Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 135. Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London Hosted by King's Digital Lab www.dhhumanist.org Submit to: firstname.lastname@example.org Date: 2019-07-12 14:10:00+00:00 From: Richard Vahrenkamp
Subject: Revision of Digital History? Does digital history need to be rewritten? The standard stories about digital computers have some gaps, as they do not explain that the aircraft industry mainly used electronic analog computers. The standard stories play out more in the academic milieu of Philadelphia and Princeton, while the USA had experienced a turning point in technological history in 1945 with the development of jet-powered fighters, numerous rocket projects and the electronic analog computer, with the arms industry experiencing a tremendous upswing. CalTech graduate engineers Simon Ramo and Dean Wooldridge became the leading figures in the West Coast Atlas rocket project, but remained unknown in digital computer literature. They operated large computing labs on the West Coast. I have explored this scenario in my essay: The Computing Boom in the US Aeronautical Industry, 1945-1965, In: ICON - The Journal of the International Committee for the History of Technology, volume 24, 2019, pp. 127â149. An extended version is available at: www.vahrenkamp.org/files/Vahrenkamp_Computing_Boom_WP5_2018.pdf My paper also interprets three texts from the period 1960 - 1989, which attribute the newly developed missiles to the digital computer without even acknowledging the role of the analog computer. The texts thus lay the foundation for the myth of the digital computer. John von Neumann's position on the analog computer has not been clarified. In the vicinity of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the Office of Naval Research had awarded a major project to the electronic analog computer in the laboratories of RCA (Typhoon Project). In addition, John von Neumann was a member of the Teapot Committee, which steered the development of the ballistic long-range rocket Atlas, which informed him very well about the use of electronic analog computers for construction and simulation in the Atlas rocket project. In his research projects the solution of differential equations played an important role (in his meteorology projects and in the projects in Los Alamos), for which the electronic analog computer would have been an ideal instrument. At the end of the 1940s, this type of computer was widely used and readily available in the USA. Why John von Neumann did not use this computer is an open question. There is no doubt that John von Neumann did not want to develop the digital computer to calculate very large prime numbers or to support the administration of banks and insurance companies, but to solve differential equations. Like the trajectory of rockets, the trajectory of grenades can be described with differential equations. Why the proving ground in Aberdeen wanted to develop a digital computer and not fall back on the available analog computers is still an open question. With kind regards from Berlin Richard Vahrenkamp -- ******************************************** Prof. Dr. Richard Vahrenkamp Logistik Consulting Berlin Phone 0177- 628 3325 E-Mail:Vahrenkamp2016@gmx.de Web:www.vahrenkamp.org Trendelenburgstr. 16 14057 Berlin _______________________________________________ Unsubscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted List posts to: email@example.com List info and archives at at: http://dhhumanist.org Listmember interface at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted/ Subscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/membership_form.php
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