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Making the World Work Better: The Ideas That Shaped a Century and a Company by Jeffrey O’Brien, Steve Hamm, Kevin Maney

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Processing

At its core, computation is about processing ones and zeros. Computing power is the art of doing so faster and faster.

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These vacuum tubes, from a 1953 system, could multiply two 10-digit numbers 2,000 times per second.

Just after World War II, on a gray March day on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, two young men from the office of IBM’s president—Charles Kirk and Thomas Watson Jr.—walked into a room made tropically hot by 18,000 lit vacuum tube switches. J. Presper Eckert, cocky and impetuous, explained how his invention, called ENIAC, worked and described how electronic computers were going to replace electromechanical ...

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