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Computers vs. the Human Race Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129969D
Original Publication Date: 1996-Dec-31
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-07
Document File: 2 page(s) / 15K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

Harry Polachek: AUTHOR [+2]


10 Manor House Drive Dobbs Ferry, NY

This text was extracted from a PDF file.
This is the abbreviated version, containing approximately 52% of the total text.

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

Computers vs. the Human Race

Harry Polachek

10 Manor House Drive Dobbs Ferry, NY

(Image Omitted: Editor's Note: Harry Polachek takes us back to the time when computers were still judged by feats of computational strength, and humans still found ways to make them fail the Turing Test.)

On July 29, 1961, two mathematicians on our staff (the Applied Mathematics Laboratory of the U.S. Naval Ship Research and Development Center at Carderock, Maryland), John W. Wrench, Jr., and Daniel Shanks, using an IBM 7090 computer, calculated the value of pi to 100,000 decimal places for the first time. This was a monumental achievement. The output consisted of 20 densely printed pages, 14 inches by 11 inches. In order to assure the preservation of this document, l arranged for two clear copies of the output to be printed and specially bound (inscribed in gold letters) one of which I donated to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.; the other I kept. The transfer to the Smithsonian took place at a small ceremony, attended by about 25 invited guests.

Dr. Wrench is an old hand at calculating pi as well as numerous other mathematical constants. Many years earlier, before the invention of electronic computers, he calculated pi to a record of 808 decimal places, using a desk calculator. At the transfer ceremony, held at the Smithsonian Institution on Constitution Avenue, brief remarks were made by several of the attendees. Dr. Shanks described the methods used in computing and checking the results. The chairman of the meeting was the last speaker of the afternoon. He praised Dr. Shanks and Dr. Wrench for their ingenuity and their groundbreaking achievement, and he concluded his remarks with the following parable, which I paraphrase here:

Computers are already capable of carrying out mental operations at unbelievable speeds and storing and retrieving volumes of information -- far beyond what the human mind can...