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A Trilogy on Errors in the History of Computing

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129333D
Original Publication Date: 1980-Jan-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-05
Document File: 12 page(s) / 55K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

N. METROPOLIS: AUTHOR [+3]

Abstract

This article identifies publishes errors and misunderstandings in three areas of the history of computing and provides the results of research intended to correct these errors. The three areas addressed are: (1) awareness of the work of Charles Babbage among the originators of modern computers; (2) the origins of the stored-program concept; (3) the distinction between the MANIAC and the IAS machine. The conclusions reached are: (1) some of the originators of modern computers were indeed aware of the word of Babbage, but some were not; (2) the stored-program concept was an integral part of the EDVAC design, the result of the word of the ENIAC design team; (3) the tern MANIAC was properly applied only to the computer designed and built at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, not to the INS machine. Keywords and phrases: history, Babbage, stored program, ENIAC, MANIAC CR category: 1.2

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Page 1 of 12

THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1980 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc., Volume 2, Number 1, January 1980. Used with permission.

A Trilogy on Errors in the History of Computing

N. METROPOLIS

J. WORLTON

(Image Omitted: © 1972 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc., and the Information Processing Society of Japan. Permission to copy without fee all or part of this material is granted provided that the copies are not made or distributed for direct commercial advantage, the AFIPS copyright notice and the title of the publication and its date appear, and notice is given that copying is by permission of the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. To copy otherwise, or to republish, requires specific permission. Authors' address: Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, P.O. Box 1663, Los Alamos, NM 87545. NOTE: This paper was presented at the first USA-Japan Computer Conference, Tokyo, October 3-5, 1972, and was published in the Proceedings of that conference. Work for this paper was done under the auspices of the United States Atomic Energy Commission.)

This article identifies publishes errors and misunderstandings in three areas of the history of computing and provides the results of research intended to correct these errors. The three areas addressed are: (1) awareness of the work of Charles Babbage among the originators of modern computers; (2) the origins of the stored-program concept; (3) the distinction between the MANIAC and the IAS machine. The conclusions reached are: (1) some of the originators of modern computers were indeed aware of the word of Babbage, but some were not; (2) the stored-program concept was an integral part of the EDVAC design, the result of the word of the ENIAC design team; (3) the tern MANIAC was properly applied only to the computer designed and built at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, not to the INS machine. Keywords and phrases: history, Babbage, stored program, ENIAC, MANIAC CR category: 1.2

1. Introduction

The critic who investigates the inadequacies of the history of computing is at once faced with an embarrassment of riches. Computer scientists seem determined to confirm the judgment of professional historians that scientists should not be depended upon to produce the histories of their own fields [l].l1 Sarton, in an essay on "The Scientific Basis of the History of Science" [2], pays tribute to the "good amateurs" who work as hard in the field of history as they do in their own specialties, but complains that the amateur historian of science is more often

   (Image Omitted: ... a distinguished scientist who has become sufficiently interested in the genesis of his knowledge to wish to investigate it, but has no idea whatsoever of how such investigations should be conducted and is not even aware of his shortcomings. His very success in another domain, the fact that he has long...