American Inventions – Digital Computer

Without computers our ESL students would have a very hard time knowing about Hancock International College. Communication with international students is made possible on such a large, not to mention, speedy scale because of the invention of computers. Computers weren’t always digital, so today we are going to learn about the invention of the first Digital Computer. says, “In a late evening of November, 1937, a research mathematician at the Bell Labs, George Stibitz, left his working place to go home, taking from the Bell stockroom two telephone relays, a couple of flashlight bulbs and, a wire and a dry cell. At home he sat behind the kitchen table and started to assemble a simple logical device, which consisted from the above-mentioned parts and a switch, made from a tobacco tin. He soon had a device, which proved to be the first relays binary adder, in which a lighted bulb represented the binary digit ‘1’ and an unlighted bulb, the binary digit ‘0.’ His wife Dorothea named it the K-model, after ‘kitchen table’…what George Stibitz realized was, that a relay calculator could perform not just one but a sequence of calculations…At Labs in the 1930s, a roomful of human ‘computers’ figured complex number quotients and products using commercial mechanical calculators.

…When Stibitz first demonstrated his K-model computer for company executives, they were not very impressed…Less than a year later, however, Bell executives had changed their minds… An important factor in that decision was the increasing pressure on Bell to find a way of solving its increasingly complex mathematical problems… The final product was ready in October and was first put into operation on January 8, 1940, and remained in service until 1949. As Bell Labs built other relay computers during the war, its name was changed from the initial Complex Number Computer to Model 1. The cost was some 20000 USD…

The success of Complex Number Computer encouraged Stibitz to propose more ambitious designs…At first the Labs turned down his proposals, but with the entry of the United States into the Second World War in December 1941, Bell Labs shifted its priorities toward military projects that involved more computation than its peacetime research. Most of their wartime accomplishments were in the design of analog computers. But they also built five digital relay computers for military purposes, and one more after the war’s end for their own use, making a total of seven digital machines counting the Complex Number Computer.”

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Idiom of the Day

Bells and Whistles

Meaning: Additional features, perhaps trendy or fancy ones, that are not required for an object’s proper functioning.

Example: This darn car has so many bells and whistles that I can’t figure out how to open the gas tank!