imitation game movie

Noel Chiappa jnc at
Wed Feb 11 07:06:58 CST 2015

    > From: Chuck Guzis

    > So what's special about "electronic" computers?
    > Isn't this just a mere technological refinement? Logic gates can be 
    > electrical, electronic, pneumatic, hydraulic and photonic

There's a saying that a big enough quantitative difference becomes a
qualitative difference. So electronic computing devices, because of their
speed potential, are of a qualitatively different order than anything that
involves moving matter around... :-)

    > In the game of firsts, where does Torres y Quevedo's "El Ajedrecista"
    > fit in?

Alas, can't answer that - I've heard the name, but don't know much about his

    > From: Jon Elson

    > Atanasoff and Beqrry did a GREAT job, but it wasn't actually 
    > a "computer" by the Turing definition.

Which is why I described it as the first digital electronic computing
device... :-)

Interestingly, one could add 'binary' to that description. The ENIAC of
course wasn't, and I don't think COLOSSUS was either, in its counters, etc
(but would have to check - does anyone know/recall).

    > all that was left were some drawings in a few binders. They published
    > NOTHING about the machine itself, and it was largely unknown for
    > DECADES!
    > ...
    > .. as far as I'm concerned, Atanasoff and Berry are a VERY interesting
    > footnote in early computing, but didn't actually contribute directly to
    > the development of computers.

Well, there was a lengthy report written, but it was never circulated publicly
because Atanasoff was trying to file a patent, and the patent attorney (IIRC)
advised them not to publish until the patent application was filed - which it
never was, with WWII starting. There was a contemporary press release about
the device, which resulted in local coverage only.

The whole thing did come within a hair's-breadth of winding up where Zuse's
work did - a curiousity which did not have much impact on the world - but for
one stroke of chance/luck: word of the machine somehow reached a man called
John W. Mauchly, who came out to visit Atanasoff and Berry in June 1941, and
spent almost a week there, talking with them, and studying the machine, and
their written material.

He later tried to claim that it was no big deal, and the ABC didn't really
affect his thinking much - but that won't wash, you don't spend nearly a week
intently studying something you think is irrelevant junk. (And Mauchly's
letters to Atanasoff, written shortly after the visit, make clear that he
was much taken with the ABC.)

It's clear there is a very significant link between the ABC and the ENIAC -
and the influence of the latter is clear.


More information about the cctalk mailing list