The History of Early Computer Switching

Abstract
We distinguish scanning switches, which only enumerate states, from function switches which transform input states into output states. For the latter we introduce a logical network symbolism. Our history of early computer switching begins with the suggestions of Ramon Lull and Gottfried Leibniz, surveys the evolution of mechanical scanning switches and the first mechanical function switches, and then describes the first electromechanical function switches. The main themes of the present paper are that William S. Jevons built the first substantial function switch (his logical piano), and that his work led to the design by Allan Marquand of the first substantial electromechanical function switch, as well as to Charles S. Peirce's idea for an electrical general-purpose programmable computer. These events all occurred fifty years before the first general-purpose programmable computers were constructed (in the 1940's), but they had no influence.
Keywords Analytic Philosophy
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DOI 10.5840/gps1988322
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