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Howard Aiken's Children: The Harvard Computation Laboratory and its Students

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000127981D
Original Publication Date: 1983-Dec-31
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Sep-14
Document File: 7 page(s) / 28K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

Gerard Salton: AUTHOR [+3]

Abstract

The Computation Laboratory started as a Navy facility, and between 1944 and 1948 Mark I was operating and the next two machines were built for the U.S. Navy, in part by Navy personnel. Howard Aiken was a Commander in the Naval Reserve during the war, which accounts for the fact that in the early years everyone spoke of him as "the Commander". (By the time, I arrived on the scene in 1952. this form of address had given way to the equally descrip-tive "the boss".) Many of the best known early programmers at the Computation Laboratory, such as Richard M. Block, Robert V.D. Campbell, and Grace M. Hopper, were also officers in the Naval Reserve.

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Howard Aiken's Children: The Harvard Computation Laboratory and its Students

Gerard Salton

Department of Computer Science Cornell University Ithaca, New York

The Scope of Activities at the Computation Laboratory

The Computation Laboratory started as a Navy facility, and between 1944 and 1948 Mark I was operating and the next two machines were built for the U.S. Navy, in part by Navy personnel. Howard Aiken was a Commander in the Naval Reserve during the war, which accounts for the fact that in the early years everyone spoke of him as "the Commander". (By the time, I arrived on the scene in 1952. this form of address had given way to the equally descrip-tive "the boss".) Many of the best known early programmers at the Computation Laboratory, such as Richard M. Block, Robert V.D. Campbell, and Grace M. Hopper, were also officers in the Naval Reserve.

During the Navy period much of the energy was spent on machine design. - 4 -

However, by 1948, the first of several long-term contracts was signed with the U.S. Air Force. to be followed in 1952 by additional contracts with Bell Tele-phone Laboratories, and in 1955 with the American Gas Association and the Edison Electric Institute. From 1948 on, the Computation Laboratory activi-ties became increasingly diversified. The prodigious published record docu- menting the work in the period for 1948 to 1960 may give a clue to the scope of the endeavors. Five different series of reports, most of them in book forms were issued during Aiken's directorship:

- A set of 60 volumes constituting Progress Reports to the Air Force (AF-1 to AF-60) issued between May 1948 and December 1960 under the title "Investigations for Design of Digital Calculating Machinery".

- A series of 123 "Problem Reports of the Computation Laboratory" supplementing the Air Force Progress Reports, and issued between April 1949 and July 1959.

- The 41 volumes of reports on the Theory of Switching addressed to Bell Telephone Laboratories (BL-1 to BL-41), issued between Sep- tember 1952 and May 1966. The first 29 of these volumes were prepared under Howard Aiken's directorship, the remainder being issued after Aiken's departure under the supervision of Anthony Oet- tinger and Hao-Wang.

- The 7 volumes of Progress Reports on Automatic Data Processing prepared between 1955 and 1958 for the Electronic Steering Committee of the American Gas Association and the Edison Electric Institute.

- The 40 volumes published between 1945 and 1956 by the Harvard University Press under the general title of "Annals of the Computation Laboratory of Harvard University".

Not counting the problem reports which were sometimes relatively short, over 140 volumes of materials were prepared to account for the activities at the Computation Laboratory under

Cornell University Page 1 Dec 31, 1983

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Howard Aiken's Children: The Harvard Computation Laboratory and its Students

Aiken's dire...