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The literature is ambiguous because the question is ambiguous. The characteristics of these early machines are well known, but one can set the criteria for being "electronic computer" according to their preference. Does it have to be completely non-mechanical? Turing universal? digital? binary? History can tell us what happened, not what choice of words we ...


14

Rutherford journal gives a nice chronology of analog computing up to 1970, when they went out of mass use. "The demise of the analogue computer was a gradual process. Apart from reductions in size and improvements in speed, the machines on sale up until 1970 were all essentially electronic differential analysers." Aside from living relics there has been ...


13

See: Alan Turing, Collected works: Mathematical Logic (R.O. Gandy & C.E.M. Yates editors, 2001). [page 10, regarding Turing's paper On computable numbers... (1937)] It should be remarked that there is no evidence that Turing had read any of the scanty and sporadic literature concerned with the general theory of mechanical computation. In particular, ...


7

There were several layers of craft technology now partly superseded by pdflatex and friends. There were author's instructions for marking up manuscripts with type font indications, there were technical typists adept at using special math symbol shapes with their modified typewriters, there were Monotype operators who ran typesetting machines from the marked ...


7

Why does being decimal disqualify ENIAC? Decimal electronic stored-program computers used to be a thing, for example the commercially successful IBM 1401. It was a matter of "binary for scientific use, decimal for business use". My own bias as a programmer disqualifies ENIAC for not being a stored-program digital computer, or more accurately, I'm more ...


6

This is exactly what is happening in modern mathematics: people with some books and brain discover essential things that have never been discovered, such as Euclid, Thales and Pythagoras did in the past. In Geometry as well as in other areas of mathematics. And most of these people use computers only to write e-mails and to check their bank accounts). Type ...


6

The USS Iowa has mechanical analog computers for firing that survived the 1980-refit of the ship. An analog computer of everyday use in the XXIst century are the Flight computers used on a wide range of aircraft daily. Electronical analog computers were used to until the 70s because they're very good at analytics's, but I think even electronic analog ...


6

To keep secret the level of expertise in cryptanalysis so future opponents wouldn't put effort into improving their own codes. Probably pointless because it was inevitable that some details of Bletchley would leak to the USSR, in the same way as secrets of the Manhattan project. And probably equally pointless in that, although every side in WWII broke almost ...


5

There is a heap of answers to this question, and they cover a wide range of aspects of the early computer industry. As has been pointed out, the very first machines were hand built lab experiments. It was not at all obvious how to build a digital computer that would work. Remember Babbage's Analytical Engine had foundered on the challenge of actually ...


5

Digital devices were quite common since 19th century, they were called cash registers: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cash_register Many shops were equipped with them. Similar device for scientific/engineering purposes was called arithmometer, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arithmometer In 1970s I was solving PDE's with this arithmometer: https://ru....


4

My theoretical physics papers and thesis were written by hand, then typed on an IBM "golf ball" typewriter. The golf ball was so called because the type head was about the same size as a golf ball. The type heads were interchangeable with different fonts and symbols. Corrections were made using tippex. 40 years later, I'm still amazed at the skill of the ...


4

Javascript is older than Flash and ActiveX. Originally, it was developed by the Sun, as the "small cousine" of the Java. The "World Wide Web" was originally developed only for static content without client-side dynamical behaviors, and with only zero to little server-side dynamical content. Javascript became capable to replace Flash & ActiveX only ...


4

First machines were one-off affairs, custom built (often for a very narrow purpose). There just weren't enough of those around to make standarization of anything surrounding them worthwhile. Thomas Watson (IBM president at the time) accurately estimated a demand of half a dozen computers worldwide in that timeframe. Remember the idea behind the Multics ...


3

This changed in 1964 when IBM introduced System/360, a scalable computing system. It's obvious now that we have scalable computing systems that we can have scalable computing systems. Before then, it wasn't. There were in my opinion two insights that made this possible: Firstly, the separation of architecture from implementation: that the machine as ...


3

My personal marker is stored program control, ie, the program is stored in the computer memory. Early machines like the original ENIAC, Colossus, Zuse's Z-machines, were all programmed by changing the wiring in some fashion. The Z-machines used relays, ENIAC was an advance because it used electronics (valves, the transistor hadn't been invented). The first ...


3

I did a bit of snooping, and followed the Wikipedia link you named to another subsection, which states International Algebraic Language and ALGOL (1958 and 1960) therefore introduced ":=" for assignment, leaving the standard "=" available for equality, a convention followed by CPL, Algol W, BCPL, Simula, Algol 68, SETL, Pascal, Smalltalk, Modula2, Ada, ...


2

One incredible discovery of the 1800s was that when you speak of geometry, you need to specify "where your geometry is located" and specifically what constitutes points and lines. At the time this was applied to obtain Hyperbolic Geometry and Elliptic Geometry. Recently, the field of Finite Geometry has become the subject of much foundational research. ...


2

Regarding the algorithmic conception of the mind: Von Neumann definitely regarded human intelligence as algorithmic. He may not have known how the brain/computer worked exactly, but it's a reasonable assumption that it involves procedures and memory, which are analogous to the way computers function. There has been much resistance to this idea, making ...


1

After a little bit of research, I think the answer is that the turn counter works the way it does to support division and division would not function as intended if the turn counter carried. "Subtractive" multiplication is not well supported because it would make division less intuitive. This video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDN4s8ElxqE shows an ...


1

To answer your title question, the first "programmable, digital computer" was designed by Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace, known as the Analytical Engine. Turing, von Neumann, and other computer scientists and mathematicians approached the concept of a programmable computer both independently and building on the work of Babbage, Lovelace and their ...


1

Radio navigation was used on a large scale during the "Battle of Britain" in WWII, to direct the fighter planes to the enemy bomber formations. Of course, they experimented much earlier than that, even during WWI, but practical use on a large scale started during WWII. See Wikipedia article "Radio navigation".


1

Yes, Leibniz did design a famous computing machine called the stepped-reckoner. It was a (digital) computer, but not an analog computer. Don't confuse digital with electronic. The difference is only that digital computers use discrete values for computation, whereas analog computers use continuous values, for example real numbers in case of Tractrix. I ...


1

It has been claimed that the Jaquard Loom (1804) was a digital computer. (But not electronic, of course.) We could even say that it was binary, since on the punched cards that control it, in each locaton on the card there was either a hole or not. Then there were music boxes driven by clockwork, where the notes where controlled by holes punched in a metal ...


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