Beasts Made of Wires and SwitchesBeasts Made of Wires and Switches

Everybody was staring at the man with the gIasses, though he was doing nothing out of the ordinary. He was simply tapping out on a typewriter:

"Cerva in silvam ambulat."

A perforated paper tape snaked out of the typewriter and made its way through a grey-painted box. Cllckings and murmurings could be heard in metal cabinets. Suddenly another typewriter's keys began to rattle of their own accord.

"Cerva in silvam ambulat," they wrote, and underneath : "The deer walks into the wood."

The witnesses stood there and looked on with that childlike emotion which seizes all scientists (except psychologists) when they discover a new kind of fruit on the tree of knowledge.

"The thing can translate!" said one of them.

And "the thing" did in fact continue to translate Latin texts. "Avia cum puellis silvam intrat et puellls herbas monstrat" -"The grandmother enters the wood with the girls and shows the grasses to the girls." These sentences came from an old Latin primer.

"It knows as much as a student who's been cramming for four weeks," said the man with the glasses.

The "thing" is in the Mathematical Institute of the University of Saarbrücken, Germany. It is called "Z 22," and is one of the fascinating devices popularly known as "electronic brains."

The experts - when they insist on treating the matter seriously - call it by the name, "program-controlled digitaI electronic computer." What shall we call it? Shall we talk about "program-controlled electronic computers" throughout the following pages? If we do, you will ask with some justification why everybody talks about "electronic brains" - except us. If we speak of "electronic brains," however, all the scientists will be on our necks reminding us with cynical laughter of our own introduction, in which we ourselves explained that there are no such things as electronic brains.

So what shall we do? We propose to use both expressions, sometimes one and sometimes the other. In that way we can be sure at any rate that both parties will find fault with us.

Game-Playing >>>>

© by PhiloPhax & Lauftext & Redaktion Lohberg
Kybernetik - Was ist das?

First printed in Germany: 1963


Cybernetic Computer and Electronic Brain

The fascinating story of how computers work in clear, non-mathematical language