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International Diffusion of Computer Technology, 1945-1955

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129524D
Original Publication Date: 1986-Oct-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-06
Document File: 18 page(s) / 93K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

WILLIAM ASPRAY: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

The article surveys the international diffusion of computer technology between 1945 and 1955. It lists early computers and their sponsoring organizations, compares scientific and commercial styles of development, and describes the mechanisms for technology transfer across national boundaries. Suggestions are offered for further research on computing and international technology transfer in the twentieth century.

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1986 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Used with permission.

International Diffusion of Computer Technology, 1945-1955

WILLIAM ASPRAY

  (Image Omitted: © 1986 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. 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 the copying is by permission of the American Federation of Information Processing Societies. Inc. To copy otherwise, or to republish, requires specific permission. Author's Address: Charles Babbage Institute, 103 Walter Library, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455. © 1986 AFIPS 0164-1239/86/040351-

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International Diffusion of Computer Technology, 1945-1955

WILLIAM ASPRAY .00/00)

The article surveys the international diffusion of computer technology between 1945 and 1955. It lists early computers and their sponsoring organizations, compares scientific and commercial styles of development, and describes the mechanisms for technology transfer across national boundaries. Suggestions are offered for further research on computing and international technology transfer in the twentieth century.

Categories and Subject Descriptors: K. 1 [The Computer Industry]; K.2 [History of Computing] -- hardware, people, software, systems Additional Key Words and Phrases: international computing, technology transfer

The decade following World War II witnessed a remarkable international diffusion of computer technology. At the end of the war in 1945, no computers existed, if we mean by computer what we mean today: a general-purpose, digital, electronic, stored-program calculating system. Two electronic digital calculators built near the end of the war represented the furthest advances in computing technology: Colossus, built by the British government to break German codes, and the ENIAC, built at the University of Pennsylvania to compute ballistic tables for the U.S. Army. Colossus was a special-purpose machine configured to solve only cryptologic problems, and the ENIAC was limited by its cumbersome external programming method of plugging cables and setting banks of switches.

By 1955 the situation had changed entirely. Over 200 computers were in operation, distributed across at least 15 countries. The fundamentals of computer design had been established. A workable technology for storing data and instructions, the magnetic core, had been invented. And many new applications, impossible with the old calculating technology, were being effectively prepared for the computer.

This paper examines the nature of this technology and its international diffusion. It reviews the computers built during this period, the organizations that built them, and the mecha...