On This Day: IBM Releases The Harvard Mark I

On Aug 7, 1944, IBM released the Harvard Mark I, also known as the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator, which was one of the first mechanical operating machines capable of executing complex computations automatically.

Developed by Dr. Howard Aiken of Harvard University and manufactured at IBM’s New York Endicott plant, the Mark I stood 8 feet tall, spanned 51 feet in length, and contained 500 miles of wires.  Upon completion, the Mark I supported the Allied cause during the Second World War and would later be replaced by the Mark II in 1947.

According to Harvard University’s School of Engineering:

. . . the Mark I — originally the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator — represented a key step forward in the global digital evolution. Before it began operation in 1944, computing machines (some of them faster than the Mark I) each had to be designed to solve a specific problem, The Mark I, however, could use punched cards and punched paper tape to store data and instructions that could address an array of problems.

The Mark I is currently on display at Harvard’s Science and Engineering Complex in Allston with other sections of the original being stored at the Smithsonian Institution and IBM.

Photo: The original uploader was Daderot at English Wikipedia., CC BY-SA 3.0

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