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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On This Day: Fascist Italy Invades British Somaliland

On Aug 3, 1940, Fascist Italy invaded British Somaliland as part of the Italian East African campaign.  The invasion would last from Aug 3 to Aug 19 and would end with the defeat of the British Army and Commonwealth forces.

Between Aug 11 and Aug 15, Italian forces pulverized the British with artillery fire which allowed the Italians to outflank British forces at the Battle of Tug Argan.  The British would later retreat toward Berbera.

By Aug 17, the British fought a rearguard retreat at Barkasan as they made their withdrawal to Berbera for evacuation.


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On This Day: Einstein–Szilard Letter Gives Birth To The Manhattan Project

On Aug 2, 1939, a letter written by physicist Leo Szilard and signed by famed physicist Albert Einstein was sent to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in which they warned of possible German development of atomic weapons.  In the letter, Szilard and Einstein urged Roosevelt to initiate a nuclear program in the United States.  As the Second World War raged, the United States, along with the United Kingdom, and Canada, implemented the Manhattan Project, in which the first deployable nuclear weapons were developed from 1942 to 1946.


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