[SIGCIS-Members] Origin of the word "throughput"

David Hemmendinger hemmendd at union.edu
Tue Jan 3 14:15:56 PST 2012

	Although "throughput" and "high throughput" are used in describing
computer systems, the term is sufficiently common in descriptions of
industrial processes that it is difficult to pin down a single origin of
the use of the term in connection with bioassays.  In its definition of
"throughput", the OED gives "He has nae great throw-pit" (1808),
"larger throughput [of ore]" (1930), "higher throughput [of milk]"
(1958), and a number of similar citations from numerous domains.  Its
earliest citation of "throughput" in connection with computing comes
from the New Scientist (1965).

  David Hemmendinger                           hemmendd at union.edu
  Professor Emeritus            http://athena.union.edu/~hemmendd
  Computer Science Dept.                          +1 518 346 4489
  Union College, Schenectady, NY 12308       FAX: +1 518 388 6789

>Not sure if this helps but I can establish a baseline for the term. In the "Computer Dictionary and Handbook" published by Howard Sams in 1966, Charles J. Sippl defines "throughput" as "The productivity based on all aspects of an operation, e.g. a computer with a capability of simultaneous operations of read/write/compute would have a high throughput rating." 

>My name is Kevin Lambert, an historian of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century
>physic-mathematics with an interest in the history of the computer and
>someone who very much appreciates your exchanges.  I have recently had the
>following inquiry (see below) directed my way.  Can anybody help?
>Prof. Lambert,
>> I am a contributing editor at Popular Science, and I am working on a feature
>> for the magazine for which I'm trying to find the origin of the term "high
>> throughput."  Andy Jewett at Harvard (who was my advisor for my MA thesis at
>> NYU a few years ago) suggested I contact you.
>> I have asked a few bioinformatics people where "high throughput" comes from,
>> because the first time I learned about it was through genomics and drug
>> discovery.  They couldn't answer.  I am now wondering if it is a computing
>> term-- I know that "high throughput computing" exists-- that was adapted for
>> biology.  Andy suggested I check with you on the computing connection.
>> Any ideas on the origin of this term?  If not, any suggestions on who might
>> know?  I've run multiple book/journal article searches and haven't come up
>> with anything useful.

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