Lecture 5 - The Dawn of Automatic Computing
- By the 1930s, mechanical and electromechanical calculators from Burroughs, Felt
& Tarrant, Marchant, Monroe, Remington, Victor, and other manufacturers had
all aspects of modern office operations.
- Due to newer complex operations, such as solving linear equalities, differential
equations, etc. could be found using a newer and more highly developed
calculating machine with error free and predefined sequence of operations, that is,
by following a program.
- *The 1930s was a crucial period in the development of computing.
o Newer designs of computers started to appear in Europe and US.
o Ground breaking theoretical research on computing was initiated.
- Alan Turing: A British mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst whose
contributions to the science of computing were not only large in scope but also
o Best known for his outstanding contributions to cryptography during
WWII when at Bletchley Park, he (and others) worked successfully on
breaking German ciphers.
o Using his amazing mathematics of computing he created the first ever
general-purpose and universal computer out of a few symbols written on a
piece of paper. In honor of its inventor, that device is now called the
Turing Machine. (Published his results in 1936-37)
o Did his groundbreaking research on ”abstract” computing machines at a
time when there were no ”real” computers.
- In 1928, David Hilbert suggested that the entire mathematics could be
- According to Hilbert, some sort of an algorithm-following calculating machine
and the job of a mathematician would be to discover the appropriate algorithms.
- In 1936, Turing published a paper ”On Computable Numbers, with an
Application to the Entscheidungsproblem” (Decision Problem).
o In this paper Turing said there are mathematical problems that are
unsolvable and could not be solved in an algorithmic way as envisioned by
o To prove his result Turing designed an abstract computer – a simple
mathematical concept but a powerful computing device.
o Turing machines had helped to define and understand the notions
fundamental to computing such as an algorithm, a computer, a
computation and its complexity.
- Automatic Computing in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s
o A computer is a calculating device that is program- controlled; in other
words, a computer performs operations by executing instructions arranged
in a predefined way specified by the so-called program. o The earliest computers ever designed and built could be better
classified as programmable calculators than computers as they
were not designed to be general- but special-purpose devices.
- Possibly the world’s earliest programmable calculating machine ever built was the
Z1, designed and completed by the German engineer Konrad Zuse between 1936
and 1938 -- The computer was mechanical but powered by electricity.
o It was unreliable and suffered from the same problems as early mechanical
o Between 1938 and 1941, Zuse worked on improving his Z1 and came out
with his Z3 computer which instead of mechanical components that he
used to implement the processor of the Z1, his Z3 computer used electro-
magnetic relays readily available from the telephony industry.
- Both the Z1 and Z3 were destroyed during the WW2.
o After the war, Zuse continued his work on computers by building other
electromechanical machines–the Z4 (1950)–and his first electronic
computer –Z22–that used vacuum tubes instead of electro-magnetic
relays. Since 1955, a number of Z22s were manufactured.
- The Colossus Mark-1 (1943) and Mark-2 (1944) calculating machines were
designed by Tommy Flowers and built at the Post Office Research Lab in
London to help with the war effort in decoding intercepted German telegraphic
- The computers were designed for one purpose only – to help with deciphering
codes (hence, they were ”special-purpose”). And these computers were
programmed by interconnecting various hardware modules with wires and by
using switches (hence, they were not of ”stored- program” type).
- After the war, all machines were dismantled by 1960 and all documentation
destroyed. The computer was ”rediscovered” in the 1970s and reconstructed
in the 1990s.
- Significance of the Colossus computers:
o The results obtained with the help of the Colossus computers gave Allied
forces vital information prior to D Day (e.g. that all efforts to deceive
Germans about place and direction for invasion, etc. did work);
o The construction and use of the Colossus machines trained the first