed to account for the density of DNA. Furberg stopped building models and publishe his results in June of 1949—in his doctoral dissertation. . . .

"Over the next three years, Furberg's results appeared piecemeal in a series of papers. From his thesis, his models were well known to Randall's group at King's College. . . . Otherwise, Furberg's models remained almost unnoticed—even by Bernal, who wrote, in 1968, that they had contained 'the key to the whole double helix story' and blamed himself for 'letting the opportunity slip'; Furberg at last got his helical model into print in Acta Chemica Scandinavica late in 1952, in time for Watson and Crick to cite it in the notes to their announcement of the successful solution the next spring" (Judson, The Eighth Day of Creation, 94).

Furberg, "On the Structure of Nucleic Acids," Acta Chemica Scandinavica (1952) 634-40.

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A Neurosurgeon Discusses the Differences between Computers and the Human Brain June 9, 1949

On June 9, 1949 Sir Geoffrey Jefferson, a neurological surgeon at Manchester, England, delivered a speech entitled The Mind of Mechanical Man in which he discussed the differences between computers and the human brain. (See Reading 11.1).

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The Origin of Statistical Machine Translation July 15, 1949

On July 15, 1949 mathematician Warren Weaver, a student of Claude Shannon's information theory, and in charge of science grants at the Rockefeller Foundation, New York, circulated a memorandum entitled Translation, suggesting that language translation by computer might be possible.

Weaver's memorandum has been called the origin of statistical machine translation

(See Reading 10.1.)

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The First Stored-Program Computer in Australia November 1949

At the University of Melbourne in November 1949 the first test program was run on Trevor Pearcey's and Maston Beard’s CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) Mk1, the first stored-program computer in Australia. In 1956 the machine was renamed CSIRAC.

Excluding the BINAC, which only operated for a short time, the CSIR Mk1 was one of only three stored-program computers operating in the world at this time.  CSIRAC, preserved at the Melbourne Museum, is one of only a very few first generation electronic computers that have survived, including the Zuse Z4, and one or two Ferranti Pegasus computers.

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The Beginning of the Molecular Approach to Disease November 1949

In "Sickle Cell Anemia, a Molecular Disease," Science 110 (1949) 543-48 Linus PaulingHarvey A. ItanoSeymour J. Singer and Ibert C. Wells established sickle-cell anemia as a genetic disease in which affected individuals have a different form of the metalloprotein hemoglobin in their blood. The paper introduced the concept of a "molecular disease," and represents the beginning of molecular medicine.

"The paper helped establish that genes control not just the presence or absence of enzymes (as genetics had shown in the early 1940s) but also the specific structure of protein molecules. It was also an important triumph in the efforts of Pauling and others to apply the instruments and methods of the physical sciences to biology, and Pauling used it promote such research and attract funding" (Wikipedia article on Sickle Cell Anemia, a Molecular Disease, accessed 01-17-2014).

J. Norman (ed) Morton's Medical Bibliography 5th ed (1991) no. 3154.1.

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Proof that a Program Could Reproduce Itself December 1949

In December 1949 mathematician John von Neumann delivered lectures at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on the Theory of Self-Reproducing Automata. In these lectures, which built upon lectures that he gave in Pasadena in 1948, von Neumann showed that in theory a program could reproduce itself. He described what came to be known as the von Neumann Universal Constructor, a self-replicating machine in a cellular automata (CA) environment. After von Neumann's death the lectures were completed and edited by A. W. Burks and published by the University of Illinois Press in 1966. 

Years later one application of this plausibility result in computability theory was the development of what came to be known as malware.

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Enciclopedia Mecanica, Forerunner of the Electronic Book December 7, 1949

In 1949 Angela Ruiz Robles, a teacher, writer, and inventor in Ferrol, Spain, patented an analog device called the Enciclopedia Mecánica. This is considered a fore-runner of the electronic book.

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