Video Script

In this module, we will discuss how we can store data in our computers using various types of encoding. Recall, the computers only operate on binary values, which we’ll talk about a lot today in this lecture. And so how do we take things such as images and text and graphics and videos, and make all of those things accessible to our computer? Before we continue, let’s take a look at a few of the things we’ve covered in this class. So far, we’ve covered the work of Leibniz and his creation of the Leibniz wheel, which led to mechanical computers. We’ve covered George Boole and his approach to logic that we call Boolean logic which we use today in our modern computers. We’ve talked about Charles Babbage, the father of the modern computer and his invention of mechanical computation devices. And we’ve also talked about Claude Shannon, whose master’s thesis of using electrical circuits to simulate logic using Boolean logic is foundational to the creation of the electronic computers that we use today.

But there’s one more person that we need to talk about to set the stage for today, and that is George Stibitz. George Stibitz was an inventor and one of the things he was working on was the creation of a true electronic calculator. And so in 1937, he sat down and he created what he called the model K, which is named after his kitchen table. And it was a device that was capable of performing addition using two binary numbers. And this is very important because at this time, a lot of the mechanical computers of the day, we’re still using decimal or base 10 numbers like we use today. George Stibitz was really interested in performing that same mathematics using binary numbers, because he saw the value of an electronic signal with one and zero on and off being represented in binary.

So a little bit later, he was able to create his complex numerical calculator in 1940. And it was very unique because it could perform all of the calculations on very complex numbers using electronics, and it could also be operated remotely. And so during one of his demonstrations, he actually was in New York City and was demonstrating the device which was located at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. And so he was talking to it via a phone line. And so not only is this really the first example of any sort of electronic machine doing large scale calculations like this, but this is also an example of one of the first remotely access computer systems. So let’s take a look at a video of the complex numerical calculator and see how it worked.