[SIGCIS-Members] Zuse / binary
Jesper Juul
j at jesperjuul.net
Sat Jul 8 07:01:19 PDT 2023
Indeed! Which came first? Reading an excerpt of Zuse's book, he explains
that binary arithmetic bridged the gap between two methods of
multiplication, repeated addition and multiplication tables, so this gives
a motivation for using binary. Perhaps someone with better German skills
and access to the whole book can see if there was an order to it. In the
excerpt it looks like math and technology came as one package (machine
translation follows):
"Meanwhile, it was the year 1937, and our work had taken shape, requiring
better financing. I made contact with the then manufacturer of specialized
calculating machines, Dr.-Ing. Kurt Pannke. The first phone conversation
with him was typical of the prevailing attitude in the field at the time.
"I have been told," Dr. Pannke began, "that you have invented a calculating
machine. Now, I don't want to discourage you from working as an inventor
and developing new ideas. But there is something I must tell you from the
outset: in the field of calculating machines, practically everything has
been researched and refined to its fullest extent. There is hardly anything
left to invent. This was also confirmed to me by the famous calculating
machine designer Hamann, whose ideas have been used to build around a
million calculating machines. Does your calculating machine work based on
the principle of repeated addition or the principle of the multiplication
table?" "It's the same in my machine," I said, and instead of an answer,
there followed a longer pause.
One must know that at that time the most important problem with calculating
machines was multiplication. There were two schools, each advocating for
one of the two principles mentioned. Most machines worked using repeated
addition, meaning that the multiplicand was repeatedly added to the
machine's register based on the selected digit of the multiplier. The more
elegant method was undoubtedly the one using the multiplication table,
where the partial products of the small multiplication table were directly
represented using technical means and then added directly to the register.
Unfortunately, this method was also the most expensive. Nowadays, hardly
any calculator designers concern themselves with such matters. However,
back then, each procedure was seen as a kind of worldview among peers. And
now, a young man claimed that both methods were the same for him.
Nevertheless, Dr. Pannke came to my workshop, and I was able to explain to
him that in the binary number system, the multiplication table is reduced
to four simple formulas:
0 x 0 = 0
0 x 1 = 0
1 x 0 = 0
1 x 1 = 1"
Jesper Juul
PS.
https://web.archive.org/web/20140908180042/http://www.lmz-bw.de/fileadmin/user_upload/Medienbildung_MCO/fileadmin/bibliothek/zuse_lebenswerk/zuse_lebenswerk.pdf
On Sat, 8 Jul 2023 at 15:34, Pierre Mounier-Kuhn <mounier at msh-paris.fr>
wrote:
> Indeed a central question is "if rods or binary arithmetic came first" –
> whether choosing binary arithmetic was driven by technology or by
> mathematical ideas (basically Leibniz'). It was clear in Von Neumann's "*First
> draft*" (1945) that valves and trigger circuits "naturally" led to binary
> arithmetic, as a net progress from the decimal-based ENIAC. Yet, precisely,
> valves and trigger circuits had not led to binary arithmetic in the ENIAC.
>
> The change in technologies, from mechanical components to electrical
> relays and finally to valves, did not seem to determine the choice, but
> more likely to *enable* the switch to binary: Zuse's Z1 mechanical
> calculator, and simultaneously Couffignal's calculator project, seem to
> have been designed from the start as binary machines.Their next projects,
> using electrical relays, were binary as well, while Aiken in Harvard used
> the same technology to build decimal-based calculators.
>
> By the way, if we address this question now, hasn't it been studied years
> and perhaps decades ago by other historians or computer scientists ?
> Perhaps as a follow-on to Merritt Roe Smith's "*Does Technology Drive
> History*"?
>
> Best,
> Pierre
>
> ------------------------------
> *De: *"Jesper Juul via Members" <members at lists.sigcis.org>
> *À: *"Evan Koblentz" <evank at njit.edu>
> *Cc: *"members" <members at lists.sigcis.org>
> *Envoyé: *Samedi 8 Juillet 2023 14:05:11
> *Objet: *Re: [SIGCIS-Members] Zuse / binary
>
> In Raúl Rojas' paper on the Z1/Z3(1), he writes that "instead of using
> gears (as Babbage had done in the previous century), Zuse implemented
> logical and arithmetical operations using sliding metallic rods. The rods
> could move in only one of two directions (forward or backward) and
> therefore were appropriate for a binary machine." The Z1 is 1936-38.
>
> This doesn't quite explain if rods or binary arithmetic came first, but
> there is a footnote to Zuse's book "Der Computer mein Lebenswerk".
>
> As a side note, I can recommend seeing the Z1 in the Technical Museum in
> Berlin if you are near.
>
> Jesper Juul
>
> 1) https://ed-thelen.org/comp-hist/Zuse_Z1_and_Z3.pdf
>
> On Fri, 7 Jul 2023 at 18:34, Evan Koblentz via Members <
> members at lists.sigcis.org> wrote:
>
>> What are some good articles addressing why Zuse, Aiken, Stibitz, etc.
>> decided to use binary (or not)?
>>
>> --
>> Evan Koblentz
>>
>> New Jersey Institute of Technology
>> - Senior Writer, Office of Communications and Marketing
>> - Adjunct Instructor, Ying Wu College of Computing
>> - Faculty/Staff Advisor, NJIT Lego Club
>>
>> evank at njit.edu
>> (973) 596-3065
>> https://web.njit.edu/~evank
>>
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