JF Ptak Science Books Post 1210
This wonderful cut-away and paste-up template for a digital computer comes to us from the Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery, volume 2, issue 9 for September 1959. The PAPAC-00 is a “2-register, 1-bit, fixed-instruction binary digital computer” and was submitted to the journal by Rollin P. Mayer (of the MIT Lincoln Lab). There’s a hunk of me that wants to make this thing really big–cut out the individual pieces and then crash them out to 50" widths, pasted on found bits of cardboard packing from the neighborhood frame shop, and then piece the thing together as the world’s largest pre-1960 1-bit paper computer. Or maybe not. In any event I thought to share this with readers here who might actually print out these templates and try to construct the thing themselves–warning: you’ll need t be able to cut pins in order to make the model work properly. [The original paper may be purchased from our bookstore, here.]
Mayer also wrote an interesting article on including children in the scope of the computer industry...in 1956–something I find to be a very early piece of thinking on Little Humans and Big Computing. His abstract identifies the three main points of his paper: “(1) That the digital computing field needs, and will continue to need, not only more people who are capable of designing and programming digital computers, but more people who understand the basic limitations and potential uses of digital computers; (2) that the computer industry should take an active interest in providing a basic computer training to the largest number of people, in addition to more extensive training to those who show an interest in designing and programming computers; and (3) that the typical 12-year-old youngster has the interest, skill and basic knowledge necessary to build and understand simple working models of practically anything”. –“A proposal for training youngsters in digital computing techniques” in Proceeding ACM '56 Proceedings of the 1956 11th Annual Meeting.
Lastly I should also mention that in this same monthly issue (which ranged all of 52 pages) was an article by Julien Green, “Remarks on ALGOL and Symbol Manipulation”, a three-page paper that comes from the near-dawn of the ALGOL (short for ALGOrithmic Language). (It can be argued that the beginnings of ALGOL were about 1955, but for the sake of simplicity here I’ll note that the first committee appointed to study the matter for the ACM was in September, 1957, and the first group to formalize it met at the ETH Zurich in 1958, producing the language’s first version, known as ALGOL 58. Julien Green was a member of the 13-person panel that created the ALGOL 60that met in Paris in January 1960. And so the Green paper did appear within the first few years of institutional study in America, and it was written by one of the six American members of the ALGOL 60 team.)