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Couffignal Decides against Building a Stored-Program Computer in France


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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