Questions tagged [computers]

For question related to computers (including both analog and digital and both mechanical and electronic), calculators and any machines used for computation.

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21 votes
3 answers
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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?
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13 votes
3 answers
4k views

What was the first electronic computer?

I would like to know what is considered to be the first electronic digital computer. A literature ambiguous on this. I found these claims: ENIAC - a computer constructed by Mr. Eckert and Mr. ...
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12 votes
1 answer
463 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?
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9 votes
1 answer
867 views

Is the modern "is defined as" notation from computer programming?

To my knowledge, the symbol for "is defined as" historically has been the notation, $\equiv$ or $\triangleq$. More recently, however, the notation $:=$ seems to have overtaken the latter two notations ...
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8 votes
0 answers
137 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 ...
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6 votes
1 answer
338 views

Why were British WWII computing machines and their projects destroyed after the war ended?

I've seen from a number of sources that both the Colossus and the cryptological bombes operating for England were dismantled after the war ended. The Wikipedia article even says that all of Colossus' ...
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6 votes
0 answers
184 views

What was worldwide supply of disk storage in 1969?

I'd prefer a year-by-year graph, something like (not necessarily the "demand", just "supply")...     https://www.statista.com/statistics/751749/worldwide-data-storage-capacity-and-demand/ ...
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6 votes
0 answers
445 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 ...
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5 votes
1 answer
137 views

To constructivists, is "mind" more than a convenient synonym for "algorithm"?

I could give (but, not being a professional historian, nor a native Dutch speaker, only few) references and background-remarks, but I will keep this short, to make more use of what a Q&A-sites ...
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5 votes
0 answers
40 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. ...
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4 votes
2 answers
224 views

What technology did researchers use to write scientific papers before the computer?

As I'm reading a scientific paper from 1964, I'm wondering how researchers were able to write papers without the use of a computer. Cursive fonts, different font sizes, math, etc. are all present in ...
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4 votes
1 answer
265 views

Did Leibniz sketch a design for a machine capable of solving a system of linear equations?

My question is based on the information on pages 108-109 of the book The Tangled Origins of the Leibnizian Calculus. I know that Leibniz invented the stepped drum and used it to build the stepped ...
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4 votes
1 answer
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What/When was the first radio nav system capable of triangulating your position?

What was the first radio navigation system capable of triangulating your position, and when was it built? How accurate was it and what was its range? This does not have to be GPS or a satellite ...
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4 votes
0 answers
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von Neumann vignette on early computer usage

I'm looking for a vignette about von Neumann. My recollection is as follows but my google-fu is not bringing up anything. von Neumann, having prodigious mathematical capacity even of the most mundane ...
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  • 141
3 votes
0 answers
122 views

Has Turing's invention of Turing machines contributed to the development of real computers?

Has Turing's invention of Turing machines contributed to the development of real computers, which resulted in the personal computers we currently use? I often saw it mentioned that this is an ...
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3 votes
0 answers
57 views

Is it true that Stephen Hawking got the computer with his wheelchair by coincidence?

In the recent movie about Stephen Hawking it is displayed that it is a coincidence that he got a computer with his wheelchair: Some friend was a computer engineer and installed the computer for him. ...
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2 votes
2 answers
219 views

Essential basic geometrical discoveries still possible in our era?

Can we imagine that scientific can still discover some basic simple but essential geometric rules such as the Pythagorean theorem in a near of far future: $a^2 + b^2 = c^2$ Or do we consider that ...
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2 votes
1 answer
196 views

Did von Neumann consider the brain an analogue computer?

In this article, about an unfinished book by von Neumann (he died in 1957 before he could finish it), one can read: After stating that he himself is neither a neurologist nor a psychiatrist, but a ...
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2 votes
1 answer
165 views

Was a work of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage inspiration for pioneers of modern computing?

Recently, I came across a book about Grace Hopper where it is stated that Howard Aiken wanted her to become familiar with papers by Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage as he considered some of Babbage's ...
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2 votes
0 answers
186 views

When did William (Bill) Burke, who discovered the first actual bug, live and die?

Grace Hopper is frequently credited with finding the first actual bug. In fact, she just popularized the story of how William (Bill) Burke found the bug in the Mark II computer and documented it. I'...
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  • 505
1 vote
2 answers
1k views

Earliest concrete example of a binary / digital computing device

I am trying to trace (as far as known) the first example of a digital computing device. I am discounting (no pun) an abacus because I regard that as a device for representing, storing and manipulating ...
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1 vote
1 answer
865 views

What technologies were used before JavaScript?

I made a small research about the history before JavaScript was available to use, but I couldn't find much. I only found several plugins that was used, such as Adobe Flash, ActiveX. So, what I want ...
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1 vote
1 answer
59 views

Overflow behavior in turn counters of Odhner-style arithmometers

I have a Felix M Arithmometer (shown below) that appears to follow the same design as an Odhner arithmometer. One thing I noticed about the device is that the turn counter (on the left) does not ...
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1 vote
1 answer
2k views

Who first invented the programmable digital computer?

I read Charles Babbage invented the first mechanical computer (the Analytic Engine) and that Ada Lovelace devised the first computer programs. Also I realize John Von Neumann invented the first ...
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1 vote
1 answer
132 views

Did Leibniz also design analog computers?

My question is based on the information that appears in several websites, according to which I found three examples of a kind of instrument that was probably an analog computer. The first one ...
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1 vote
0 answers
80 views

Before the Colossus and the ENIAC, did ever an electronic calculator exist?

I've done some searching on the internet, and I found that an electronic analog computer was built in 1942 in Germany, during World War II. But, before the first electronic computer, weren't there ...
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1 vote
0 answers
77 views

Finding sources for "computers will become so powerful that special functions will become obsolete" as a zeitgeist

In Why are special functions special [Physics Today 54, 11 (2007); eprint], Michael Berry makes the following observations: This continuing and indeed increasing reliance on special functions is a ...
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1 vote
0 answers
146 views

How many computers are there?

There are about 7.13 billion humans alive today. When installing Java, it says that 3 billion devices run Java. The question is, out of how many? How many computing devices that have enough ...
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0 votes
3 answers
213 views

Why were early electronic computers mutually incompatible?

At the beginning of the electronic computing era in the 1950s, computers were mutually incompatible both in terms of hardware and software. It was impossible to use peripherals (e.g. punched card or ...
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0 votes
0 answers
93 views

How did Mathew Bevan acquire hacking skill without belonging to military or national agencies?

This my post may be inappropriate since math may be irrelevant in this topic. I've read this article of wikipedia of the hacker called Mathew Bevan. Seemingly the ariticle has not specified how Bevan ...
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