A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7000 images, 3.5 million hits| Press & appearances in The Times, The Paris Review, Le Figaro, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places... 3,000+ total posts
This is a group of materials from the estate of Ralph Mullendore (see below), an early and integral team member of the electronic computation section of the U.S. Bureau of the Census, who was responsible for the installation and maintenance of the UNIVAC there, at Census. The papers are on their way to a history of computer science section at the library at North Carolina State University where they will hopefully be enjoyed by any and all who have an interest in the early stages of the maintenance and tinkerings on America's first commercial computer. It should be remembered that the hands of the man who wrote all of these notes were the same hands that worked on this monumentally important machine, the first of its kind in existence.
Looking through a (massive, 20-pound!) volume of Electrical World1 I found that it contains some of the earliest work published in the United States on Wilhelm Roentgen's seminal discovery of the X-Ray, which he published on November 8, 1895. And there were a lot of papers--more than 100. One reason why the work was done by so many and so quickly is that Roentgen did not seek to patent his invention (much like the Curies would do so afterwards) and so there was a land-grab by hundreds of physicists and experimenters to do work in this astonishing new field.
The photograph ("Hand with Ring") below is Roentgen's own, an x-ray of his wife Bertha's hand--it is one of the iconic images in the history of modern science:
Electrical World is the third place that the Roentgen paper was reprinted, this time for the first time in an American journal, one day before the appearance of the The Electrician article, which was one day after the publication of the paper's first appearance in English, in the journal Nature, on 23 January 1896. (The Electrician would also publish Roentgen's second article later in that same year, in March.) The Roentgen article does not seem to be reprinted in full anywhere else in 1896/1897. (See Charles Phillips, Bibliography of X-Ray Literature and Research, (1896-1897), published by The Electrician, 1898.)
This is a survivor of some sort, found at the bottom of a box of German aviation pamphlets--I'm sorry that it is in this condition, but at least there is some of it that remains, because the design is quite striking. It comes in the 24th year of the publication Luftfahr(t), Deutsche Luftfahrer Zeitschrift, and published in 1920. It is just the cover of one issue, and I expected to see a fuller image of the thing online thinking it not to be so uncommon, but I couldn't find any, which I thought unusual. And so I share this rag-tag copy.
“It is concluded that the sun's gravitational field gives the deflection predicted by Einstein's general theory of relativity.”
I've bumped into a famous piece of phsyics history, a semi-popular report on the verification of the Einstein theory of general relativity. The article is “Eclipse Photographs Verify Einstein's Prediction” adn is found in Popular Astronomy (published in Northfield Minnesota, volume 28, 1920, the issue for January, #1, 1920, with the notice appearing on pp 69-70.) At about the same time there appears the famous and deciding report by F. W. Dyson, A. S. Eddington, and C. Davidson, "A Determination of the Deflection of Light by the Sun's Gravitational Field, from Observations Made at the Total Eclipse of May 29, 1919" which appeared in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series A, Containing Papers of a Mathematical or Physical Character for 1920 (pp 291-332). This is the integral report on which Popular Astronomy reports on for a more general astronomy readership.
This report repeats the famous finding: “It is concluded that the sun's gravitational field gives the deflection predicted by Einstein's general theory of relativity.”
The history of RADAR (RAdio Deection And Ranging, and something I've always written in caps, for whatever that is worth) is absolutely not what I'm thinking about now--that is a long story with lots of twists and turns, complicated, complex--and it ranges depending upon location as for the most part RADAR (from the 1930's anyway) was developed in secret, kept as a military secret. And that's because it was a very important development, with the victor of the Battle of the Beams being the possible victor, period.
All I want to do presently is note the significance of this particular pamphlet in the history of RADAR. This work was printed by PHILCO Corporation, (and dated January 4, 1946), and has an inserted leaflet stating that this "makes public for the first time the salient facts about the Corporation's development and production of airborne radar equipment for the United States Army and Navy". PHILCO and other companies made significant contributions to the war capacity of the Allied forces, and--for this company in particular--much of that went unknown for quite some time afterwards, and of course there are some stories that just won't get told. But for PHILCO the story gets told here.
This is also a fabulous nighttime map of NYC--produced by RADAR.
[RADAR on Wings, Philco, 1946. 10x8", 30pp (unpaginated) with lots of photographs and an occasional schematic. Available from this blog's bookstore.]
“The object of this work is to awaken the producers to a consciousness of their industrial power. It is dedicated, not to those who advocate but to those who use sabotage.”--Walker C. Smith, in the second of his miniature two-paragraph foreword in Sabotage (1917 edition)
[The original pamphlet is available from this blog's bookstore, here.]
Walker Conger Smith (born 1885 on the same day that Babe Ruth and Elvis Pressley died in later years) was a hard line political seer, a magical agitator and writer for the Wobblies, officially known as the Industrial Workers of the World (and the I.W.W.) He lived a busy 41 years, and in his time raised a lot of attention to the IWW's Socialist vehemently pro-Union organizing, during a time (1910-1927 or so) when big business would respond with their won police/strikebreakers/armies to disrupt and dispel (and trounce) strikers and strikes.
One of Walker's best known works was Sabotage, its History, Philosophy & Function. First published in 1913 and then widely reprinted, it made the case for poor pay for poor work, and that in the long run the wealth produced by the workers belonged to them, and so work slowdowns and then destruction of the means of production was well within the rights of the wronger worker.
The pamphlet certainly found a readers--on both sides of the issue. It was regularly used in legal actions against Unions as proof of their criminal syndicationism and of organized destruction of business/factory property.
The pamphlet ends with these very strong statements:
"Its [Sabotage's] advocacy and use help to destroy the property illusion"...
"Is the machine more than its makers? Sabotage says "No!"
"Is the product greater than the producers? Sabotage says "No!"
"Sabotage places human life--and especially the life of the only useful class--higher than all else in the universe."
...."For Sabotage or for slavery? Which?"
The pamphlet ends with a salutation from Jack London:
"Dear Comrade Smith:
Just a line to tell you that I have finished reading your pamphlet SABOTAGE. I do not find a point in it on which I disagree with you. It strikes me as a straight-from-the-shoulder, clear, convincing, revolutionary statement of the meaning and significance of sabotage.
This hand-out pamphlet seems to be a case where the sale of an edible product is made for the sale of its packaging.
The pamphlet shouts that CANDY IS DELICIOUS FOOD, which is certainly a correct statement if food=digestible. It tells/sells the story of candy as a profit-maker to the grocery seller, saying that "32% average gross profit on home consumption units", those delicious-sounding unit-things being the candy.
There are bits and pieces about candy display and placement, all on the advice of the maker of the stuff that in which the candy was wrapped--cellophane. The publisher and distributor of the pamphlet, the "Cellophane" Division of the E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. Inc., had a huge vested interest in candy sales: candy was mostly wrapped in Cellophane (starting with Whitman in 1912) and by the time du Pont achieved its water- and moisture-proof Cellophane in Delaware the product accounted (in 1938) for 25% of the company's profits. That's pretty big, and so candy as a major muncher of Cellophane would be promoted by du Pont as pretty big, too. And as food, for added Bigness.
Here's another in a long line of images from my WWI news photo service photographs. So far as I can determine what we see here is a group of French soldiers engaged in redoubt or perhaps trenchwork construction. To the right we see a crudely-marked Red Cross, perahps for a not-front-line position. The photo is stamped "Committee on Public Information, Washington, Copyright 1917" and has a dated stamp for "Dec 21 1917". Fo rmore information on this series see the long threads on World War I and particularly World War I Photography (which is our sales site).
I thought for a moment that the Oxford English Dictionary had been scooped in identifying the earliest usage of the term "super computer" when I saw this newspaper article in the wonderful book by Charles and Ray Eames called A Computer Perspective (Harvard University Press, 1973). The article refers to an unidentified machine at Columbia University in a March 1, 1920 article, which would beat the first use found by the OED in 1927 (see below) by seven years. So, I checked this out a little, and latched onto a reference to Dr. Ben D. Wood as the director of the Statistical Bureau at Columbia, and found that this event didn't happen until June 19291.
And so the Eameses got this one wrong, or the editor did, or the proof reader, or the typesetter. So instead of being 1920, this is at the very least second-half 1929, some two years or so past the first use identified by the OED. It is also possible that this might be 1931/2. Still, this was very early for using the term, and the article is interesting.
More can be found on the machine (which was probably the "Columbia Machine", which as also known as the "Statistical Calculator" and the "Difference Tabulator", and with some affection "the Packard". A very good appraisal of this machine can be found at the Columbia University site for computing history at Columbia, http://www.columbia.edu/cu/computinghistory/packard.html
The Columbia Statistical Bureau, 1932: Source: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/computinghistory/statbureau.jpg
OED: the earliest usages of "super computing":
1927 Army Ordnance Mar. 342/2 The central station instrument, which is a super-computing machine, solves the geometrical and ballistic problems.
1944 Pop. Sci. Monthly Oct. 88/2 Aiken will remain at Harvard after the war as director of a supercomputing laboratory.
OED: the earliest usages of "supercomputer":
1949 Acta Crystallogr.2 344/2 Modern super-computers will soon provide the ideal method, at least for the more complicated structures.
1968 N. Walford tr. O. Johannesson Great Computer iv. 108 Linking together about a hundred computers..and combining them..to form a unit known as the supercomputer.
OED: earliest usages of "computer" as a person:
1613 ‘R. B.’ Yong Mans Gleanings 1, I haue read the truest computer of Times, and the best Arithmetician that euer breathed, and he reduceth thy dayes into a short number.
1704 Swift Tale of Tub vii. 140 A very skillful Computer, who hath given a full Demonstration of it from Rules of Arithmetick.
1855 D. Brewster Mem. Life I. Newton (new ed.) II. xviii. 162 To pay the expenses of a computer for reducing his observations.
1893 Publ. Amer. Econ. Assoc.8 23 Some curious computer makes out the cost of electing a President for these United States to be four hundred millions of dollars.
OED: earliest usages of the "computer" as a device:
1869 ‘M. Harland’ Phemie's Temptation i. 12 [Phemie] plunged anew into the column of figures... Her pen was slowly traversing the length of the page, at an elevation of a quarter of an inch above the paper, her eyes following the course of the nib, as if it were the index of a patent computer.
1897 Engineering 22 Jan. 104/2 This was..a computer made by Mr. W. Cox. He described it as of the nature of a circular slide rule.
1915 Chambers's Jrnl. July 478/1 By means of this computer the task is performed mechanically and almost instantaneously.
1941 Nature 14 June 753/2 The telescope drive is of an elaborate nature; the effects of changing refraction, of differential flexure and of errors in the gears are automatically allowed for by a system of ‘computers’.