Computer Pioneers: Pioneer Computers Part 1



hello I'm Gordon Bell here at the computer Museum in Boston when I got into computing in the late 50s I met many of the pioneers and saw some of the first computers in action in fact the 1952 whirlwind behind me was the first computer I ever wrote a program for with this series I hope to give you a sense of what it was like to invent computing you'll see and hear the pioneers and their computers in vintage footage and later day reminiscences I will be your guide in time travel from the dawn of computing in the 30s to its commercialization in the 50s in the 30s card calculating while in advance over pencil paper and mechanical calculators was labor-intensive slow and unwieldy systems like this were used in the war effort including the design of the a-bomb at Los Alamos scientific problems were laborious ly done on desk calculators took hours and days to do and were fraught with the errors of human input by 1937 five independent researchers were dreaming about computing machines four were driven by curiosity and frustration with the error-prone slowness of their own work they were inner driven to build a fast scientific calculating machine the first was konrad zuse a– in berlin while a student of civil engineering he started to work on the design of mechanical aids to stress calculations by 1936 Sousa had a basic design for a computer whose operations were specified by a sequence of markings on a tape the same year in England Alan Turing's paper on computable numbers was published introducing the concept of a universal computing an academic audience but none of the others were affected by his paper at Harvard physicist Howard Aiken inspired by the designs of Charles Babbage was determined to build a machine to solve nonlinear differential equations that he was encountering in his dissertation at Iowa State University John Atanasoff was consumed with building a machine to solve simultaneous algebraic equations for the solution of partial differential equations and finally at Bell Labs George stibitz was experimenting with the use of relays to build a reliable calculator for circuit analysis stibitz was the first to get an operational machine his story is the BTL mark one he tells us about this in a 1980 lecture at the computer museum there was a little effective communication among the computer pioneers and each development with possibly one exception I think took off from very ancient beginnings in the case of the relay computers that I had a hand in the initiation was entirely a matter of curiosity about the way in which computers in which relay circuits could be combined and activated it was just a curiosity about the logical properties of the contacts which individually seemed so extremely simple and in collective masses could do some very remarkable things in the telephone business as I say this had no connection at all with the need for computers at that particular time I was a mathematical engineer at the Bell Laboratories everybody was an engineer then of some sort or else a girl but I noticed that the relay contact had only two stable conditions off and on and this I realized was true of the digit in binary notation nowadays the binary notation is familiar to most youngsters and it's hard to realize that 1937 that I with a PhD in applied mathematics had to stop and think back considerably to decide what a binary notation was I had a vague idea on looking it up it became familiar to me again and we decided to try it out as a means of employing of using the telephone relays and so late in November of 1937 I borrowed from the labs scrap pile a couple of you type relays and I assemble them as nearly like this as I can remember and it's designed to add to one fit numbers there is a and here's B if B as one sum is 1 if a is 1 B 0 sum is 1 if a B are both 1 we get a 1 and a carry and a 0 in the first bit took it to the Bell Labs and showed to some of my friends down there and they were satisfactorily amused by the idea that you could use binary notation from the old days to do arithmetic in the modern and the modern science well then I wasn't entirely sure that so funny and so I started to think about the possibility of doing a little more elaborate arithmetic and 1+1 and I drew up some circuits at home for a calculator that would be something like a desktop calculator it's well known that you can easily connect electrical circuits for the soldering iron you don't have to do a lot of mechanical design to get them to work together and so I support I propose that maybe the relay circuits could be used to do the complex arithmetic so the project was started in September 1938 and construction began in June 1939 the design work assignment of relay types fusing all the multitude of details that have to be considered were taken care of by Sam Williams when I started to think about it decided against training operators to use the binary notation but I had considered the alternatives of converting all numbers into binary form inside the computer or converting decimal digits into binary form of the keys now because of the large amount of input and output we expected from this device we decided on the ladder that is the each key would convert its own digit decimal digit into binary form it was decided that when a meeting of the mathematical society was announced for September that we would demonstrate the machine and give a paper on the subject about why it was useful and how it worked a general the original idea was that we would have a telephone line open between Hannover where the meeting was to be held at New York where the machine was and someone at the meeting would call to the operator on the phone down in New York and ask her to put numbers in the computer and report back what it said and this scheme was very shortly modified so that the computer would opt would respond directly to a teletype which was located in Hannover and would send data back to that same teletype model 1 the complex calculator was then studied by the group the Bell Laboratories and everyone was horrified to find that it had cost 20,000 dollars including redevelopment design construction and debugging well this is the number that simply wouldn't wasn't think about the idea that anybody should spend $20,000 for a mere calculator well something was not acceptable and the labs decided that no more things of this sort would be built soon after the outbreak of world war ii the need for calculation prompted the government to fund the development of more machines at Bell Labs to give you a roadmap of each of these machines this graph shows their memory size versus speed Bell Labs built six more relay machines before the end of the war the largest completed in 1946 had over 9,000 relays in several rooms consumed 20 kilowatts of power use floating-point arithmetic and cost about $500,000 or roughly the equivalent of four million dollars today konrad zuse a– had many ideas that will lead to computing rather than just a better calculator his 1935 diagram of a universal calculating machine used a punched tape to feed information into a control unit that selected a memory cell and specified the arithmetic units operation he saw the need for large memories as a critical element of the computer because his interest came from civil engineering and performing stress calculations involving matrix algebra this is a NAND gate the inputs are on the left and on the bottom when they're both zero there's a zero on the output when the lower input becomes one there's still a zero when the left input becomes a 1 we have a 1 on the output the z1 a 1938 prototype constructed in Zeus's berlin apartment had a 64 word memory the z2 used relays for computation and was useful in convincing Germany's experimental aircraft Institute to fund the z3 the z3 was completed in late 1941 and operated until it was destroyed in World War 2 a copy was made in 1963 for the deutsches museum from his 1941 patent application this model was still working in the early 1990s arithmetic was done in a poised postfix fashion by loading operands into its two registers and then specifying the operation floating point addition took about two seconds instructions were read from holes punched on used 35-millimeter film other data was read into and written from switches and lights in floating point decimal form thus the controller for doing the floating-point arithmetic was non-trivial inventing the notation for designing the relay logic was key to the z3 Zuza himself was very interested in the programming aspects of computation this talk is from a 1981 computer museum lecture surely at first I worked on paper but just right from the beginning I worked was a floating-point principle I called it to Z times 1/2 logical form because at first I tried to make on computers which were working complete with with lower Atmos or logarithms but you know the difficulty is region yes I did not succeed to develop good advise device for this mess form the mathematical point of view it's clear yes us from the beginning I was perfectly clear for the engineer only machine with floating-point arithmetic will be sufficient and so from the first point I developed my whole mechanical machine with this principle and only that was it said one and the arithmetic part was working but it was not working so sufficiently that it could run day by day yes and to make it control it by program and therefore decided to switch over so it's a real a construction and before I did make a whole computer in floating-point arithmetic with relays I made a small test model that was that – that had 16 binary digits with fixed point I have only had in mind totai how it works this relay technique at all I never had in mind that this this border could would work real really well when I began I had no knowledge of mathematical and symbolic logic and I developed for my own purposes so I called it conditional calculus I had my own science for that my own representation I was warned by a tout tout have found a new calculus ascended to my mathematical teacher of the school yes it was a valid clever man and had contact with their manners and the dependent I got a letter home do they have hats a good or word positionally calculus yes and at first surely I was disappointed I was bored ever found and you detect it in you away but then as I thought now if I have the question that it was very good they existed already a well proven and elaborated calculus for the sinks but I only had to translate the formulas of this calculus into switching algebra 936 or 37 when I developed this switching algebra the machines I had made said three and said for maybe the most sophisticated why add in logic which any machine I don't think that any machine built later on had so sophisticated built-in conditions and so that I told you that I educated to take the live the wire form from right to left yes but I put all the logic in the circulatory of this cosmetic unit and when you solve a quadratic what quadratic equation the cause of the calculation you can made in a making a saying like beverage only on the end you have a two values and the solution of the square root was perfectly quiet in like division and multiplication all these six bio Julianne floating-point arithmetic yes and so it was not necessary to have a machine with conditional orders to solve quadratic equations so surely it would have been possible to make conditional orders also toward large the machines set for but I saw we were in a hurry the machine had to be ready the variant area so there was not so time to change the the principle of the machine when I would have gone to my the people who ordered the Machine the Ministry of the aircraft industry when I would have said that well I have a new idea can make it change the address and sort they would have perfectly foolish we don't do that they really need only this year you must be ready next once when I began with the work and the study here yes I concentrated my ideas more on the relations between men and machine I saw that one time there will be that I didn't see any board up between calculating and thinking surely to that time the computers we could make to that time or twenty years ago they were they were far away from being electronic plane today zero I hope you on my brains is ahead of the computers still today the z4 was constructed between 1942 and 45 and was rebuilt in 1950 Susa also had to make a living and work for the Air Ministry lesser-known are his fixed function calculators used between 1942 and 1944 for aircraft design that replaced 30 calculator operators by 1951 z4 had a 1,000 word mechanical memory with 1/2 second access time his logic was carried out with relays on its 32-bit floating-point numbers it was modified in 1950 to perform conditional branching it remained in use until 1959 after the war Zuza started a computer company that built a series of machines before it was ultimately absorbed by Siemens John V Adam Nassif was perhaps the first to conceive of an electronic calculator using serial binary arithmetic in January 1940 at an ass off and his research assistant Clifford berry built a prototype to demonstrate serial binary arithmetic and the use of a capacitor store the Atmos off Barry computer or ABC was designed to solve 30 simultaneous linear equations to enable the solution of partial differential equations capacitors were mounted inside a drum with contacts that were used to read each bit serially as it rotated punch cards stored intermediate results at a nasa also told his story at the computer museum in the fall of 1981 my mother had a large arithmetic which she'd studied in eighth grade it contained many other topics and those usually included in what you call arithmetic and what I would call arithmetic but it had a chapter on numbers with other bases than 10 and I studied this with great care in partial differential equations you can't make much progress but trying to solve them you can't solve them and in the ordinary sense but all you can do is to approximate the answer there are too many there are too many functions necessary to solve those equations they're all over the map things you've never heard of before no one else has ever heard of before and you just can't get out the solution that way this is what actuated me really more than any the problem to get interested in the computing arm there I was in 1936 turning my mind invent a new digital computer not knowing how it would be built or how it would work however I believe they should be fast accurate and flexible of what stuff with my digit to be constructed see we're going to use some quantity to represent digits and how what stuff would that be and would it be mechanical electrical or some other and what would the structure be and the only thing I could think of was the separate memory computing and maybe it wasn't a bad idea and now I thought does bass play a role we're building a digital computer what are we going to do about the base and what determines is how should I do computing what was a computer going to be like and how should memory be constructed I had all these words at that time and for base two numbers I thought of a two step mechanical system ferromagnetic material going back to the wire you know and I thought that was an awful good idea and then I didn't use it a two-state vacuum tube circuit and at capacity with two states of charge you should realize that these concepts represented a hodgepodge of ideas I tried again and again to sort them out nothing seemed to work after months of work and study I went to the office again one evening but it looks as if nothing would happen I was extremely distraught and then I did something that I did in those days but I've had to stop lately I got him all away bill and started a drive I drove hard so I would have to get my attention to driving and I wouldn't have to worry about my problems I drove towards the east side driving a Ford Ford v8 and with a south wind heater I don't suppose you know what a south wind heater is pretty warm but the night was very cold it was the middle of the winter and 1937-38 when I finally came to earth I was crossing the Mississippi River 189 miles from my desk you couldn't get a drink and I went those days but I was crossing it in Illinois I looked ahead and there was a light of course it was it and I stopped and got out and went in and hung up my coat I remember that coat and set out the desk and got a drink and then I noticed that my mind was very clear and sharp and I knew what I wanted to think about and I went right to work on it and work for three hours and then got my car and drove slowly back to Ames and I had made four decisions in that evening in the Illinois Roadhouse use electricity and electronics man of course vacuum tubes in those days is based to in spite of custom for economy use condensers but regenerate to avoid lapses compute by direct action not my enumeration you know that it's easy thing if you if you know about number systems to just have things that count a kind of an internal counter that gives you a numeration but I was going to do it but direct action next thing is the adhan a supercomputer this represents our main effort in computer construction it was designed specifically to solve the problem that bugged us the solution of linear algebraic equations building this machine to solve for a 30 equation in 30 unknowns to work on determinants to 30 places and we're going to use simultaneously 30 add subtract mechanisms and June 13th 1941 dr. John Mauchly visited a B C installations at the invitation of dr. John Vianney soft and he was shown the complete Enterprise might tell you how things went about that computer the Iowa State College staff members were not unduly enthusiastic corporations were not impressed and IBM said they never built such a machine since the beginning many men have worked on computing and many have furnished elements that were important this applies to Lockley eckhart some members of staff such as Burke's greater than others historically lists contain contain pascal napier and zhu zhu credit must also go to the originators of our number system which began computing what each man accomplishes depends on his brains of energy but also on the surrounds in which he works in this timing is important pascal pascal would not have invented electronic digital computing although his brain power was overwhelming in a larger sense no man invents anything he builds an extent a little with his friends and on the shoulders of others many are quietly involved in making this historical record clear and we should all support this effort when at nasse off left iowa in 1942 to become part of the war effort the ABC still lacked a reliable card punch it was not in service the parts were cannibalized and the only remnant is the drum at Nassif's greatest contribution may have been helping break the broad any act patent filed in 1964 he was clearly the first American to use binary arithmetic and vacuum tubes for direct digital computation and to describe in prototype ideas such as non restoring divide a concept the ENIAC patent also claimed the last stories of this era involved Thomas Watson seniors funding of the Harvard mark 1 and the SS EC at Columbia's Watson Laboratory the inventor of the mark 1 was Howard Aiken Aiken was motivated to build a scientific calculator to evaluate integrals like those he was encountering as a PhD candidate he alone of these pioneers was inspired by reading the works of Charles Babbage and his plan for an analytic engine by 1937 he had specified the architecture of a machine that he often referred to as a computing engine it was the imagination and drive of Aiken that created the ASCC for automatic sequence controlled calculator or Harvard mark marking IBM's entry into computation that was not controlled by a plug board a SCC was engineered built and tested by IBM operational in January 1943 it was moved to Harvard and dedicated on August 7th 1944 unfortunately Howard Aiken died in 1973 and never told his story for the camera but Rear Admiral grace hopper his co-author of the ASCC manual vividly describes life working on the harvard Marquand i think we totally forgotten the environment in which mark 1 appeared and what a difference it made in the reaction tour and the problem she ran 41 was Pearl Harbor by 43 we were in the thick of things I had long wanted to join the Navy as well but I was in a classified occupation I was a college professor teaching mathematics at that time the teaching of mathematics was a classified occupation however I finally got permission to leave a sir and then I faced a second obstacle I was underweight some unknown reason to this very day the Navy considers that I should weigh a hundred and forty pounds five years I've been trying to explain to the Navy victim I had Scott's ancestry and I'm lean and tough and I don't need to weigh 140 pounds I weighed 105 pounds my orders sent me to the bureau ships computation project at Harvard this was on a Friday and I was supposed to report on Monday morning so I had Saturday and Sunday off with my family and then I came to Boston and then I started to find a Bureau computation project oh I finally finally found the Office of Naval Research they'd heard of it but they weren't quite sure where it was so wrong but finally about two o'clock in the afternoon I find a beer ships computation project in the basement of cruft laboratory at Harvard I walked in the door and commander akin looked up at me and said where the hell have you been he then waved his hand at mark one all 51 feet over and he said that's a computing engine I think when he called it a computing engine what he meant was it was made up of different parts that perform different functions he informed me that he would be delighted to have the interpolation coefficients for the arctangent by next Thursday well by this time I'd have been introduced to the two programmers who were head of me but it was a small group and a very big machine because mark one was 51 feet long 8 feet high and 8 feet deep and she was in a magnificent glass case eventually designed by Norman Bel Geddes which of course made it better than ever if you go back to that time and – the need for computation she begins to take her place in history in the first place she was the first large scale digital computer in the United States she was automatically sequence she was programmed step by step program exactly as we have today everybody talks about any act because it was the first electronic computer but ENIAC was not programmed he used patch cords and put that together in a simulation of the problem you wanted to solve it was not programmed when it was built so from that point of view mark one more closely resembled what we have today than any of those other early machines because it was sequence sequentially programmed step by step one operation after another a lot of adventures with Mark 1 some of which have become slightly historical at the same time we were running mark 1 we were starting to build mark 2 for the Navy and mark 2 is built entirely out of relays in an awful rush because then the war was on and we were building mark 2 the summer of 1945 and naturally since it was World War 2 we were working in a world war 1 temporary building the air conditioning wasn't very good the screens weren't very good and the windows are all open aren't too stopped they finally found the failing really and inside the failing relay beaten to death by the relay contacts with a moth about this big so the operator got a pair of tweezers and very carefully fished them off out of the relay put it in the logbook put scotch tape over it now and below the row first actual bug phone one of the reasons we so greatly needed computation is another thing most people have forgotten World War two children saw an almost complete change in our weapons systems up to that time when you had a mine the mine had ears sticking out of it and the ship had to hit the ears and break a connection before the mine went off all of we store a sudden we started building acoustic mines but listen for ships magnetic minds have waited for the earth to sense the metal of the ships well now we had to know how big was the effect of the mine how much area was it going to detect ships so all the computations had to be gone over had to be created to tell us how much space around a mind of this minor fact so we know how close – so the mines where to position him so there was a tremendous amount of computation to be done including the a-bomb and all the other things that happened during World War two and the pressure for that computation was very great everything was hurry up do it yesterday so the pressure to keep the only computers we had running was very very strong and mark mark one ran 24 hours a day seven days a week which was a very rough task for a small crew mark one at one set of storage which was a bunch of switches was a big panel now the mark one word consisted of twenty four digits a sign in twenty three decimal digits so across the panel were 24 switches and you could turn them to the different numeric positions and put constants into a problem by put it setting them up in the switches the instruction was essentially a single address instruction except I've never seen anybody call it that because we wrote in the three columns one column was the outcome one was the in column and the C column was the action column for instance a multiply instruction would be 432 out of count of four three two seven six one into the multiplier and seven to go on to the next thing or whatever and the in column was essentially the operation to be performed so it was really a single address code except that you named the quantity first then the operation and the third column was the one that for instance would tell a print counter to go ahead and print a punch card at counter to hurry up and punch that card and so on various action codes were in the third column along with the automatic which moved it to the next step which was the seven so for the seventy two of those storage registers each one of which was an adder the next important unit was probably the multiply divide unit the multiplicand went in first and then in the registers were built up the nine multiples of that quantity the multiplier came in and it called down the multiple can't be multiple so the multiple can one after another and shifted each time and multiply just exactly the way we do when we try to do long-distance about multiplication so very interesting things started developing which led to other things later we began to have pieces of coding in our notebooks for instance stick had a nice little sign program for annuals and angles less than PI over four positive angles and when I needed it for another program I borrowed from his notebook and copy it into another program we didn't realize it but we developed subroutines and the whole future of beginning to get the compilers and the various high-level languages came from those things in the notebooks and both Bob and Dick had notebooks full of those pieces of code and believe me I borrowed them very frequently I also learned learned another lesson at that time which later forced me into the development of the compilers and that was that program can't copy things and that when you integrate a piece of code into another program you frequently have to add to all their addresses and programmers can't add either I don't know whether I've made it clear but the data and the sequencing were totally independent throughout the development of mark 1 and mark 2 and mark 3 Howard Aiken always insisted that the data and the program must be independent and stored independently he was a tough taskmaster I was sitting at my desk one day and he came up beside me and I got on my feet real fast and he said you're gonna write a book I said I can't write a book he said you're in the Navy now and so I wrote a book I have it here with me so that I can manage to answer any questions this is the mark 1 manual the entire Bible of mark 1 it contains every circuit samples of all kind of programming coding every as an excellent bibliography in it on computation as timing charts for all the operations in the various circuits all the circuit diagrams are in here you could take this and build mark one over again if somebody felt like it but many of the things that we think of today common ordinary are forgotten where they came from arose in the development of the first programs that were written for mark 1 both ASCC and Columbia's much faster electronic SSCC stand out because they have large memories like the z3 they were programmed from a sequence of instructions stored on tape SSE C was a prototype for IBM's production model card programmed calculators these machines led to important patents for IBM because they could perform arithmetic on and then X cute stored instructions the IBM engineers working on the SS EC went on to build the highly successful IBM 650 the SSE C programmers became members of the IBM 701 programming group but that's another story here's herb gross one of the programmers of the SS EC the heroes of this story are primarily Watson senior and Wallace Eckert this is Tom Watson senior as I first met him he furnished the money he furnished a large part of the inspiration for the activity through his support for what he thought of as scientific research what we would today call I think Applied Research this is the Watson lab as we saw it in 1945 and 46 when we were moving in it was a former fraternity house which IBM remodeled at great expense and donated to Columbia University and it was in those strange quarters that the romantic incidents that I'm going to relate to you occurred I came into this thing because I was trained as an astronomer my PhD is in celestial mechanics and very early in my career as a graduate student I met many of the figures who were interested in doing this sort of thing somewhat more economically than the old fashioned logarithm multiplication table hand cranked brunsviga that had been used for years one of the chains of applications that made the Watson laboratory possible was the motion of the moon among the stars in the early days we did not have chronometer z' of any accuracy in order to determine one's position in crossing the Pacific you need to measure your longitude as well as your latitude without a chronometer you have to have some other kind of clock and you can't do it believe me with water clocks or or sand our glasses or what have you then the war threatened the u.s. Naval Observatory had to manufacture a new publication called the air almanac for the use of navigators crossing the Atlantic by air and especially for the use of bomber navigation where the skies were clear and bubble sacks and observations and so on were possible as a result they brought Wallace Eckert down from Columbia University for war work and his war work was to install the first paying rent paying insulation of Hollerith machines in the world on a continuing basis to do scientific computation in 1945 in the early spring there was an announcement in science magazine that Watson senior had called Wallace Eckert back from Washington and had asked him to establish at Columbia University a new scientific computing laboratory and I wrote Wallace still I think at the Washington Address and said hey can I come around in the evenings and try out some of my ideas on optical design on your nice new shiny IBM machines I did not know at the time that in wartime even IBM could not get priorities for its own equipment that in fact in order to commence this work at that time and one of the incents incentives for beginning it at that time was that Los Alamos which had a special installation of punch card machines doing shockwave calculations and so forth had run out of capacity they couldn't find either any more punch card machines that would be maintainable out there on the on the Mesa or any people who are willing any more people who are going to move out there to run them so Wallace had accepted the charge of setting up a shop of IBM machines at Columbia whose four task would be to supplement the Los Alamos calculations on the actually the Alamogordo bursts and somewhat but not many of the design calculations for the actual weapons so while I expected to get an invitation to maybe come around one night a week and play a few games and learn how to run the machines and set a little man from the Manhattan district showed up at my optical company and took me away I said you know you can't do that there is no such thing as a civilian draft and he essentially said tell that to general Grove you know and the next thing I knew I was an IBM employee in the excitement they forgot to pass me through IBM headquarters and as a result although I received an identification card and all that sort of thing nobody had had pause to tell me that you could not have hair on your face and work for IBM so I not only was was a very early scientific punch card operator and supervisor but I also was the first bearded sport coated IBM employee this probably has some connection with the fact that I'm the only one in history that they've ever fired twice bearded or otherwise now as you all know in 1946 boom any act and for the first time IBM felt threatened by a development that they had not really completely foreseen or understood Watson senior was was incensed that someone had produced something that he didn't know about and heaven sponsored he had of course sponsored the Harvard mark one two or three years before had built it at to Aiken specifications but with detailed completely detailed IBM engineering had given it to Harvard and then had been essentially brushed off by Aiken and Conant as you know go away boy we don't need you anymore so it instead of souring him on the idea of building a big computer it urged him to build another one which he would not give to Harvard and which would be as fast and as impressive as any well he managed to do this within one year of the ENIAC announcement group of people came together I still have notes of the initial meeting and wrote the specifications this gigantic machine the world's fastest mechanical brain science unveils an amazing new calculator that solves problems quicker than mathematicians can think them up this indicator acts as the main control first problem computing the position of the moon over a 200 year period a full-sized mathematical headache when mr. Watson made his final inspection about two days or three days before the opening ceremony he was disturbed at the fact that there were large columns painted a glossy black to make them unobtrusive marching down the center of the room and he said everything is lovely you gentlemen have done a beautiful job but I think we should remove those columns now fortunately they held the building up and even for mr. Watson they weren't able to do that however they did do one thing they recalled the four-color brochure which had been printed for opening day and not having enough time to reprint it completely they put out a two-color a sepia print instead in which the gigantic centerfold showing the picture of the Machine room one which has been reproduced in data Meishan and other places had been retouched to eliminate the center columns the inventions we've seen in this program were all created by one person working along at home in Zeus's case at a university in the case of a de NASA often taken or stibitz at Bell Labs all were designed for scientific calculation as distinct from business and commercial record-keeping the federally funded Bell Labs machines in the IBM a sec were implemented by America's best engineers unlike the solo efforts of a de NOS often Zuza Zeus's XIII and Aikens a sec were on the main line to the modern stored-program computer programs were a single linear stream of instructions without branching however computer architects often refer to a design that has a separate store for instructions and data as the Harvard architecture historian Paul sárosi has pointed out there was debate about what a computer was and what it should look like by 1950 there was a common understanding of the nature of the computer how it should function and how it should be constructed the generation of pioneers who worked in the late 40s generally knew about the mark 1 and the Bell Labs machines but neither the ideas of add an ass off or zuzia had percolated into the mainstream many of the breakthroughs that led to fast reliable programmable machines were yet to come these stories are told in the rest of the series in fact part 2 starts right here with UNIVAC from the computer Museum in Boston I'm Gordon Bell

48 thoughts on “Computer Pioneers: Pioneer Computers Part 1

  1. All these inventions to where we have today….so that we can have Instagram for people to post fake Photoshopped huge ass…they must be rolling in their grave.

  2. The first ELECTRONIC computer was built in England at Bletchley park to help crack the Anigma code used by the Germans. A man called Flowers who worked at the GPO research facility in London used relays used in telephone exchanges valves were also used in a flip flop circuit. I worked on that computer in 1952, it was called Colosses.

  3. "No portion of this production may be reproduced without the express permission of The Computer Museum".
    Why do you put it on Youtube then?

  4. Nice video production of the early days and early computer pioneers. Great footage of Konrad Zuse and others. Rare material. Thanks for sharing this. ~ Computer History Archives Project

  5. The true, original "computer pioneers" are the Aztecs and incas……and the Greek who conceived, designed and built the "world's FIRST" computer…..the Antikythera Mechanism, composed of 37 rotor-gears…..found on a Greek shipwreck in 1902….now correct and upgrade this phoney information video…..!

  6. Nice video! Great segments of many early computer pioneers. I love seeing them talk about early computing in their own words. Sadly, many of these great pioneers are no longer with us. Glad you have preserved this fascinating film footage of their discoveries and stories of some of the first computers! Thanks very much.

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  8. As a Graphic Designer I am used at modern computing, the history of computers before is interesting, Thank you

  9. PLEASE contact me soon, I have a DIGITAL VT05 I wish to see in good hands, I contacted you many years ago. I can donate it, it is old and weathered, and missing possibly 11 keys, and a knob. Thank You, time is very limited. I appreciate your efforts in sharing these videos. I may have the "property removal pass", which is clearly marked, NOT TO BE RETURNED, so all can be proven legitimate. 🙂 I was going to sell it on ebay to a restorer, but he backed out. Peace! P.S. I have several old "handbooks", but they have been in cellar storage, and before I list them on EBAY, perhaps we can work something out, as would take enormous effort to sell them. Thanks again.

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  11. Extremely boring documentary. They should've shown old computers in operation, not black and white photos and some old farts talking to college students.

  12. Fabulous content but shameful not mentioning the Colossus – maybe it was still secret when this was made

  13. computers back then didn't even had a screen to output all the
    information, it required a lot of CPU power so people used to print on
    papers all the info. Smart move. For every task you wanted to perform you had to build your own binary code (program)
    Nowadays, the computer just does everything for you and there are millions of softwares out there.
    In mere 50 years, we did such an advancement in technology that it scares the crap out of me.
    I'm 29 years old, i will wait (hopefully) another 50 years and see how far we've come with processing power.
    Hardware components are manufacted in smaller architecture while increasing performance and reducing heat. We had 3D TVs, we have virtual reality which is a surpringly good technolgy. We already have flagship smarphones in example a snadragon 820 with the adreno 530 rating at 498Gflops, which is higher an more powerfull than a PS3/xbox 360.
    The snapdragon 820 inside a smartphone is faster than an Intel Core 2 Quad Q8300 2.5Ghz released Late 2008.
    What will the future be if this continues? What if electronics will fail or what if there's no matter anymore to manufacter more electronic devices? What if we get too dependent of technology creating an illusion that virtually is real?
    Will technology overpower mankind? Is Skynet real? Is this real life?

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