[SIGCIS-Members] Query about invention of wired networking

Brian E Carpenter brian.e.carpenter at gmail.com
Wed Aug 25 15:22:09 PDT 2021


I wish they wouldn't use the bogus name "Baby" on a plaque. The earliest reference, as far as I know, is from Simon Lavington in 1975 and it explicitly says 'The "baby machine", as it was called' but that was clearly a description, not a name. In their famous 1948 letter to Nature, Williams and Kilburn simply refer to it as 'a small electronic digital computing machine'. The whole letter is a magnificently compact piece of writing.

They do, by the way, assert that it is 'universal' [quotes in the original], which strongly suggests knowledge of "On Computable Numbers."

Regards
   Brian Carpenter

On 26-Aug-21 03:43, Brian Berg wrote:
> Dear all,
> 
> Thomas Haigh, who is on this thread, helped myself and a team of 4 British historians on this "first stored-program computer" topic re: the Williams-Kilburn SSEM (aka "Baby") computer as built at the Univ. of Manchester.  Numerous adjectives are required for each of various computers to correctly justify this claim.  You can see the result of Thomas' crafting of this delicate matter in the IEEE Milestone proposal for the SSEM here <http://ieeemilestones.ethw.org/Milestone-Proposal:The_Manchester_University_%27Baby%27_computer;_Small-Scale_Experimental_Machine_(SSEM)> - and note the very extensive documentation, including on the Comments page linked at the top of that webpage.
> 
> The bronze plaque for this IEEE Milestone will (hopefully) be dedicated 
next June 2022 in Manchester, with this citation:
> 
> *_Manchester University "Baby" Computer and its Derivatives, 1948-1951_*
> /At this site on 21 June 1948 the “Baby” became the first computer to execute a program stored in addressable read-write electronic memory. “Baby” validated Williams-Kilburn Tube random-access memories, later widely used, and led to the 1949 Manchester Mark I which pioneered index registers. In February 1951, Ferranti Ltd's commercial derivative became the first electronic computer marketed as a standard product delivered to a customer./
> 
> Note that the machine was built to validate the viability of the Williams-Kilburn Tube as a random-access memory device - and this humble intent 
re: this CRT-based memory device created a landmark computer, and vaulted 
the Univ. of Manchester into history.  This tube device was patented, and licensed to IBM and other UK and US manufacturers as a RAM device in the 1950s, preceding core memory.
> _________________________
> Brian A. Berg / bberg at StanfordAlumni.org <mailto:bberg at StanfordAlumni.org>
> Berg Software Design - LinkedIn Profile <https://www.linkedin.com/in/brianaberg/>
> 14500 Big Basin Way, Suite F, Saratoga, CA 95070 USA
> 700 Mistletoe Road, Suite 201, Ashland, OR 97520 USA
> Voice: 408.741.5010 / Cell: 408.568.2505
> Consulting: Flash Memory/USB/Storage/Patents
> visit the Storage Cornucopia: www.bswd.com <http://www.bswd.com>
> FMS Technical Chair: www.FlashMemorySummit.com <http://www.FlashMemorySummit.com>
> IEEE Milestone <http://www.ieeeghn.org/wiki/index.php/Milestones:List_of_IEEE_Milestones> Coordinator & History Chair for Region 6 <http://www.ieee-region6.org/>
> IEEE History Committee <https://www.ieee.org/about/history-center/history-committee.html> Member
> IEEE SCV Section <http://www.ieee.org/scv/> Past Chair / IEEE-CNSV <http://www.CaliforniaConsultants.org> Board Director
> IEEE Silicon Valley Tech History Committee <http://www.SiliconValleyHistory.com/> Chair
> 
> 
> 
> On Tue, Aug 24, 2021 at 6:11 PM Brian E Carpenter <brian.e.carpenter at gmail.com <mailto:brian.e.carpenter at gmail.com>> wrote:
> 
>     If the trophy is for a stored-program machine, to me Zuse's claim is dubious and Williams+Kilburn get it (but the EDVAC *design* got it first on paper).
> 
>     Regards
>        Brian Carpenter
>     (biased, of course, by having been a grad student in Kilburn's department
>     in the 1960s.)
> 
>     On 25-Aug-21 11:52, petereckstein wrote:
>     > I apologize for jumping the gun by recalling that Eckert had told 
me that he had never heard of Turing. I have checked my notes on an interview from many decades ago and find no mention of Turing one way or another. I
>     was probably thinking of what Eckert said about Babbage as his having had
>     no influence. 
>     >
>     > Now that I have read Tom Haigh's article, I do want to register one dissent.
>     > If his metaphorical trophy is for the "first general-purpose automatic electronic digital computer," I would argue that Eckert and Mauchly 
at least hold the American title. The Atanasoff machine was not fully automatic, as intermediate results had to be carried by hand from one part of the
>     machine to another, and it was not designed to be general-purpose but rather to solve simultaneous equations, which the recreated machine could do,  but not nearly as fast as one of my early teenaged grandchildren.
>     The early Aiken machines were electro-mechanical, not fundamentally 
electronic, in their manipulation of cardboard punch cards. One or more of the
>     Europeans on Tom's list of trophy holders--Zuse, Kilburn, Wilkes, and especially Flowers--may have a claim, but I am not competent to judge.
>     >
>     >
>     >
>     >
>     > Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy Tablet
>     >
>     >
>     > -------- Original message --------
>     > From: petereckstein <petereckstein at comcast.net <mailto:petereckstein at comcast.net>>
>     > Date: 8/24/21 6:44 PM (GMT-05:00)
>     > To: thomas.haigh at gmail.com <mailto:thomas.haigh at gmail.com>, 'Douglas Lucas' <dal at riseup.net <mailto:dal at riseup.net>>, members at sigcis.org <mailto:members at sigcis.org>
>     > Subject: Re: [SIGCIS-Members] Query about invention of wired networking
>     >
>     > 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. 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.
>     >
>     > 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 <mailto:thomas.haigh at gmail.com>
>     > Date: 8/24/21 6:14 PM (GMT-05:00)
>     > To: 'Douglas Lucas' <dal at riseup.net <mailto:dal at riseup.net>>, members at sigcis.org <mailto: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> <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> <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 <mailto:members-bounces at lists.sigcis.org>> *On Behalf Of *Douglas Lucas
>     > *Sent:* Tuesday, August 24, 2021 4:44 PM
>     > *To:* members at sigcis.org <mailto: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 <http://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/ <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 <http://lists.sigcis.org/listinfo.cgi/members-sigcis.org>
>     >
> 
>     _______________________________________________
>     This email is relayed from members at sigcis.org <http://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/ <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 <http://lists.sigcis.org/listinfo.cgi/members-sigcis.org>
> 
> 
> _______________________________________________
> 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