AIKEN, Howard Hathaway (1900-1973) and Grace Murray HOPPER (1906-1992). A Manual of Operation for the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator by the Staff of the Computation Laboratory. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1946.
8o. 17 numbered plates, illustrations in text. (Small tear along upper margin of half-title, title-page and the first few leaves.) Original dark blue cloth, gilt-lettered on spine (some minor rubbing, corners lightly bumped, front hinges starting). Provenance: The Franklin Institute Library (bookplate, perforated stamp on title-page, library shelf mark on spine).
FIRST EDITION. The electromechanical Harvard Mark I was the first programmable calculating machine to produce mathematical tables, thus realizing the dream of Charles Babbage originally set out in print in 1822. Also known as the IBM Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator, the Mark I was the brainchild of Howard Aiken, who first conceived of building a powerful, large-scale calculating machine in 1935 while pursuing graduate studies in physics at Harvard University. In 1937, after Aiken had become a professor of applied mathematics at Harvard's Graduate School of Engineering, he proposed his idea to a number of calculating-machine manufacturers, receiving several rejections before finally convincing IBM to undertake the project. The project was partly funded by money from the United Statses Navy, and the remainder came from IBM, whose president, Thomas J. Watson, viewed the undertaking as good publicity and as a showcase for IBM's talents.
After the Mark I was set up at Harvard in 1944, it was commandeered for war work by the United States Navy. Aiken, a commander in the United States Naval Reserve, was put in charge of the navy's computation project. Most of Aiken's staff at the Computation Laboratory also held commissions in the Naval Reserve, and one of these, Lieutenant (later Admiral) Grace M. Hopper, would become one of the most famous of the postwar computer pioneers, making fundamental contributions to the development of the first compilers. This manual consists of descriptions of the Mark I's components and make-up as well as some early examples of digital computer programs. Origins of Cyberspace 411.