IBM inventors Benjamin Durfee, Francis Hamilton and Clair Lake, as well as Harvard professor and co-inventor Howard Aiken, were posthumously honoured by the Hall of Fame for their invention (U.S. Patent #: 2,616,626) of the ASCC - the first automatic digital calculator able to retain mathematical rules in its memory and not require reprogramming to solve a new set of problems.
The ASCC was a harbinger of the programmable computing era when scientists began designing and building the first electronic programmable computers to enable advances like putting man on the moon to powering the Internet. The programmable era succeeded the tabulating era, which began in the 19th century when mechanical devices like punched card tabulators were used to calculate the U.S. Census or track business performance. Programmable computers are now giving way to today's era of cognitive systems that learn and interact naturally with people.
IBM inventors have stood at the forefront of each computing era - from inventing and producing the first punched card systems to developing early programmable systems like the ASCC to conceiving and creating transformational cognitive computing systems like Watson.
The massive ASCC consisted of 78 adding machines and calculators linked together, and featured 765,000 parts, 3,300 relays, over 500 miles of wire and more than 175,000 connections. In comparison, today's most advanced cognitive system running analytics, IBM Watson, is delivered via the Cloud and is powering a range of new consumer and enterprise services and apps.
"The invention of the ASCC was a precursor to today's cognitive computing era, which is transforming business and society by helping people quickly and accurately make sense of massive volumes of data using analytics", stated IBM Fellow and Vice President of Innovation, Bernie Meyerson. "IBM inventors around the world are building upon the accomplishments of Benjamin Durfee, Francis Hamilton and Clair Lake by fundamentally changing the way people interact with computing systems in more natural ways."
The ASCC was developed by Durfee, Hamilton and Lake at IBM's Endicott, New York plant. It was then shipped to Harvard University in February 1944, where it initially performed complex computations exclusively for the U.S. Navy during World War II and subsequently helped scientists in academia and business solve many complex problems in physics and other disciplines.
With Durfee, Hamilton and Lake's induction, IBM's growing presence in the prestigious National Inventors Hall of Fame includes 18 IBMers who were recognized for a variety of seminal inventions, such as DRAM, LASIK Eye Surgery, and the Scanning Tunneling Microscope.