However, other than watchmakers and engineers producing such wonders, mathematicians also took great interest in calculating devices. In 1642 French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal set to work on making a calculator known as the Pascaline, after 50 prototypes and 3 long years his invention was finally ready for action. The Pascaline was believed to be the world’s first mass produced calculator, though still expensive it was now within reach of more people with the likes of big business and tax collectors adopting them. The Pascaline inspired the many calculator designs that came after it for more than a century and it was the combination of Blaise Pascal’s work along with the many inventors, engineers and watchmakers of the 18th century producing functioning automata that inspired the many mechanical and electromechanical computers that followed.
Image by Rama on Wikipedia
The World’s First Electromechanical Computer
There is some dispute in my mind as to who made the first electromechanical or digital computer, the majority of people you ask will tell you that John Atanasoff was the first and in some respects they would be right if they were unaware of another invention being at least tested that same year.
Image by Manop on Wikipedia
In 1937 the mathematics and physics professor of Iowa State College along with the help of a graduate student Clifford Berry set to work on their linear equation machine, after many years and many attempts in 1942 the machine was finally working, well, in part at least. Of the two processes the electromechanical computer was tasked to do, it only achieved one of them, the computer was able to calculate correctly but it was unable to print the desired information onto a card, in my mind that wasn’t complete success or proof that this was a functioning computer but more of a fancy looking calculator. Whereas onboard a US Navy submarine in 1938 stood a rather big heavy contraption called the Torpedo Data Computer (TDC), an automated torpedo firing, target tracking and monitoring device, if you think, this device was already being used inside submarines in 1938 it must have had at least a few years of development and testing before it could be put to any great use. So not only does the Torpedo Data Computer completely out date John and Clifford’s incredible but not perfect invention, it was already called a computer and functioned as one.
Image by Mieczeslaw on Wikipedia
The TDC required two additional crewmen onboard to maintain and operate it, and as the computer developed, the Navy set up a dedicated training school for its officers to fully understand it. By World War II the British, German, and Japanese military had adopted the TDC.
Sadly there is no information as to who invented these remarkably clever devices, but it is evidence that computers not only existed in the 1930’s but were already being used on scale and required two fully trained individuals to operate and maintain them just as computers do today.
Thank you for taking the time to read part 1, if you enjoyed this and would like to read part 2 you can find it HERE!
Do be sure to follow us on either LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter to be notified of our latest content, or why not subscribe to our newsletter, it’s free and you can unsubscribe at any time, simply enter your name and email address below: