Howard Aiken: Portrait of a Computer Pioneer

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Biography of Howard Aiken, a major figure of the early digital era, by a major historian of science who was also a colleague of Aiken's at Harvard.

Howard Hathaway Aiken (1900-1973) was a major figure of the early digital era. He is best known for his first machine, the IBM Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator or Harvard Mark I, conceived in 1937 and put into operation in 1944. But he also made significant contributions to the development of applications for the new machines and to the creation of a university curriculum for computer science.

This biography of Aiken, by a major historian of science who was also a colleague of Aiken's at Harvard, offers a clear and often entertaining introduction to Aiken and his times. Aiken's Mark I was the most intensely used of the early large-scale, general-purpose automatic digital computers, and it had a significant impact on the machines that followed. Aiken also proselytized for the computer among scientists, scholars, and businesspeople and explored novel applications in data processing, automatic billing, and production control. But his most lasting contribution may have been the students who received degrees under him and then took prominent positions in academia and industry. I. Bernard Cohen argues convincingly for Aiken's significance as a shaper of the computer world in which we now live.

 

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Contents

3
21
5
39
8
61
10
74
How to Perform Multiplication and Division by Machine
87
12
109
15
124
16
147
23
215
24
227
26
237
A The Harvard News Release
249
Aikens Memorandum Describing the Harvard Computation
263
The Stored Program and the Binary Number System
269
E Aikens Three Later Machines
275
F How Many Computers Are Needed?
283

18
169
19
177
20
185
21
197
G The NSF Computer Tree
295
H Who Invented the Computer? Was Mark I a Computer?
297
Index
325
Copyright

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About the author (2000)

Born in Far Rockaway, New York, I. Bernard Cohen earned degrees from Harvard University. He holds the distinction of being the first person in the United States to earn a Ph.D. in the history of science. Later, Cohen established the History of Science Department at Harvard. Cohen has received many fellowships and has won the George Sarton Medal, awarded by the History of Science Society. Cohen is an author and editor, known for his books about Sir Isaac Newton and Benjamin Franklin.

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