Giant Mechanical "Brain" Does Intricate Sums

h EDP order

CSIRO Problem In Computer Network

The Sydney Morning Herald, 8 August, 1944

NEW YORK, Aug. 7. From our Staff Correspondent, A.D. Rothman.

An electrically-driven calculating machine, weighing 35 tons and filling a room 51 feet long, said to be the greatest device of its kind ever created and capable of solving mathematical problems from simple addition to dynamic equations of the solar system has been presented to Harvard University by the International Business Machines Corporation.

The gift cost 250,000 dollars (£A78,121) to build and eight years to develop, and is the work of Commander Howard Aiken, United States Naval Reserve, who in civilian life is Mathematics Professor at Harvard.

A sort of mechanical brains trust, the machine is in the hands of the Navy for the duration of the war and serving in the war effort, but with the return of peace, it is expected to facilitate explorations in pure mathematics and science hitherto hindered by intricate and time-consuming calculations.

It solves a problem in 5.8 seconds that it takes an hour for a human to do. In one case, it achieved in 19 hours what it took four persons three weeks to do even with the aid of ordinary mechanical calculators.

It works out trigonometric functions in 55 seconds.

It contains error-checking devices.

When a problem is fed into the calculator in coded tape form, it will carry out the solution to 23 significant figures, consulting logarithmic and other functional tables which lie in the machine or are coded on tapes.

The operator of the machine need not be a trained mathematician, but mathematicians must prepare the problems by using a code book, so that the operator may punch the code holes in tape to feed the problem to the machine.

In the field of atomic physics, radio research, investigation of the ionosphere (the layer in the upper atmosphere which reflect radio waves), actuarial work, optics and electronics, the benefits of the invention are expected to immense.

The machine has already exposed eleven errors in one mathematical formula which has been standard for certain calculations for years.