Bell Labs Mark 1 Relay Machine (George Stibitz) (1939)

About George Stibitz (1904-1995) (photo)

George Stibitz was born in York, Pennsylvania in 1904. He did his under- graduate work at Denison University in Granville, Ohio. In 1927, he graduated from Union College, Schenectady, New York, with an M.S. degree. He received his Ph.D. in mathematical physics from Cornell University in 1930.

George Stibitz worked for Bell Labs from 1930 to 1941. His inventions include an electrical device for finding root polynomials, a tone generator and computing equipment. He constructed a breadboard digital calculator in 1937, which he named "Model K"for Kitchen table. In April 1939, George Stibitz and Samuel B. Williams began construction of a complex calculating machine.

The electromagnetic machine was composed of about 450 relays, a keyboard and a teletype machine. Stibitz built the machine for Bell Labs, and it became known as the Bell Labs Model 1 Complex Calculator. It was not an electronic digital computer, nor a programmable calculator. However, it could be operated remotely, through the telephone system.

The Model 1 was completed in November 1939 at a cost of about $20,000. Stibitz went on to build other devices for the military during World War II. Bell Labs did not pursue the development or marketing of the Model 1 design. From about 1941 to 1945, George Stibitz worked as a technical aid at the National Defense Research Committee. In 1943, he did work on the Model 2 general purpose computer. The Model 2 was one of the first programmable computers and utilized paper tape. It was installed at Bell Labs and was used for data interpolation.

Another computer, the Model 3, was nicknamed "the baby"since its trouble alarm often went off during the night and woke people up. Improvements were made to the Model 3 which resulted in the Model 4 computer. In around 1945, Stibitz and his team worked on two Model 5 computers: one was sent to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) at Langley Field, Virginia and the other was sent to the Army ballistics center at Aberdeen.

In 1964 he joined the faculty of Dartmouth and did research in the area of biomedicine, applying his computer systems development knowledge. He stayed with Dartmouth until 1983. He retired as professor emeritus of physiology at the medical school of Dartmouth.





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