When working out a problem on Mark I, the operator must first translate the information into mathematical terms. The resultant equations and instructions are then coded, punched out in a binary pattern of a paper tape and put in place on the machine.
A binary computing machine is one which uses a number system based on the number one instead of ten. In such a system, there are only two digits, one and zero. Hence the number system, instead of going one, two, three, four, etc., goes one, ten, 11, 100, 101, 110, 111, 1000, 1001, etc. Thus eight in a number system based on ten is the same as 1000 in a number system based on one.
A two digit, instead of ten digit, system is employed by computing machines in order to overcome the limitations of electric tubes, which can handle the two digit system much more easily.
After the preliminary work the actual solving is begun, when a button is pressed.
NORMAN B. BOLOMON is copying mathematical equations and symbols onto a magnetic tape on Mark IV's coding box." This tape will be fed into the computer where it will control its operations. The coding box measures about six feet by ten feet and has over 200 boys with a number or symbol on each. Mark IV is nearing completion and full use. Tests are now being conducted with the new machine. Multi-colored lights flash, a complex of gears spins, and soon an electric typewriter types the answers on a white spool of paper.
Because the machine turns out answers faster than the electric typewriter can print them, answers are first recorded on another tape which is channeled to a tape render. The answers are then relayed to the battery of four typewriters at a slower clip.
An elaborate system of checks throughout the process of calculation guards against inaccuracy. All numbers are recorded by two parallel and independent mechanisms. Unless both numbers on the answer tape are identical, the striking action of the type bar sets of an alarm and stops the typewriter.
While a problem is in process, it may be necessary to hold some results from the first part of a solution for use in a latter part of the solution, or to hold aside some of the data originally fed in for latter use. The machine is able to handle this type of memory work.
Imagination Is Lacking
But Aiken strongly asserts that the machine can do only what man commands. It lacks imagination.
Aiken scoffs at speculations that this "mechanical brain" will over approach the overall capabilities of the human brain, but believes that the computer will alleviate mental drudgery in the future, just as power-driven machinery relieved physical labors after the Industrial Revolution.
The magnetic tape principle can be adapted to operate a number of coupled machines in almost any industrial process. Thus it is possible theoretically for an article to pass through all its stages of manufacture in one continuous, uninterrupted operation.
A Question of Weather
For a number of years, weathermen have known that they could accurately predict the weather by compiling extensive data. However, by the time the computation had been completed, the weather had already arrived. Now with the calculators, this 24-hour delay may be reduced to a few minutes.
Insurance companies are interested in the storage capabilities of the machine. Since the binary dots can represent anything, including our alphabet, it should be possible to file immense amounts of information on the tape. The operator would simply dial a certain number and the desired data could be - transformed speedily from dots to typed English.