How did people realize they could do logic with electronics? Are there anecdotes of the first realizations? I'm wondering about the first "eureka" moments.

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    $\begingroup$ You seem to be imagining a leap from "logic on paper" to electronic circuits. That's now how it happened: there were non-electronic computers and other devices long before electronics entered the picture. So you're really asking two questions: When/how did people first start building logic devices? When/how did people first realize that logic devices could be implemented using electronics? $\endgroup$
    – Raphael
    Aug 2, 2017 at 9:00
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    $\begingroup$ You can see e.g. History of computing hardware. $\endgroup$ Aug 2, 2017 at 10:04
  • $\begingroup$ I agree with Mauro. Read that Wikipedia page, then come back if you still have more specific questions. $\endgroup$ Aug 2, 2017 at 13:32
  • $\begingroup$ Curiously, there is no mention of nomograms that I can find at "History of computing hardware". Although nomograms probably do not have much to do with the OP's question, their absence at that Wikipedia page makes the historical timeline seem very selective -- it's as if one of the main tools used from roughly the 1850s to the 1930s never happened. See the books here and here, many of which are freely available. $\endgroup$ Aug 3, 2017 at 13:53
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    $\begingroup$ For more about logic in machines without electronics, see Martin Gardner's Logic Machines and Diagrams. $\endgroup$ Aug 4, 2017 at 10:21

1 Answer 1


I think the resources listed above are good background references but if you want to know how logic was introduced to actual electronic equipment then consider Claude Shannon. At the age of 21, writing his MIT Master's degree thesis, he laid out the methods of how electrical applications of Boolean logic can carry out any logical or numerical process.

This was in the year 1937 and although it is not the start of work on computing devices or unique, Shannon, more than any other single person, is responsible for answering your question.

Claude Shannon is considered the father of Information Theory and also wrote many papers on the entropy of information and using statistical methods that were not that different from statistical physics (e.g. Boltzmann Distribution).

Also, a small extra -- Shannon wrote at least two papers on algorithms for a chess playing computer implementation. I wrote a chess playing program back in the late 1960s and early 1970s when I completed all my work on it. Most of my motivation came from Shannon's papers which I still have in some binder someplace.

  • $\begingroup$ Did you meet Slate or Kittinger? I knew them both through chess. I also spoke to Berliner when he had a machine (perhaps just a modem talking to a machine -- he did not deign to answer my admittedly naïvely phrased question -- this was years before the Internet and I do assume now it was a modem because the computer itself would have been large, I think) $\endgroup$
    – releseabe
    Dec 12, 2022 at 1:07
  • $\begingroup$ If you are referring to David Slate I knew of him but never met him. I worked a lot with Chess 2.0 when I worked for CDC in the early 1970s. My own chess playing program was no where near as sophisticated as Chess 2.0. $\endgroup$
    – K7PEH
    Dec 13, 2022 at 0:24
  • $\begingroup$ what language did u use? slate said he used assembly and he did not like my question about how many lines of fortran would be requires. did you have ur program play any rated humans? $\endgroup$
    – releseabe
    Dec 13, 2022 at 0:34
  • $\begingroup$ Chess 2.0, at least the source that I had access to was all written in 6000 Compass (Assembly language for CDC 6000 architecture). My own chess program was a mixture of 6000 Compass and Fortran (CDC FTN compiler). It only ran on CDC 6000 architecture and mostly I ran on CDC 6600. $\endgroup$
    – K7PEH
    Dec 13, 2022 at 0:50
  • $\begingroup$ Two members of the chess club of CDC/Sunnyvale played my chess program and both beat the program. I would usually beat the program unless I got sloppy and the program would easily beat me. It never played an end game. In fact, when pieces were few on the board it did not do well. $\endgroup$
    – K7PEH
    Dec 13, 2022 at 0:52

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