[TUHS] RIP Claude Shannon
bakul at bitblocks.com
Mon Feb 26 09:31:08 AEST 2018
Mitchell Waldrop's "The Dream Machine: J. C. R. Licklider and
the Revolution That Made Computing Personal" book has probably
been discussed on this list in the past. It has pages full of
fascinating stuff about Claude Shannon & his work. For instance:
"A Symbolic Analysis of Relay and Switching Circuits" has
just the kind of cerebral exuberance you'd expect from a
very bright twenty-one-year-old. Shannon's thesis is
downright fun to read--and strangely compelling, given
what's happened in the six decades since it was written.
That ability, in turn, is ultimately what makes a modern
digital computer so much more than just an adding machine:
it can work its way through a sequence of such decisions
automatically. In a word, it can be programmed. And that's
why "A Symbolic Analysis of Relay and Switching Circuits" is
arguably the most influential master's thesis of the
twentieth century: in it Claude Shannon laid the theoretical
foundation for all of modern computer design
Legend has it that Claude Shannon published "A Mathematical
Theory of Communication" in 1948 only because his boss at
Bell Labs finally badgered him into it. And whatever the
truth of that story, the point is that no one who knew
Shannon has any trouble believing it.
"He wrote beautiful papers--when he wrote," says Robert
Fano, who became a leader of MIT's information-theory group
in the 1950s and still has a reverential photograph of
Shannon hanging in his office. "And he gave beautiful talks-
when he gave a talk. But he hated to do it."
It wasn't a matter of Shannon's being lazy, Fano says; he
was constantly filling up notebooks with ideas, theorems,
and calculations. He just wouldn't publish--or not very
often, anyway. No, Shannon's reticence seems to have been
more a matter of extraordinary self-sufficiency.
and much more. A book well worth reading.
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