[SIGCIS-Members] Zuse / binary

Brian E Carpenter brian.e.carpenter at gmail.com
Sat Jul 8 20:59:00 PDT 2023

On 08-Jul-23 09:01, Brian E Carpenter wrote:
> If "etc" includes Turing, he wrote in the ACE report in late 1945:
> "(ii) Use of the binary scale. The binary scale seems particularly well suited for electronic computation because of its simplicity and the fact that valve equipment can very easily produce and distinguish two sizes of pulse."
> Of course he wrote that after reading the EDVAC report, but as always with Turing he covered the whole topic in a few words.

To complete that, von Neumann indeed says the same thing (in more words, as always) in sections 5.1 and 5.2 of his EDVAC report. I think it would have been obvious to anyone who seriously tried to design a stored-program machine with the available technology - especially to anyone with experience of ENIAC ("each [decimal] digit required 36 vacuum tubes, 10 of which were the dual triodes").

Who first cleared their mind of decimal arithmetic in order to *see* the simplicity of all-binary is indeed an interesting question. Machines before EDVAC, inlcuding the Harvard Mk I, were blends of binary and decimal.

I appreciate what Pierre Mounier-Kuhn wrote, but unfortunately neither Zuse nor Couffignal seem to have had influence on the ENIAC/EDVAC work and therefore on the mainstream.

      Brian Carpenter

> Regards
>      Brian Carpenter
> On 08-Jul-23 04:33, Evan Koblentz via Members wrote:
>> What are some good articles addressing why Zuse, Aiken, Stibitz, etc.
>> decided to use binary (or not)?

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