[SIGCIS-Members] Query about invention of wired networking

Brian E Carpenter brian.e.carpenter at gmail.com
Tue Aug 24 16:51:14 PDT 2021


On 25-Aug-21 10:44, petereckstein wrote:
> Doug,
> 
> I am a bit impatient with anything that perpetuates the It All Began with Turing mythology. I have not yet read Tom Haigh's article arguing that 
Turing did not invent the computer but I very much agree with the title. The leaders of the team that developed Eniac were Mauchly, a physicist, who was partly inspired by the counting circuits being used by physicists in the 1930s to count pulses, and Eckert, an electronic engineer,  who was partly inspired by devices using multiple vacuum tubes. Eckert told me very emphatically that he had never even heard of Turing during the Eniac project. 

The reasoned argument about Turing's contribution is quite orthogonal to ENIAC. The question is whether "On Computable Numbers" had any impact on the decision to make EDVAC a stored program machine. It's very possible that it didn't, but von Neumann definitely knew about "On Computable Numbers". On the other hand, Turing definitely read von Neumann's EDVAC report 
before he designed the ACE in late 1945.

Additionally, Zuse definitely did not know about "On Computable Numbers" at the relevant time.

Zeitgeist.

> Turing may have played a (small or large) role in the British wartime Colossus, but that machine had little influence on subsequent  computer development, because it was foolishly  destroyed and then kept secret for many years.

Although some components made their way into the University of Manchester 
prototype. I suspect that quite a lot of people who became UK computing pioneers knew about Colossus, but you will never find that in writing or even oral history because of the UK's Official Secrets Act.

Regards
   Brian Carpenter

> 
> I am not sure where you want to go with your project, but perhaps there 
is some relevance in Binac, a one-off machine that the Eckert-Mauchly company built in the late forties or very early fifties. It was two processing units connected to each other, primarily, as I remember the story, for 
backup rather than for communication. Nancy Stern discusses it in her book, and there have been subsequent articles in the Annals.
> 
> Peter Eckstein
> 
> Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy Tablet
> 
> 
> -------- Original message --------
> From: thomas.haigh at gmail.com
> Date: 8/24/21 6:14 PM (GMT-05:00)
> To: 'Douglas Lucas' <dal at riseup.net>, members at sigcis.org
> Subject: Re: [SIGCIS-Members] Query about invention of wired networking
> 
> Hello Doug,
> 
>  
> 
> First off, you’ll find that while mathematicians and theoretical computer scientists often suggest that the computers constructed in the 
1940s were in some way inspired or prompted by Turing’s theoretical work, the professional historians who’ve looked at the period generally agree that they weren’t. You’ll see some pointers to relevant work in my snappy summary “Actually, Turing Did Not Invent the Computer.” https://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2014/1/170862-actually-turing-did-not-invent-the-computer/fulltext <https://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2014/1/170862-actually-turing-did-not-invent-the-computer/fulltext>
> 
>  
> 
> The impetus to provide remote access to computers likewise came from practical needs of the 1950s and early 1960s rather than theory. Two important early examples are the SAGE air defense network, described by Paul Edwards in _/The Closed World/_ and timesharing at Dartmouth University (and elsewhere) to provide multiple users with simultaneous interactive access to a single computer, described by Joy Rankin in _/A People’s History of Computing in the United States/_.
> 
>  
> 
> The idea of connecting several computers together for general purpose communication, rather than hooking up terminals, peripherals, or data capture devices to a single computer, came slightly later. The idea was first 
realized in the ARPANET, which evolved to become the Internet. A great deal has been written on its history, beginning with Janet Abbate’s 
classic _/Inventing the Internet/_. I’d also recommend Mitch Waldrop’s _/The Dream Machine/_ for a broader look at interactive computing, timesharing, and networking in the era.
> 
>  
> 
> In this case there was a conceptual work that predated and heavily influenced the actual network: Paul Baran’s description of what became known as packet switching. Though the relative conceptual contributions 
of Paul Baran, Leonard Kleinrock, and Louis Pouzin to the ideas that underlie these networks have been enthusiastically debated. You might look at 
the articles published in the journal Internet Histories, including several relevant publications by Morton Bay, for more on this topic. See https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rint20 <https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rint20>. Also Andrew Russell’s _/Open Standards and the Digital Age/_. And many others – it’s a substantial literature, much too 
large to describe in a single message, but if you want to know about the history of networking you should read on this topic rather than about Turing….
> 
>  
> 
> Best wishes,
> 
>  
> 
> Tom
> 
>  
> 
> *From:* Members <members-bounces at lists.sigcis.org> *On Behalf Of *Douglas Lucas
> *Sent:* Tuesday, August 24, 2021 4:44 PM
> *To:* members at sigcis.org
> *Subject:* [SIGCIS-Members] Query about invention of wired networking
> 
>  
> 
> 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
> 
> 
> _______________________________________________
> 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
> 



More information about the Members mailing list