Posts Tagged ‘computers’
Spacing Toronto’s Chris Bateman tells a fascinating story. It’s difficult of me to imagine a time when these devices were so very new.
In 1949, a team of professors and graduate students at the University of Toronto began building a machine no-one in Canada, and few in the world, had ever seen before.
The University of Toronto Electronic Computer Mark I—UTEC for short—was to become the first and only functional computer in the country, but first it had to be constructed entirely from scratch and many of its core components invented.
“It will be able to read figures, write them down, and come up with the correct answer to a poser in calculus,” the Globe and Mail told its readers of the fantastic machine being planned by the university.
“It will be able to compute income taxes; to tell the trend of business at an electrified glance; to play a passable game of chess, and maybe even to forecast weather months in advance. Any of these operations will be done in less than a second.”
In the late 1940s, practically all major scientific and mathematical number crunching was conducted by the human mind with assistance from mechanical calculators.
The invention of even the most basic electronic computer (by today’s standards) promised to open the door to a new world of discovery and innovation. Calculations that would previously have taken years could be done in hours or minutes.
“The computer is actually an aid to, not a substitute for, the human brain,” the Globe and Mail reassured. “It will only be as good as the men who operate it, and will be able to do only what it is told to do.”