Lot #286
Harvard Mark I Operation Manual

Operation manual for the Harvard Mark I electromechanical computer, co-authored by Grace Hopper

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Estimate: $400+
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Operation manual for the Harvard Mark I electromechanical computer, co-authored by Grace Hopper

Rare and important early book on computer design and operation: The Annals of the Computation Laboratory of Harvard University, Volume 1: A Manual of Operation for the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator by the Staff of the Computation Laboratory, with a foreword by James Bryant Conant. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1946. Hardcover, 8 x 11, 561 pages complete with 17 plates and numerous text illustrations. The preface notes that the first few chapters were written by Lt. Grace Hopper, a computer science pioneer and one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer (also known as the IBM Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator (ASCC)). Book condition: G+/None, with splitting to the spine cloth and tails, edgewear, and ex-library markings from the California Institute of Technology.

The electromechanical IBM Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator (Harvard Mark I) was the first operating machine that could execute long computations automatically. A project conceived by Harvard University’s Dr. Howard Aiken, the Mark I was built by IBM engineers in Endicott, New York. A steel frame 51 feet long and 8 feet high held the calculator, which consisted of an interlocking panel of small gears, counters, switches and control circuits, all only a few inches in depth. The enclosure for the Mark I was designed by futuristic American industrial designer Norman Bel Geddes at IBM's expense. The ASCC used 500 miles (800 km) of wire with three million connections, 3,500 multipole relays with 35,000 contacts, 2,225 counters, 1,464 tenpole switches and tiers of 72 adding machines, each with 23 significant numbers. It was the industry’s largest electromechanical calculator. One of the first programs to run on the Mark I was initiated on March 29, 1944, by John von Neumann in the course of his work on the Manhattan Project.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Science and Technology
  • Dates: #650 - Ended December 15, 2022