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 '17 at 9:00
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    $\begingroup$ You can see e.g. History of computing hardware. $\endgroup$ – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Aug 2 '17 at 10:04
  • $\begingroup$ I agree with Mauro. Read that Wikipedia page, then come back if you still have more specific questions. $\endgroup$ – Gerald Edgar Aug 2 '17 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. $\endgroup$ – Dave L Renfro Aug 3 '17 at 13:53
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    $\begingroup$ For more about logic in machines without electronics, see Martin Gardner's Logic Machines and Diagrams. $\endgroup$ – Rory Daulton Aug 4 '17 at 10:21

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.


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