Tompkins, C.B.. High-Speed Computing Devices. New York: McGraw Hill, 1950. 1st edition. 8vo. Cloth. A fine and outstanding copy of a significant book in a good copy of its very scarce dustjacket. The dj has the usual nicks and chips but also has the usual fading on the spine as well.
This is simply the best and the first of the pre-1960 textbooks on the computer, complete with stouts bibliographies and lots of bits to trail from the golden age of computers. This classic work is enhanced by a (very) unusually complete series of chapter-ending references and bibliographies. Among much else of interest we find a treatment of the Harvard Mark I and II on pp 183-187 in the chapter on "Large-Scale Digital Computing Systems" on pp 182-222 with bibliography occupying pp 218-222. Also, the "Punched-Card Computing Systems" chapter pp 146-181 has a very nice bibliography on pp 166-181. $550.
This is considered to be the first textbook on digital computers, the first compendium in English on digital computer technology, and a pioneering work that influenced many computer designers during the 1950s. It provides an unsurpassed picture of the state of the art during the late 1940s, and is further enhanced by the inclusion of several excellent bibliographies. -- Sarrazin F2.
"The book is a careful analysis of the electronic field as of 1950 and was in very large measure written by the late Professor C. B. Tompkins.." - Goldstine 315.
It was written to satisfy "a perceived need, following the end of WW II, for compendium of technologies applicable to the emerging field of electronic digital computers...Because published technical information was scarce in the U.S., there can be little question that the book was an important contribution to computer literature...with its state of the art picture of the period 1947 through 1949, establishes a well-documented baseline fro tracking and evaluating subsequent technological progress." Arnold Cohen, from the Introduction to the 1983 Charles Babbage Institute Reprint Series Edition of the ERA Report, published by Tomash Publshing. ERA
Background note: "Engineering Research Associates' (ERA) origins can be traced to a classified World War II era Navy project which recruited highly skilled cryptologists, mathematicians, engineers, and physicists to break German and Japanese codes in order to pinpoint the movements of their ships. These tasks required the use of computing devices that could calculate data at ever increasing speeds. This led to an effort to investigate electronic solutions to cryptologic problems. The work of this group was coordinated by Commander Howard T. Engstrom, who before the war had been a professor of mathematics at Yale University; and Lt. Commander William C. Norris, former sales manager for Westinghouse. After the war, the Navy made an effort to keep this team together and offered several members civil service appointments. However, Engstrom and Norris preferred to go into business for themselves. In the fall of 1945, they began searching for financial backing, but this proved to be difficult because they were unable to discuss their classified projects with potential investors. Finally, John Parker, a Wall Street investment banker and former head of Northwestern Aeronautical Corporation, provided the necessary capital. In January 1946, Engineering Research Associates was formed in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where John Parker was based. In the fall of 1946, ERA received its first major contract from the Office of Naval Research to compile a report on High Speed Computing Devices. This report, which became the definitive study of the infant state of computing, was later published in book form by McGraw Hill. During this project, ERA personnel was given access to classified government reports and worked with computer pioneers John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert, inventors of the ENIAC, and John von Neumann, of Princeton University's Institute for Advanced Study. ERA was dependent on government funded cost-plus--fixed-fee contracts. In August 1947, it began work for the Navy on Task 13 - a project to design a general all-purpose stored-program computer. During this project ERA developed the first magnetic storage drum; the technology upon which the next two generations of computers was based. In October, 1950, ERA completed work on the Atlas computer - America's first electronic stored-program computer. The Atlas with its 2,700 vacuum tubes was capable of running twenty-four hours a day with only 10% of the time allotted for maintenance. ERA hoped to establish a niche in the private sector. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, it worked with TWA to develop an automated airline reservation system. It also had a number of contracts with Prudential Insurance Company. However, the Navy was its primary customer. This left it vulnerable to Washington politics. Even though it was recognized as the most advanced computer company in the world, Drew Pearson's 1951 column in the "Washington Merry Go Round"charged Norris and Engstrom had used war time government connections to advance their private business. Pearson charged that ERA's Navy contracts represented a clear conflict of interest and were not subjected to competitive bidding. By 1952, under considerable political pressure, ERA merged with the Remington Rand Corporation. At first it operated as a semi-autonomous division, but after the 1955 Sperry merger, it was consolidated with the Eckert-Mauchly division of Sperry Rand and became part of Sperry-UNIVAC. William Norris never found this to be a satisfactory relationship. In 1957, Norris left Sperry to establish the Control Data Corporation. Later that year, the ERA people who remained were given a good deal more autonomy when Sperry created its St. Paul Research Division led by Sidney Rubens and Arnold Cohen. This division's primary job was to develop computer systems for the military and it played a crucial role in developing the command and control systems for the U.S.'s International Continental Ballistic Missiles and early space satellites. In 1960, what was left of the ERA group became Sperrys' Military Division, which was renamed the Aerospace Division."