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Faster Than Thought
London: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, Ltd.,, 1953. London: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, Ltd.,, 1953. A Symposium on Digital Computing Machines. Edited by B. V. Bowden. With a Foreword by the Earl of Halsbury. Octavo. Original cream cloth, titles to spine gilt. With the dust jacket. Underlining in pencil and red ink to foreword and preface. Tail of spine bumped affecting the endpapers and contents, very slight dampstain to head of spine, corners bumped, vertical crease to preliminary matter and first 20 pages of text, paperclip mark to plate of Charles Babbage. A good copy in the rubbed, chipped, and torn jacket with internal repairs as well as external restoration. First edition, first impression of "the most widely read early English introduction to electronic computing" (Origins of Cyberspace 504), with a chapter on computer chess that was one of Alan Turing's final published pieces. Inscribed by the author to another computer researcher on the front pastedown, "All best wishes, Vivien Bowden, 4 September 1964". With the recipient's ownership inscription, "Wm. Howard Gannon 8/2/54 Personal Property". Scarce signed. The author, Bertram Vivian Bowden (1910–1989) was educated as a physicist at Cambridge before joining the Ministry of Defence Telecommunications Research Establishment where, during the Second World War, he investigated radar and made advances that remained vital to the industry more than twenty years later. Between 1950 and 1953 he worked for the Ferranti corporation, a computer company that specialised in machines for defense and electrical systems, and which introduced the first commercially available computer, the Ferranti Mark I, in 1951. Bowden "was particularly effective in explaining, with uncanny prescience, the dramatic effect that the digital computer was destined to have" (ODNB). In the preface he describes some of the tasks, such as engineering calculations, that computers will soon take over from humans, and writes, "It seems probable that we shall have a second Industrial Revolution on our hands before long… In the next revolution machines may replace mens' brains and relieve them of much of the drudgery and boredom which is now the lot of so many white collar workers". His thoughts on this future were collected in the present volume, together with pieces on the history of computing and case studies of contemporary "computing machines" in Britain and America. The extensive section on future applications for computers includes articles on crystallography, meteorology, ballistics, engineering, government calculations, business and commerce, astronomy, and games – notably a chapter on teaching computers to play chess, to which Alan Turing was a major contributor. The algorithm that Turing describes was ahead of its time, and was tested against grandmaster Gary Kasparov during celebrations of Turing's 100th birthday in June 2012. Though he beat the computer in sixteen moves, Kasparov described Turing's programme as "an incredible achievement… Although it's only thinking two moves ahead, I would have thought it would give the amateur player some serious problems. Alan Turing is one of the very few people about who you could say that if he had lived longer the world would be a different place" (Manchester University website).
      [Bookseller: Peter Harrington]
Last Found On: 2014-03-24           Check availability:      Biblio    

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