In Response to: Daybreak of the Digital Age [6]

During my senior year (1957–58), I managed a group of Princeton students who were the night operators on the Institute machine. Night meant something like 5 to 11 p.m. The computer had 40 CRTs for memory, and we had an oscilloscope that could tune in on the 32-by-32-bit grid on any of the tubes. Our most important task was to make sure that no one bit β€œlit up,” because if it did (for example, if the program was in a very tight loop), it could burn out that bit in all 32 tubes, and that would be a disaster.

I used that computer to do calculations on my senior thesis, and I suspect that it was one of the first Princeton theses to use a digital computer. My classmate, Ned Irons, tells me that he also used the machine for his thesis, but I was unaware of that at the time. I had to get my thesis done in a timely way, since the machine was disassembled for shipment to the Smithsonian shortly thereafter. It was exciting many years later to visit the Smithsonian and see the desk at which I used to sit.