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Dieselpunk Nugget

November 4, 2013

Sometimes, when you’re doing research for a novel, you come across a passage that gives you chills. For example, take this quote from a lecture that Alan Turing gave to the London Mathematical Society in 1947:

Finally I should like to make a few conjectures as to the repercussions that electronic digital computing machinery will have on mathematics. I have already mentioned that the ACE will do the work of about 10,000 computers.* It is to be expected therefore that large scale hand-computing will die out. Computers will still be employed on small calculations, such as the substitution of values in formulae, but whenever a single calculation may be expected to take a human computer days of work, it will presumably be done by an electronic computer instead. This will not necessitate every-one interested in such work having an electronic computer. It would be quite possible to arrange to control a distant computer by means of a telephone line. Special input and output machinery would be developed for use at these out stations, and would cost a few hundred pounds at most.

Controlling a computer through the telephone lines. This was 1947. Damn.

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* The word “computer” had a different sense before the invention of modern digital computers. Here he’s talking about humans, usually young women, who were hired to do math problems all day.

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