The wonders of Babbage, Jacquard, Boole, Turing, Shannon … The inventors of foundations of modern day computer

I modified this write up with the recent reading about Turing, another brilliant person who helped us see the mechanical aspects of intelligence or rather humanization of computers. 

The engineering of computers on how it evolved from decilmal system to binary and hence the associated binary logic to solve all problems is a facinating one for me. Here it is; the logical sequence finally all coming together with little bit of research.

The story of contribution of Babbage to modern computing is amazing and he almost is the inventor of modern day computer. Still it would be mechanical and can only do things that fast. However, it needed three more inventions, the logic engine (Boole) and the mechanical computer (Jacquard), and the connection to the electrical switches (Shannon).

Here is the picture of Babbage’s Analytical (Difference) Engine. Ref: sciencemuseum.org.uk

The contribution of Jacquard-Loom for understanding the importance of mechanical binary machine along wiht the works of Leibnitz is amazing. The following picture was created by Jacquard to demo the power of his automated mechanical loom.

Now layer the Boole’s logic engine, and electrical AND-OR-NOT gates, VOILA our modern day computer is conceived… Story goes, Boole lived an eccentric life and died of young age out of sickness caused by long walk in the rain and delivering his lecture in drenched dress for two hours.

Now you bring in the Shannons’ work who showed that electronic switches can do the boolean logic for any deterministic outputs or even stochastic outputs, and it is just a matter of miniturization and mass production principle to get to the world of computers.

The reason i bring all these is, taking lessons from this one example as an abstraction of reality, to point out that we need the following in making quantum jumps in innovation always!

Jacquard card being used even now in the original form for “high quality color designs in  silk sarees” in Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu, India. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&list=TLLLyOAi4aQ6M&v=BXNBlKoV2oI&t=1042

– prototype the end product in manual mechanical fashion which is represented by most likely by something that is n-nary combinations of decision states or action states (Babbage)
– split the process in to various components (in this case one huge mechanical machine into CPU, inputs, outputs, storage and connecting it to the lowest level of operations called binary (Jacquard). Jacquard was initially working on the mechanical aspects of n-nary states and implementing solutions at that level.
– concentrate on the binary decisioning process and bring in the calculus of binary decisioning (Boole). Every decisioining process and action process is a collection of binary events.

 Here are the important developments that humanized the computer:

– now abstract back to the known decisioning process which is not binary from the binary calculus (Boole and Shannon)
– show that mechanical process can be taken to the utmost speed that is electrical/electronics/light (Shannon)

and now  Turing comes in:

‘A Perfect and Beautiful Machine’: What Darwin’s Theory of Evolution Reveals About Artificial Intelligence”

 For a more detailed list of developments and for interesting business insights, see  http://inventors.about.com/library/blcoindex.htm   

From Data Monster & Insight Monster

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *