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Unfair to Aiken
October-December 2004 (vol. 26 no. 4)
pp. 35-37
B. Jack Copeland, University Of Canterbury
The author refutes a misinterpretation of a computer pioneer's statements on the versatility of the computer and explains how context crucial to a proper understanding of the statements was overlooked.

1. M. Davis, The Universal Computer: The Road from Leibniz to Turing, Norton, 2000, p. 140.
2. G.C. Chase, "History of Mechanical Computing Machinery," Proc. 1952 ACM National Meeting (Pittsburgh), ACM Press, 1952, p. 26; reprinted (with a foreword by I.B. Cohen) in Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 2, no. 3, July-Sept. 1980, pp. 198-226.
3. Aiken in interview with I.B. Cohen and H. Tropp (1973), reported in I.B. Cohen,Howard Aiken: Portrait of a Computer Pioneer, MIT Press, 1999, p. 42.
4. H. Aiken, "The Future of Automatic Computing Machinery," Elektronische Rechenmaschinen und Informationsverarbeitung [Electronic Digital Computers and Information Processing], A. Walther and W. Hoffmann, eds., F. Vieweg, 1957.
5. P.E. Ceruzzi, Reckoners: The Prehistory of the Digital Computer, from Relays to the Stored Program Concept, 1935— 1945, Greenwood Press, 1983, p. 43.
6. Ceruzzi gives the title of the volume as Elektronische Rechenanlage und Informationsverarbeitung and the year of publication as 1956.
7. In 1955, Aiken's Computation Laboratory at Harvard University was investigating the potential of the computer for business data processing in a number of key areas, including the gas and electric industries. Some relevant reports follow: Computation Laboratory of Harvard Univ., "Chart Representations of Data Processing Systems," Automatic Data Processing, Progress Report No. 1 by the staff to the American Gas Association and Edison Electric Inst., 1955; Computation Laboratory of Harvard Univ., "Chart Representations of Data Processing Systems II: The Abstract Data Processing System," Automatic Data Processing,Progress Report No. 2 by the staff to the American Gas Association and Edison Electric Inst., 1955; and Computation Laboratory of Harvard Univ., "A New Basic Approach to Automatic Data Processing," Automatic Data Processing, Progress Report No. 3 by the staff to the American Gas Association and Edison Electric Inst., 1956. (I am grateful to Tony Oettinger for this information [personal communications, 2000 and 2002].)
8. H. Aiken, "The Future of Automatic Computing Machinery," pp. 32-33.
9. Ibid, p. 33.
10. An editorial footnote to Aiken's paper states, "This paper is a transcription from magnetic tape, it has not been revised by the author."

Index Terms:
Aiken, Davis, Turing, Universal Machine, History Of Business Computing, Harvard Mark I Computer, Ibm Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator
Citation:
B. Jack Copeland, "Unfair to Aiken," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 26, no. 4, pp. 35-37, Oct.-Dec. 2004, doi:10.1109/MAHC.2004.36
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