Christie's auction and other computer history events

From: Tom Jennings <>
Date: Thu Feb 17 15:29:23 2005

On Thu, 17 Feb 2005, Eric Smith wrote:

> Tom wrote:
>> It's not true. Many acknowledged him; Americans tended not to.
>> I've got a half-dozen books, pre-1960, who mention him in context.
> How many pre-1950, when the early computers were being developed?

I knew you'd ask that :-) Turing, certainly. Randall's book
contains some references. To be honest I won't have th etime
to go find them.

Then there's plain old human nature. By 1955, people were madly
talking and sharing ideas and everything got stirred together; it
was hard enough to untangle who thought what up, and mostly no one
cared; but whern it became worth commercial $$$$ people's attitude
changed and many got lawyers.

E & M tried to patent everything under the sun, including
accumulators. They lost in big lawsuits. Twice!

They were mad at von Neumann for publishing their shared work (no
arguments from me on who thought up what); later JvN got
Princeton's policy on patentable ideas changed such that they went
into the public domain -- nearly everyone else went in the
proprietary direction.

> Anyhow, it may be that some or even many of the early computer
> developers knew of Babbage, but I think it's a stretch to say
> that Watson and IBM were influenced by him in any significant way
> without some documentation.

Well that may very well be the case. I have no facts. But it's not
impossible to imagine Watson knew of him; IBM had been in the
mechancial-calculating business, and those people certainly knew
of babbage, simple literature searches on the art would have
turned him up.

I'd be careful of refs to things that assert Watson knew of
Babbage, to see when they were written and by whom.
Received on Thu Feb 17 2005 - 15:29:23 GMT

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