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The Media of Programming

  • Mark Priestley
  • Thomas Haigh
Chapter
Part of the History of Computing book series (HC)

Abstract

We revisit the origins of the modern, so-called “stored program” computer during the 1940s from a media-centric viewpoint, from tape-driven relay computers to the introduction of delay line and cathode ray tube memories. Some early machines embodied fixed programs, but all general-purpose computers use a medium of some kind to store control information. The idea of a “memory space” composed of sequentially numbered “storage locations” is crucial to modern computing, but we show that this idea developed incrementally and was not fully articulated in John von Neumann’s First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC. Instead, the designers of computers based around delay line memories conceptualized their structure using different temporal and spatial schemes. Referencing the correct data was not just a question of “where” but also one of “when.”

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark Priestley
    • 1
  • Thomas Haigh
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Independent ScholarLondonUK
  2. 2.Department of HistoryUniversity of Wisconsin–MilwaukeeMilwaukeeUSA
  3. 3.Comenius Visiting ProfessorSiegen UniversitySiegenGermany

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