Sorting and Collating

  • Mark PriestleyEmail author
Part of the SpringerBriefs in History of Computing book series (BRIEFSHC)


Why did von Neumann choose to code a sorting routine for a machine intended as a high-speed scientific computer? This chapter explores the connections between von Neumann’s code and established data-processing procedures used on punched card machines. Starting in late 1944, John Mauchly interviewed several intensive users of punched cards in a variety of governmental agencies, and his notes allow us to pinpoint the moment at which the EDVAC team decided that sorting and numerical computing needed to be unified and implemented in a single high-speed machine. The early history of the mergesort algorithm and the beginnings of a systematic study of sorting procedures for electronic computers are described.


John von Neumann Mergesort IBM punched card machinery Sorting algorithms US signals corps 

Copyright information

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Freelance Writer and Historian of ComputingLondonUK

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