Author Topic: 2021 February 13, IBM and the Holocaust  (Read 78 times)

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Offline Dena

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2021 February 13, IBM and the Holocaust
« on: February 13, 2021, 04:11:07 PM »
In my first year of college I was introduced to computers and it was love at first sight. I understand both the hardware and software at all level as I have been working with them for about 50 years. To understand them at this level, their history is important. The modern computer is a product of WW II and resulted in two initial designs. One consisted of telephone switching gear and was extremely useful in producing firing table for big navel guns. A vacuum tube computer found multiple task with development of the atomic bomb being one of the most notable task. Strangely enough, computers were slow to be adapted partly because additional development was needed but also because the tasks could be handled in other ways.

How can you do data processing without computer or a huge labor force? It started with the 1890 Census and Herman Hollerith. He improved on the idea of a punch card and made a tabulating machine that could read the cards and add the the card to a total. This company was sold to another that would become known as IBM in 1911. This company was run by Thomas Watson who was active between 1911 and 1956 making it the name in business computing.

Several products were added to the product line to make the punch card more useful. The first was a keypunch that changed punching cards from one hole at a time to keyboard entry. An entire card could be encoded in just a few seconds by a trained operator.

Now you're stuck with a pile of unordered cards like telephone call records or inventory. A Card sorter is exactly what you need to correct the mess in a short period of time. It works by sorting one column per pass through the machine so after a few passes, the deck is in order with like cards next to each other.

The next problem is you need a bank of people reading the cards and doing something with them. Because computers hadn't been invented yet, something called a Accounting / tabulating machine. All of them used plug boards to sequence the machine and produced the desired results. They were able to do additions and subtractions so cards could be turned into a customer bill or an inventory report. Latter machines had more flexibility in the programming and some were even involved in handling the Enigma code during WW II.

I knew much of this history leading up to the Great depression. I was told that IBM didn't lay people off during the great depression but continued to produce machines and store them in a warehouse to be used after the economy recovered. IBM was also involved in firearm manufacturing during the war. I was not aware of this history covering the great depression and WW II. This is a pod cast and runs about an hour and a half. Though the book was written 20 years ago, it is a warning for today because what IBM provided the germans could easily be done with an off the shelf computer today. The power that social media and the internet is able to provide is far greater and is something to watch very carefully.
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