Harvard Mark II

markiiHoward Aiken and Grace Hopper designed the MARK series of computers at Harvard University. The MARK series began with the Mark I in 1944. Imagine a giant roomful of noisy, clicking metal parts, 55 feet long and 8 feet high. The 5-ton device contained almost 760,000 separate pieces. It was used by the US Navy for gunnery and ballistic calculations.

The computer, controlled by pre-punched paper tape, could carry out addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and reference to previous results. It had special subroutines for logarithms and trigonometric functions and used 23 decimal place numbers. Data was stored and counted mechanically using 3000 decimal storage wheels, 1400 rotary dial switches, and 500 miles of wire. Its electromagnetic relays classified the machine as a relay computer. All output was displayed on an electric typewriter. By today’s standards, the Mark II was slow, requiring 3-5 seconds for a multiplication operation.

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