Faster Than Thought: A Symposium on Digital Computing Machines 1953

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B.V. Bowden was born in Chesterfield, Derbyshire. He attended Hasland Junior School as a child and graduated in natural sciences from Emmanuel College, Cambridge (1931), taking his Ph.D. in nuclear physics. From 1934-1935 he was sponsored by ICI to undertake research at the University of Amsterdam. After a period in teaching, he was conscripted to the Telecommunications Research Establishment to work on radar in 1940. From 1943, he continued his work at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, establishing himself as an able and effective administrator. From the end of World War II to 1953 he held a series of jobs, including selling early computers manufactured by Ferranti. His prescient forecasts of the impact that the technology would have on daily life were published in this 1953 book Faster than Thought.

In this book, B. V. Bowden is the first person to reintroduce to the public imagination Ada Lovelace's significant contribution to the development of computing. This was 101 years after her death. The frontispiece to the book includes an image of 'Ada Augusta, the Countess of Lovelace'.

In the chapter 'The Application of Digital Computers to Business and Commerce' Bowden refers to LEO, erroneously calling it "in all essentials a copy of the EDSAC" and suggesting that LEO had not at that point "been brought into use in commercial work" (although in fact LEO ran its first applications in 1951). Bowden concludes that computers are unlikely to be able to replace the work of human clerks.

The book also includes, amongst others, a chapter on the use of computers in meteorology, one on machines in government calculations and ideas around input/output mechanisms. It includes contributions from some of the pre-eminent computer pioneers of the time such as Tom Kilburn, Andrew Booth, Alan Turing, Maurice Wilkes, Freddy Williams and Christopher Strachey.

Kindly donated by Colin Wordley.


Publisher : Pitman Press

Author : B.V. Bowden

Format : Hardback; 416 pages

This exhibit has a reference ID of CH10719. Please quote this reference ID in any communication with the Centre for Computing History.
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