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IEEE Annals of the History of Computing Volume 18 Number 1 -- Reviews

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129928D
Original Publication Date: 1996-Apr-30
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-07
Document File: 3 page(s) / 18K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

PEGGY KIDWELL: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

The Reviews Department includes reviews of publications, films, audio- and videotapes, and exhibits relating to the history of computing. Full-length studies of technical, economic, business, social and institutional aspects or other works of interest to Annals readers are briefly noted, with appropriate bibliographic information. Colleagues are encouraged to recommend works they wish to review and to suggest titles to the Reviews Editor. David Rutland, Why Computers are Computers. The SWAC and the PC, Wren Publishers, PO Box 1084, Philomath, OR 97370, 1995. 208 pp., ISBN 1- 885391-05-6, $24.95.

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1996 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Reviews

PEGGY KIDWELL, EDITOR

The Reviews Department includes reviews of publications, films, audio- and videotapes, and exhibits relating to the history of computing. Full-length studies of technical, economic, business, social and institutional aspects or other works of interest to Annals readers are briefly noted, with appropriate bibliographic information.

Colleagues are encouraged to recommend works they wish to review and to suggest titles to the Reviews Editor.

David Rutland, Why Computers are Computers. The SWAC and the PC, Wren Publishers, PO Box 1084, Philomath, OR 97370, 1995. 208 pp., ISBN 1- 885391-05-6, $24.95.

In October 1948 the National Bureau of Standards decided to design and build a computer at their Institute for Numerical Analysis on the UCLA campus. The computer was to be called SWAC for Standards Western Automatic Computer, and was to serve, as was the SEAC, the Bureau's machine in Washington, as an interim machine until faster commercial models became available.

The head of the project was Harry Huskey, who had been associated with the ENIAC project while he was on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania and who had then spent a year prior to joining NBS working on the Pilot ACE project at the National Physical Laboratory.

The SWAC was designed as a parallel machine with 256 words of main memory using Williams tube memory augmented by a drum memory of 8192 words. Addition and multiplication times inclusive of storage access were 64 and 368 microseconds, respectively. When it was completed in July 1950 it was the fastest computer then in existence. The SWAC was used for theoretical and applied calculations until the Institute was disbanded in 1954, when it was moved to the Faculty of Engineering where it was used until 1967.

One of the SWAC group, which included in addition to Huskey six engineers and four technicians, was David Rutland who was responsible for the control and input-output units. He gives the following reason in the Preface for writing this book:

As someone who was able to work on the early computers, I have seen the computer gradually and steadily become involved in everyone's daily life. Yet it seems that the basic invention [the stored program concept] that made the computer possible remains a mystery to everyone except the experts. Now, as we approach the fiftieth anniversary of the first electronic general purpose computer, the ENIAC, I would like to remedy this situation.... So I have written the story of this great computer invention ... and the men who invented it. I also tell the story of the SWAC, one of the early computers, and the men who were responsible for its design and construction.

Approximately one-third of Why Computers are Computers consists of general historical and technical bac...