‘Well, Knipe, my boy. Now that it’s finished, I just called you in to tell you I think you’ve done a fine job.’ Adolph Knipe stood still in front of Mr Bohlen’s desk. There seemed to be no enthusiasm in him at all. ‘Aren’t you pleased?’ ‘Oh yes, Mr Bohlen.’ ‘Did you see what the papers said this morning?’ ‘No, sir, I didn’t.’ The man behind the desk pulled a folded newspaper towards him, and began to read: ‘The building of the great automatic computing engine, ordered by the government some time ago, is now complete. It is probably the fastest electronic calculating machine in the world today. Its function is to satisfy the ever-increasing need of science, industry, and administration for rapid mathematical calculation which, in the past, by traditional methods, would have been physically impossible, or would have required more time than the problems justified. The speed with which the new engine works, said Mr John Bohlen, head of the firm of electrical engineers mainly responsible for its construction, may be grasped by the fact that it can provide the correct answer in five seconds to a problem that would occupy a mathematician for a month. In three minutes, it can produce a calculation that by hand (if it were possible) would fill half a million sheets of foolscap paper. The automatic computing engine uses pulses of electricity, generated at the rate of a million a second, to solve all calculations that resolve themselves into addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. For practical purposes there is no limit to what it can do …’

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