Calculating machines

Jul 27

The application of appropriate analogies and even further-reaching comparisons to electronic calculators led to the tremendous achievements which finally brought about the highly misleading names of “electronic brain”, “giant brain”, or “thinking machine.”

The performance of these machines is truly astonishing. The computation of the thermonuclear explosion of a hydrogen bomb was so extensive that even the huge Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) was not big enough to complete the urgent and important task in a reasonable space of time. This calculator possesses 18, 000 tubes, as well as other equipment. It can multiply two ten digit numbers in three thousandth of a second. But it was “temperamental”, that is, there is, there were frequent breakdowns in it wiring and tubes.

The new calculator developed by Professor Von Neumann for the atomic scientists could receive and treat 40,000 bits of information at once. Not only did it check its own mistakes, but also those in the instructions given to it. The solution of a mathematical problem which had previously taken three months now occupied only ten hours. This reduced a three month program to a single working day.

Like all other electronic calculators, this machine was given a name: Mathematical Analyzer, Numerical Integrator and Computer. The initial letters gave the word MANIAC.

The mechanization of mental work, which began relatively innocently with conventional commercial calculating machines and electronic counters, reached –for the moment-a new peak with the electronic calculators. The toothed drum of the music box or the punched paper strip of the orchestration can be compared to a magnetic tape, to clarify the difference between mechanical and electronic calculators. The toothed rolls, punched cards or punched tape are laborious to use and fairly slow, but electrons can in certain conditions travel almost as fast as light. This is the explanation of the performance of the new machines.

The impulses in the nerves-the “leads” of the human calculator travel at about 220 feet per second, while those in the leads of an electronic calculator travel at 930 million feet per second.

This is what makes possible the astounding performance of electronic calculators.


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