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Calculators

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129971D
Original Publication Date: 1996-Dec-31
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-07
Document File: 4 page(s) / 22K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

Frank Preston: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

This column is from Frank Preston. As a graduate student at MIT, he was an operator of Vannevar Bush's network analyzer in the early 1940s. He was with Norden Systems in a variety of engineering and management roles from 1945 to 1977. He was a lecturer at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and an engineering consultant from 1977 to 1982. From 1982 to 1989 he developed advanced simulators at NASA Ames. Since 1989 he has worked on supercomputer systems with NASA Langley (see Fig. 1).

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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.

Calculators

EARL SWARTZLANDER, EDITOR

The Calculators column is intended to focus on that aspect of computing history that in many respects preceded the introduction of the computer and has paralleled me computer for the past 50 years as the original "desktop" machine, and in later years as the "pocket" machine. Through this column we hope to provide information for historians and collectors about the world of calculators.

We invite readers to submit short contributions regarding the development, manufacture, and use of calculators for publication in this column. Longer articles should be submitted to Editor-in- Chief Michael Williams, with a copy to Earl Swartzlander, University of Texas at Austin, Department of E & CE, Austin, TX 78712; phone (512) 471-5923, fax (512) 471-5907, e-mail
e.swarklander~computer.org.

Introduction

This column is from Frank Preston. As a graduate student at MIT, he was an operator of Vannevar Bush's network analyzer in the early 1940s. He was with Norden Systems in a variety of engineering and management roles from 1945 to 1977. He was a lecturer at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and an engineering consultant from 1977 to 1982. From 1982 to 1989 he developed advanced simulators at NASA Ames. Since 1989 he has worked on supercomputer systems with NASA Langley (see Fig. 1).

Frank Preston

Background

In the late 1920s, even before becoming a teenager, I was exposed to various calculating machines that fascinated me. I became quite adept using them and enjoyed performing mathematical tricks for my elders. In college, I made only ordinary use of calculators, but in 1944 I started to work at the Norden Laboratories Corp., where I began to design electromechanical (analog) computers and then digital computers in the mid-1950s.

The most labor-intensive jobs we had involved calculating ballistic tables, and we had women graduate mathematicians whom we called computers (note the spelling) to do this. The second most labor- intensive jobs were searching for algorithms that we could implement with either mechanical mechanisms or electric circuits. This involved some invention, some intuition, considerable experience, and lots of work on a calculator -- and this we could seldom pass on to our computers. Calculating machines cost from about $750 to $900 -- a princely sum at the time -- and had to be shared. Finally in the early 1950s, I reached the sad conclusion that I had to have my own calculating machine because I used one so much.

We used Monroes, Marchants, and Fridens, some preferred the Monroe because it was the smallest; our accountants liked the Friden because it was the best for adding and working with

IEEE Computer Society, Dec 31, 1996 Page 1 IEEE Annals of the History of Computing Volume 18 Number 4, Pag...