[SIGCIS-Members] Criticism of von Neumann historiography

Ian S. King isking at uw.edu
Fri Jul 6 15:02:50 PDT 2018


I am cc'ing Bernd Ulmann on this thread.  Dr. Ulmann is a prominent
historian and collector of analogue computers.  I have had the privilege of
seeing Bernd's collection, or at least as it stood a few years ago.  If
anyone had a Saturn, it would be Bernd.  -- Ian

On Fri, Jul 6, 2018 at 12:44 PM, Brian Randell <
brian.randell at newcastle.ac.uk> wrote:

> Hi Richard:
>
> This thread, and your reference to Saturn V, prompts me to recall that
> when in 1957 I joined the English Electric Company’s Atomic Power Division,
> in Whetstone, just outside Leicester, analogue computing was in the
> ascendant there. There was just one digital computer, a DEUCE, but I and my
> colleagues were confident of the superior prospects for digital over
> analogue computing - and were soon proved right. We knew a little of the
> large efforts at Whetstone on analogue computer construction, culminating
> in a huge one called SATURN that filled a large two storey building. This
> project was I understood still in difficulties when I left English Electric
> in 1964 to join the IBM T J Watson Research Center. So I am surprised to
> learn now that the analogue efforts at Whetstone were regarded as a big
> success into the 1970s, at least according to this account, which I’ve just
> found:
>
> "In 1957 the Consortium, now know as NNC, constructed at Whetstone an
> analogue computer known as PLUTO having 115 amplifiers. This was followed
> in 1959 by MARS, having 210 amplifiers. Both machines were phased out in
> 1959/1960 and replaced by Saturn having six consoles each having 252
> amplifiers, 600 potentiometer and 76 non-linear devices. Over the years
> these consoles were trunked together to yield a 1500 amplifier which was
> subsequently supplemented in 1972 with an EAI 8812 analogue computer. It is
> believed that the SATURN was the largest analogue computer ever built.
> Excellent service was given by this machine until 1978 when it was
> scrapped."
> Advances in Nuclear Science and Technology, Volume 17: Simulators for
> Nuclear Power (eds. Lewins and Becker) p. 7.
> https://books.google.co.uk/books?isbn=1461321832
>
> I do recall one of the analogue computers being scrapped, and one of my
> colleagues being almost in tears because he found out too late that it had
> been carted away, before he had a chance to plunder it his electronics
> hobbies.
>
> Cheers
>
> Brian Randell
>
> On 6 Jul 2018, at 07:54, Richard Vahrenkamp <vahrenkamp2016 at gmx.de> wrote:
>
> Dear SIGCIS researchers,
>
> In my lecture at the ICOHTEC annual meeting in St. Etienne, I point to the
> dominance of the subject of the Neumann Computer in the historiography and
> show on the basis of numerous sources that in the Californian cluster of
> the aircraft industry, in addition to the IAS in Princeton, a second
> birthplace of the computing machines (mainly with analog computers) was
> created after 1944, which was previously considered by the research little.
>
> The aircraft cluster found no use for the digital von Neumann machine.
>
> Since von Neumann's machine was merely academic and was not used in
> industry, John von Neumann had to invent fields of application in the
> future as the legitimacy of his project. He opted for meteorology -
> although it is not clear that analog computers could not offer solutions
> here as well.
>
> Until 1960, the race between analog and digital computers in aircraft and
> missile industry was not decided in favor of the latter; in 1961, NASA
> commissioned a large general-purpose analog computer for the Saturn V
> project.
>
>
> My thesis of the aviation industry as the source of computing machines
> after 1944 can also be applied to other countries with strong aircraft
> industries, such as England and the Soviet Union. It was also no
> coincidence that Zuse‘s Z3, the first electric digital computer in Germany,
> was created in 1941 in the context of the Berlin aircraft industry.
>
>
> With kind regards from Berlin
>
> Richard Vahrenkamp
>
> --
> ********************************************
> Prof. Dr. Richard Vahrenkamp
> Logistik Consulting Berlin
> Phone 0177- 628 3325
> E-Mail: Vahrenkamp2016 at gmx.de
> Web: www.vahrenkamp.org
> Trendelenburgstr. 16
> 14057 Berlin
>
> *********************************************
>
> _______________________________________________
> This email is relayed from members at sigcis.org, the email discussion
> list of SHOT SIGCIS. Opinions expressed here are those of the member
> posting and are not reviewed, edited, or endorsed by SIGCIS. The list
> archives are at http://lists.sigcis.org/pipermail/members-sigcis.org/ and
> you can change your subscription options at http://lists.sigcis.org/
> listinfo.cgi/members-sigcis.org
>
>
>>
> School of Computing Science, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne,
> NE1 7RU
> EMAIL = Brian.Randell at ncl.ac.uk   PHONE = +44 191 208 7923
> URL = http://www.ncl.ac.uk/computing/people/profile/brianrandell.html
>
>
> _______________________________________________
> This email is relayed from members at sigcis.org, the email discussion
> list of SHOT SIGCIS. Opinions expressed here are those of the member
> posting and are not reviewed, edited, or endorsed by SIGCIS. The list
> archives are at http://lists.sigcis.org/pipermail/members-sigcis.org/ and
> you can change your subscription options at http://lists.sigcis.org/
> listinfo.cgi/members-sigcis.org
>



-- 
Ian S. King, MSIS, MSCS, Ph.D. Candidate
The Information School <http://ischool.uw.edu>
Dissertation: "Why the Conversation Mattered: Constructing a Sociotechnical
Narrative Through a Design Lens

Principal Investigator, "Reflections on Early Computing and Social Change",
UW IRB #42619

Archivist, Voices From the Rwanda Tribunal <http://tribunalvoices.org>
Value Sensitive Design Research Lab <http://vsdesign.org>

University of Washington

There is an old Vulcan saying: "Only Nixon could go to China."
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.sigcis.org/pipermail/members-sigcis.org/attachments/20180706/c393bb1c/attachment.html>


More information about the Members mailing list