[SIGCIS-Members] Query about invention of wired networking

Allan Olley allan.olley at utoronto.ca
Wed Aug 25 09:47:49 PDT 2021

 	I don't think anyone has mentioned two early fictional works that 
might display some relevant ideas. The first one is the 1946 short story 
"A Logic Named Joe" which imagines something like a computer using 
networked repositories of information and responding to distant quiries, 
but I have no read the story and I am not sure if two or more machines 
ever collaborate beyond information storage and retrival. This story is 
rather celebrated and easily found in various places.
 	Slighlty later is the 1954 Year of Consent which imagines a 1990 
USA taken over by advertising executives with the help of powerful 
computers that institute a surveillance society with computers doing such 
things as facial recognition and administering lie detector enabled 
interrogations. At one point the protaganist needs to evade the facial 
recognition and relies on rather crude methods to do relying on the fact 
that facial recognition is first done by less powerful, more easily 
fooled, local computers and only when they fail are such jobs passed up to 
the giant brain in DC that can not be so easily stymied. This book was 
never republished and is somewhat obscure, but can be found at specialized 
libraries and I think is cheap as a used book.
 	Based on those fictional examples my sense would be the idea of 
networked computers was in the air even in the late 40s and early 50s.
 	A relevant World War II era technology that the US government 
commissioned were machines that could convert punched cards (used in IBM 
accounting machines) into teletype (used in telegraphy) and teletype into 
punched cards. I assume this was used to ease the collection and sending 
of data for inventory/logistical type calculations, although one can 
imagine other uses may have occured such as collecting weather information 
that might be used in caclualtion. Given this long history of sending 
machine readable information over wire (and presumably via wireless 
telegraphy/radio through the air) I think the idea of both remote 
operation of computers (ie using a teletype to control a computer some 
distance away) and even having multiple computers collaborate on a 
calculation effort/program etc. may have come very easily. 
Yours Truly,
Allan Olley, PhD


On Tue, 24 Aug 2021, Douglas Lucas 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

More information about the Members mailing list