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From: [LOGIC] Mailing List <logic <at> math.uni-bonn.de>
Subject: Colloquium History of Computing: "Programming, languages, linguistics and computability", Amsterdam (The Netherlands), 16-17 Nov 2009
Newsgroups: gmane.science.mathematics.logic.bonn
Date: Sunday 18th October 2009 14:58:31 UTC (over 8 years ago)
Colloquium History of Computing
November 16-17, 2009, UvA Science Park 904, Room C0.110/A1.04
Programming, languages, linguistics and computability
Liesbeth de Mol, Gent

Maarten Bullynck, Paris

Janet Martin-Nielsen, Toronto

Karel van Oudheusden, Amsterdam

will appear in the Colloquium on the History of Computing and amongst them
connect such diverging historical subjects as Von Neumann, Lehmer, Chomsky
and Dijkstra.

Monday, November 16, 13:00-17:00h
Room C0.110

Liesbeth de Mol, Gent ‘Programming the ENIAC before its rewiring. The case
of the Lehmers' program'

Maarten Bullynck, Paris ‘Curry's study of inverse interpolation on the
ENIAC. From a concrete problem to the problem of program composition'

Janet Martin-Nielsen, Toronto ‘"It was all connected": Computers and
linguistics in postwar America'

Tuesday, November 17, 09:00-13:00h
Room A 1.04

09:00 discussion of ongoing research on "the Algol effort" in Software for
Europe (Gerard Alberts, Amsterdam; David Nofre, Amsterdam; Helena Durnova,

11:00 Karel van Oudheusden, Amsterdam 'The Advent of Recursion & Logic in
Computer Science'.

ABSTRACTS Programming the ENIAC before its rewiring. The case of the
Lehmers' program. Liesbeth de Mol, Gent (joint work with M. Bullynck)

In 1943 John W. Mauchly and Prespert J. Eckert were contracted to build
the ENIAC, the first U.S. electronic digital and (basically)
general-purpose computer.  A ``Computations Committee'' was assembled in
1945 to prepare for utilizing the machine after its completion. The
Committee consisted of the number theorist D.H. Lehmer, the logician H.B.
Curry, the astronomer L.B. Cunningham and the statistician F.L. Alt. Each
developed their own test program to be run on the ENIAC after it was first
presented to the public at Penn University February 15, 1946. The early
(declassified) test programs are unique instances of ``programming'' a
machine that had not the kind of logical design we know nowadays as the
von Neumann architecture. Any kind of programming language was totally
absent.For each new problem, the ENIAC had to be programmed directly and
locally, setting the switches on each individual unit, laying the cables
to interconnect these units and control the timing and sequencing of the
units' operations. In this sense, programming the ENIAC in its original
configuration thus came down to ``the design and development of a
special-purpose computer out of ENIAC component parts.'' (B. Fritz) The
reconstruction of the early test programs demonstrates the difficulties
involved with adapting computations made to human measure for a machine.
They show the need for an intermediary language between man and machine.
The current reconstruction of D.H. Lehmer's ENIAC program not only
discloses the various problems involved with early programming but is
furthermore a rare example of programming the non-rewired parallel ENIAC.

Curry's study of inverse interpolation on the ENIAC. From a concrete
problem to the problem of program composition. Maarten Bullynck, Paris
(joint work with L. De Mol)

As a member of the ENIAC's "Computations Committee" the mathematician and
logician Haskell B. Curry from Penn State University devised two programs
for the ENIAC, one in cooperation with W. Wyatt and one in cooperation
with M. Lotzkin (both in the year 1946). The programs tried to tackle
problems of higher order and inverse interpolation. The intricacy of the
interpolation routine and the difficulties of putting on the ENIAC spurred
Curry to consider the more general problem of how to compose a program
from subroutines. Using concepts of the combinatorial logic he had
developed in the 1930ies, Curry wrote two internal reports and one short
paper on the "composition of programs" (1949-1952). In these texts Curry
developed one of the first programming languages ever. However, the
language was never implemented and the reports went unnoticed. In this
talk we will discuss the development of the more logical technique of
program composition out of the concrete problem of wiring the ENIAC as an

"It was all connected": Computers and linguistics in postwar America.
Janet Martin-Nielsen, Toronto

As the history of postwar and Cold War human sciences is beginning to
attract significant work, so too the history of linguistics is beginning
to be explored in-depth. What was in the 1980s a field dominated by Whig
interpretations of the rise of Noam Chomsky's linguistics program led to
the emergence of revisionist histories in the 1990s and, more recently, to
several rich history-of-science-based studies of theoretical linguistics
in America. While still arguably the least-investigated of the postwar and
Cold War human sciences, linguistics is slowly coming into its own within
history of science. Importantly, the study of linguistics in this period
provides novel and revealing insight into the history of computers. This
talk aims to characterize the portrayal of the history of computers within
the history of linguistics, to ascertain the character, role, and status
of the computer within the linguistics story, and to pave the way for
future work in the history of computers as it relates to linguistics. The
talk comprises two main parts: the first part provides an overview of the
relationship between computers and linguistics in the postwar and early
Cold War period, and the second part identifies and investigates three
areas in which computers and linguistics enjoyed an intimate interaction:
concepts of scientific explanation, tools and projects, and funding.

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