Robin Hamilton robin.hamilton3 at VIRGINMEDIA.COM
Mon Jan 24 16:57:23 UTC 2011

As Garson quotes him, it is Asimov *presenting the words of a character*
looking back in time -- perhaps from this perspective, all early computers,
from the analogue originals in Babbage's Calculating Machine (would this
count as analogue?) through the slide rule (which is perhaps the ultimate
analogue computing device) to Univac, would all blur into one as the mist of
centuries overlaid the information content of the message.

Not so much garbage in, garbage out as the noise level of time.

As to Asimov's science credentials, he received (I haven't checked this, so
the date may be out) his PhD in the late fifties, and did try to keep up,
insofar as his voluminous writing in both SFiction and SFact allowed.  I
rather like his popularizing style, and I've found him to be about as
reliable as you'd expect.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
Sent: Monday, January 24, 2011 10:34 AM
Subject: Re: Univac

> ---------------------- Information from the mail
> header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject:      Re: Univac
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 1/22/2011 05:31 PM, Garson O'Toole wrote:
>>I meant to say that Asimov did not know the accurate etymology of
>>UNIVAC. He thought it was "Universal Analog Computer" and not
>>"Universal Automatic Computer".
> Given this blooper, must I view all Asimov's
> assertions about science skeptically?  Anyone who
> had taken Computers 101 (or read Wikipedia) would
> know that UNIVAC I was not analog, but digital.
> And Wikipedia's photo confirms my recollection of
> having walked around inside one.  The one given
> to Harvard in 1956.  It was not one gigantic
> vacuum tube (Wiki says 5200 tubes).
> Joel
>>On Sat, Jan 22, 2011 at 5:23 PM, Garson O'Toole
>><adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
>> > The name "Multivac" is used in the short story "Franchise" published
>> > in 1955. Asimov explained how he created the name "Multivac" in the
>> > book "Today and tomorrow and ..." published in 1973. (I have only seen
>> > a snippet of this book via Google Books. The date is from a WorldCat.)
>> > Excerpt:
>> >
>> > "Univac" is an acronym for "Universal Analog Computer," but I chose to
>> > consider it "Uni-vac" ("one vacuum tube") and invented my own favorite
>> > computer, "Multivac." In "Franchise," I had Multivac select (by
>> > methods best known to itself) .
>> >
>> > http://books.google.com/books?id=R7faAAAAMAAJ&q=uni-vac#search_anchor

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list