[SIGCIS-Members] Query about invention of wired networking

Dennis Y.T. dt2406 at columbia.edu
Tue Aug 24 14:56:35 PDT 2021

Doug, I suggest you think about this question in the context of signalling
and communications more broadly. Specifically, consider the genealogy of
telegraphy, which begins with connected machines and includes the idea of
remote automation, predating Turing by centuries. Best,


Dennis Yi Tenen
Associate Professor, English and Comparative Literature
Data Science Institute, Affiliated Member, Data, Media and Society
Columbia University
denten.github.io/ | @dennistenen <https://twitter.com/dennistenen> |
*Plain Text: The Poetics of Computation

On Tue, Aug 24, 2021 at 5:44 PM Douglas Lucas <dal at riseup.net> wrote:

> Dear SIGCIS members,
> I'm a freelance writer/journalist who's published in multiple news outlets
> on hacktivism and who's lurked on this email list for some time. The past
> several months, I've been reading a great dealing about Alan Turing and the
> math behind *Computable Numbers* (fundamental theorem of arithmetic, Gödel
> encoding, etc). A fairly straightforward question occurred to me, one I
> hope this list can help answer:
> As is well known, Turing's 1936 paper *Computable Numbers* invented the
> concept of a universal machine, which includes what today would be called
> an airgapped computer. For quite a while, all computers (universal
> machines) were airgapped devices. The historical casual chain is clear:
> first the idea documented in *Computable Numbers *came into existence,
> and only later are physical computers actually built, initially as
> standalone, airgapped devices.
> But how did plugging computers into one another with wires/cables begin?
> Did a thinker first conceive of a profound idea underpinning wired/cabled
> networking, and then only later, engineers implemented that concept in the
> physical realm? Or, did people first begin hooking computers up to one
> another, perhaps experimentally, and then a theorist subsequently created
> an idea to describe/frame what was happening (maybe a mathematical graph
> theory or something)?
> To put it another way, in terms of a simple standardized test-like verbal
> analogy, *Computable Numbers* is to airgapped computers as ??? is to
> wired/cabled networking of computers.
> I omit wireless connections (e.g., Bluetooth) for the time being.
> Thanks much,
> Doug Lucas
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