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Today in Tech – 1974

On this day in 1974 American engineer, inventor, science administrator and computer pioneer Vannevar Bush passed away. Bush was born in Everett, Massachusetts on March 11, 1890. He received both bachelor of science and master of science degrees at Tufts College in 1913, and in 1916 he received his doctorate in engineering jointly from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University.

Bush was involved in many wartime computer projects. He was appointed chairman of the National Defense Research Committee, and later became the head of the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development during World War II. In his essay “As We May Think” published in 1945, Bush envisioned hypertext as used by the internet. He created many significant inventions, among them a differential analyzer, an analog computer that could solve differential equations with as many as 18 independent variables.

He received many awards for his accomplishments, including the AIEE Edison Medal, the Public Welfare Medal from the National Academy of Sciences, the IRI Medal from the Industrial Research Institute and the National Medal of Science, which was awarded to him by President Lyndon Johnson in 1963. He died from pneumonia at the age of 84 and was buried in a private ceremony in Massachusetts. Shortly after, a public memorial was held by MIT in his honor wherein Jerome Wiesner, then president of MIT stated, “No American has had greater influence in the growth of science and technology than Vannevar Bush.”

Vannevar Bush - Image taken from atomicheritage.org

Vannevar Bush – Image taken from atomicheritage.org

Today in Tech – 1981

On this day in 1981 IBM retired its last Stretch supercomputer. The Stretch, also known as the IBM 7030 was part of the 7000 series, the company’s first line of transistorized computers. Although they were much faster and more dependable than vacuum tube machines, they failed to deliver the expected performance estimates. Still they were considered the fastest computers for a time, and later became the basis for many other more successful designs. The old Stretch supercomputers were sold to national laboratories and other scientific users.

The console of the Stretch supercomputer or IBM 7030. - Image taken from publicintelligence.net

The console of the Stretch supercomputer or IBM 7030. – Image taken from publicintelligence.net

Today in Tech – 1941

On this day in 1941 computer pioneers John Mauchly and John Atanasoff met in Iowa City to see Atanasoff’s latest creation, the Atanasoff-Berry Computer or ABC. This event is particularly significant because of the events that followed some 30 years later, when the two became embroiled in a legal battle over who would be deemed the legal inventor of the first electronic digital computer. Mauchly along with his partner J. Presper Eckert were first to file for a patent on a digital computing device (ENIAC), much to Atanasoff’s surprise. At the end of the court battle however the ENIAC patent was deemed invalid, with the judge explicitly stating, “Eckert and Mauchly did not themselves first invent the automatic electronic digital computer, but instead derived that subject matter from one Dr. John Vincent Atanasoff.”  Atanasoff emerged as the victor and was credited for inventing the first electronic digital computer.

The Atanasoff-Berry Computer, the first official automatic electronic digital computer. -Image taken from computerhistory.org

The Atanasoff-Berry Computer, the first official automatic electronic digital computer. -Image taken from computerhistory.org

Today in Tech – 1954

This day in tech history is a very sad one, as it was on this day in 1954 that English computer scientist, mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst and pioneer Alan Turing passed away. Turing is largely considered the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence. He originally conceived the idea of a machine that could turn thought processes into binary numbers. He also worked at Britain’s codebreaking centre Bletchley Park during World War II, leading a team that was responsible for German naval cryptanalysis. He played a pivotal role in deciphering encrypted German communications, giving the Allies the critical information they needed to defeat the Nazis.

In 1952 Turing was prosecuted for homosexual acts, which at the time was a legally-punishable offense. At the threat of imprisonment, he agreed to a chemical castration treatment instead. Two years later on this day he was found dead in what appeared to be a suicide through cyanide poisoning. In 2013 Queen Elizabeth II granted him a posthumous pardon, and the Alan Turing law is now the informal term for the 2017 law that retroactively pardons those cautioned or convicted under historical legislation that outlawed homosexual acts.

Alan Turing - Image taken from princeton.edu

Alan Turing – Image taken from princeton.edu

Today in Tech – 1926

On this day in 1926 computer scientist, educator and pioneer John G. Kemeny was born. Kemeny is best known for developing the BASIC programming language as well as one of the world’s first time-sharing systems alongside Thomas Kurtz in 1964. BASIC was created for Kemeny’s computer students in Dartmouth, and he and Kurtz were awarded by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies for their work.

Kemeny became the president of Dartmouth College in 1970 until 1981, and is considered a pioneer in the use of computers in college education and by ordinary people.

John G. Kemeny - Image taken from Wikipedia

John G. Kemeny – Image taken from Wikipedia