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Questions tagged [computer-science]

For questions about the scientific approach to computations and its applications.

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Was object oriented programming influenced by the mathematical category theory?

Object oriented programming (OOP) is a programming model where code and data are encapsulated into units called objects that behave semi-autonomously. Interaction between objects is arranged through ...
Conifold's user avatar
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21 votes
3 answers
1k views

What happened to analog computers?

When was the last analog computer developed? What about one that is still in use (as in computation or experiment)? Were there major improvement done from the day digital computers became so popular?
user234487's user avatar
17 votes
2 answers
1k views

The Abacus vs. the Electric Calculator (Nov 12, 1946): Why did the latter lose?

On Nov 12, 1946 the Americans organized a contest in Japan to compare the Japanese Abacus with the American Electric Calculator. The Abacus won: "Civilization, on the threshold of the atomic age, ...
Franck Dernoncourt's user avatar
16 votes
3 answers
2k views

Why did Norbert Wiener break off relations with Walter Pitts?

I read on the Wikipedia page on Walter Pitts that Norbert Wiener broke off relations with Walter Pitts, which "sent Walter Pitts into 'cognitive suicide'". Why did Norbert Wiener break off relations ...
Franck Dernoncourt's user avatar
16 votes
2 answers
1k views

What happened to cybernetics?

Recently, I've been looking into the life of the brilliant Norbert Wiener and the field he spawned, cybernetics. Before reading into it, I thought "cybernetics" was a pseudo-science-new-wave-...
Jesse's user avatar
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15 votes
6 answers
473 views

Why were so many artificial intelligence founders so optimistic?

1954: The Georgetown experiment in 1954 involved fully automatic translation of more than sixty Russian sentences into English. The authors claimed that within three or five years, machine translation ...
Franck Dernoncourt's user avatar
13 votes
2 answers
5k views

Who coined the term "signal-to-noise ratio" and when did statisticians start using the term "noise" to describe randomness?

I'm writing about the history of the concept of noise and am having trouble tracking down references from when the term "noise" started being associated with statistical noise such as ...
vy32's user avatar
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13 votes
0 answers
165 views

Did Walter Pitts refuse to allow his name to be made publicly available?

I read on the Wikipedia page on Walter Pitts that : Pitts was also described as an eccentric, refusing to allow his name to be made publicly available. He refused all offers of advanced ...
Franck Dernoncourt's user avatar
12 votes
1 answer
744 views

Did Turing know of Babbage's work?

Did Turing have any knowledge of Babbage's work? Is it known if he ever mentioned Babbage?
cuihtlauac's user avatar
12 votes
1 answer
672 views

How certain is it that Lucas invented the Towers of Hanoi puzzle?

Wikipedia is unequivocal: The puzzle was invented by the French mathematician Édouard Lucas in 1883. I have no reason to doubt this, but given the many legends surrounding the topic, I wonder if ...
Joseph O'Rourke's user avatar
11 votes
1 answer
946 views

Is anything known about part II of John McCarthy's Recursive Functions of Symbolic Expressions and Their Computation by Machine Part II?

I know that Part I was published while John McCarthy was working at MIT in 1960, in which he describes the LISP language, which he had invented 2 years prior, and is today considered one of the most ...
PandaConda's user avatar
11 votes
1 answer
480 views

Does Blum's speedup theorem have any conceptual predecessors?

Blum's speedup theorem seems to me that bears at least some superficial resemblance to Gödel's research on the length of proofs under certain axiomatic systems. Does Blum's speedup theorem have any ...
GEP's user avatar
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11 votes
2 answers
577 views

What's the etymology of an engineering/software bug?

I read the Wikipedia page on Software bugs. It does have a section on its etymology. Albeit interesting it doesn't answer my question but merely notes that the term bug was used in 1878: Use of the ...
Franck Dernoncourt's user avatar
11 votes
0 answers
366 views

How were contour plots of complex functions produced in the days of mechanical differential analyzers?

I was reading an old paper (specifically, the first appearance of the Pearcey function, here) and I was struck by the beauty of the plots it contains, particularly for a paper from 1945-46: Pearcey ...
Emilio Pisanty's user avatar
10 votes
1 answer
379 views

What is the first reference to a nondeterministic Turing machine?

I am looking for the first reference of a Nondeterministic Turing machine. There is no mention of them in the 1936 paper "On Computable Numbers."
vy32's user avatar
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10 votes
1 answer
5k views

When was the first command-line interface developed?

I want to know what the first command-line interface was, and when it was. That is, the first time one could type in a command on a keyboard or similar, and receive feedback via a screen or ...
Ne Mo's user avatar
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10 votes
1 answer
1k views

The origin of logic gate symbols

Who first proposed the distinctive shapes and the rectangular shape labels? What is the consideration behind the shapes and the labels?
Hao Chen's user avatar
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10 votes
1 answer
1k views

Why is the Halting problem attributed to Alan Turing?

The halting problem is a very famous example from computability theory of a problem that is undecidable. It is often said that the proof of its undecidability was given by Alan Turing, indeed ...
mrp's user avatar
  • 201
10 votes
1 answer
94 views

Was the take off of neural computing research in the 80's due to Japan?

Chow, Tommy WS, and John Sum. "Guest editorial: special issue on the emerging applications of neural networks." Neural Computing & Applications 20.7 (2011): 923-924. says: The take off of ...
Franck Dernoncourt's user avatar
9 votes
3 answers
888 views

Did amateurs ever produce important proofs or similar?

Background Mathematics and some areas of physics and computer science have the peculiar appeal that some problems and results are easy to understand and it is conceivable that somebody armed with ...
Wrzlprmft's user avatar
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9 votes
1 answer
941 views

Was there an intentional purge of all audio recordings of Alan Turing?

The YouTube video Alan Turing's lost radio broadcast rerecorded contains a re-enactment of Alan Turing's lecture broadcast by the BBC. In the introduction, the narrator (James Grimes, also of the ...
uhoh's user avatar
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9 votes
1 answer
524 views

What is Holon Programming?

Donald Knuth credits Pierre-Arnoul de Marneffe's idea of "Holon Programming" as the main influence on Literate Programming. See page 13 of "Literate Programming", Knuth's paper ...
texdr.aft's user avatar
  • 253
8 votes
2 answers
329 views

What was the first programming language that implemented hash maps / dictionaries as a base type?

I'm having a discussion elsewhere about this. I suspect that it was Perl, with the hash maps, but that is because I don't know much about older languages rather than any exhaustive research on the ...
Kevin's user avatar
  • 181
8 votes
0 answers
157 views

When did computer pioneers realize that some problems are intrinsically hard?

In my theory computation class, I was told that early computer pioneers didn't realize that some problems are intrinsically hard—what we now call NP-hard problems. Instead, it took a while to realize ...
vy32's user avatar
  • 655
7 votes
1 answer
131 views

Origin of O/L for false/true in German computer-science texts

In Konrad Zuse's Plankalkül ZIA ID 0020 from 1972, in his patent submission Z23624 "Rechenmaschine" ZIA ID 0177 from 1936 and modern German Wikipedia article on the dyadic system, 2020-01-17 we see L ...
user avatar
7 votes
2 answers
507 views

What mathematician or scientist has published the most peer-reviewed articles on chess problems?

This question involves not only those provided by the link, but also those "chess-themed" mathematics and computer science problems which are not included in the link. Who has published the most peer-...
Paul Burchett's user avatar
7 votes
1 answer
1k views

Who developed Gaussian Mixture Model (GMM) and applied it to machine learning?

I searched about GMM (Gaussian mixture model), but only found that normal distribution was invented by Carl Friedrich Gauss. I'd like to know who contributed to the development of GMM itself, and to ...
M. Al.'s user avatar
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7 votes
0 answers
118 views

What was the first automated theorem prover?

From a lot of googling, it seems like the answer might be "Mizar", but I am not completely sure. What was (or is?) the first automated theorem prover (i.e. not necessarily active right now)?
Alex's user avatar
  • 275
6 votes
4 answers
4k views

What is the first historical reference to the binary search algorithm?

Most of you know what I mean, but I will define it broadly: the binary search algorithm consists in searching iteratively for an element within an ordered set, by asking yes/no questions that will ...
Eynar Oxartum's user avatar
6 votes
1 answer
139 views

Who created Agile programming and why?

I semi-recently went to work for a workplace that employs Agile development instead of Waterfall. I have my own reasons for appreciating it, but who was the original creator of Agile? What problems ...
Carlos Bribiescas's user avatar
6 votes
2 answers
485 views

Who said “Either you speak maths or you speak nonsense?”

I am in the process of preparing a lecture and remember that some of the Gods (highly esteemed researchers of the past) said, “Either you speak maths or you speak nonsense.” Perhaps is was “Either you ...
user avatar
6 votes
0 answers
451 views

What is the source of Donald Knuth's remark about naming programming languages?

(This question toes the line between belonging here and belonging on the Retrocomputing Stack Exchange.) Here is the quote; sometimes the first sentence is omitted: The most important thing in a ...
texdr.aft's user avatar
  • 253
6 votes
0 answers
270 views

history of backpropagation

Has anybody read or have access to Alex Andrew Significance Feedback in Neural Nets Report of Biological Computer Laboratory, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL GM-10718-03 TR No 5 September ...
Gottfried William's user avatar
5 votes
1 answer
852 views

Why would Margaret Hamilton and her team at NASA print the code on paper?

This famous photo depicts Margaret Hamilton, leader of the software engineering team for the Apollo Project, next a print out of the code she and her team wrote for the mission. This information is ...
user2723984's user avatar
5 votes
1 answer
168 views

Was Charles Sanders Peirce aware of Charles Babbage's difference engine?

Is there any indication that Charles Peirce was aware of Babbage and his work on mechanical computing?
GEP's user avatar
  • 1,525
5 votes
1 answer
600 views

Why so hard to find references to pictures of Raymond Boyce?

Raymond Boyce was one of the first pioneers of the relational database and a co-developer of SQL, yet it is almost impossible to find any pictures of him: https://www.google.com/search?q=raymond+f+...
Joe Harris's user avatar
5 votes
1 answer
63 views

When was the first appearance of the abbreviation RSA?

When was the first publication of the abbreviation RSA (Rivest, Sharmir, Adleman) because it does not appear in Martin Gardner’s article of 1977 which is at the following url: https://simson.net/ref/...
matq's user avatar
  • 51
5 votes
1 answer
277 views

Who coined the term “machine learning”?

A lot of sources attribute the definition to Arthur Samuel (1959), "the field of study that gives computers the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed", but none of these sources ...
Flair's user avatar
  • 151
5 votes
2 answers
3k views

How did von Neumann come up with his merge sort algorithm?

Since merge sort is the first $O(n \log n)$ time general purpose sorting algorithm I find it rather surprising that it was discovered without having any obvious conceptual predecessors. Are there any ...
GEP's user avatar
  • 1,525
5 votes
2 answers
131 views

Did Kolmogorov complexity influence the development of communication complexity?

I was reading a wikipedia article about communication complexity and it seems to me that it bears some resemblance to Kolmogorov complexity. Was the founder of communication complexity influenced by ...
GEP's user avatar
  • 1,525
5 votes
1 answer
160 views

History of computing/computation in higher education

A Google search for the first academic computer science program a couple of years ago cited a half-dozen programs in France and England that were considered proto-computer science. Current searches ...
user avatar
5 votes
0 answers
97 views

What was Gauss's algorithmic method to solve a certain "nearest neighbour search" problem in multi-dimensional euclidean space?

In his 1829 paper on a new formulation of mechanics, Gauss presented his principle of least constraint, which parallels previous formulations of analytical mechanics and provides a new point of view ...
user2554's user avatar
  • 4,499
5 votes
0 answers
54 views

Are there other articles by Ada Lovelace than translation of Menabrea's notes on Analytical Engine?

Ada Lovelace is well known as an translator of Luigi's Menabrea article on Babbage's Analytical engine. She also added notes to the translation which are in the end longer than the translation itself. ...
Martin Vesely's user avatar
5 votes
0 answers
144 views

Early parallel computing with human exchanging messages: is this story true?

As a student in applied maths, I can remember being told that in the 1940s there were early attempts of parallel computing not using any machine but only human calculation power. I believe the story ...
Joce's user avatar
  • 101
5 votes
0 answers
125 views

Where is the first reference to the "Z combinator", a call-by-value fix-point combinator?

I'd like to know the earliest reference to the Z-combinator. This could be either where the name was first coined, or even the first discussion of a need for an applicative-order Y combinator. I didn'...
Jason Hemann's user avatar
5 votes
0 answers
97 views

Was the Vigenère cipher broken many years before Kasiski?

The Vigenère cipher was broken by Kasiski in 1863 but I read novels and romans from older time, for example during the French Revolution where a student broke Vigenère cipher. Is it likely that ...
user4698's user avatar
4 votes
2 answers
639 views

How did Yao come up with his minimum spanning tree algorithm?

I recently stumbled upon this text about Yao's algorithm for the minimum spanning tree (MST) and I was wondering if there are some preceding algorithms (other than Sollin's algorithm) that were ...
GEP's user avatar
  • 1,525
4 votes
1 answer
349 views

Why was the 'differential entropy' from information theory so named?

The entropy of a distribution $p$ on a discrete set $\mathcal{X}$ is defined as $$H(p) = -\sum_{x \in \mathcal{X}} p_x \log p_x.$$ Shannon in his classic paper [1] defines the analogue for continuous ...
Mr. G-Man's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
125 views

How the present technology influences the way history of science is done?

Heard recently about digital humanities as a new paradigm of inquiry into the history of mankind and other humanities. Is the historiography of science informed by technological advances that could ...
SAFI's user avatar
  • 343
4 votes
1 answer
138 views

What did Tim-Berners Lee mean with "HTTP also allows index search" in his paper "World wide web: The Information Univesrse"?

For my work on the history of hypertext systems and the WWW I cam across one sentence on the development of HTTP which I don't understand and where I could not find any information about: Page 55: (...
Christoph S's user avatar