From our neck of the woods: math and computing history

Web Produced By: Jeannine Gallenstein
Email: jgallenstein@wcpo.com
Last Update: 7:56 am
DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — A new Air Force supercomputer is named in honor of an Ohio man who was instrumental in cracking Nazi codes during World War II.The $2.2 million machine to be used by researchers at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton is called the “Desch.”

It will turn large amounts of radar surveillance data into three-dimensional video images that can observe an entire city and focus in close — on an individual lighting a cigarette, for example.

Joe Desch, who died in 1987, was the designer of a computer that helped the Allies break the Nazis’ Enigma codes.

Desch’s daughter, Debbie Anderson, planned to attend Monday’s unveiling of the
supercomputer and says it would have fascinated her father, and he would have wanted to know exactly how it worked.

(All Rights Reserved.  Copyright 2009 by the Associated Press.)

We here in Cincinnati are used to thinking of ourselves as in the backwaters of technological development or scientific or mathematical history.

However, it turns out that such is not always the case. This is the first time I have heard of Joe Desch, even though I’ve lived in Cincinnati always, and at least fancied myself well-versed in the history of math and computers.

Live and learn!

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