George Dyson presented a fascinating history regarding the early days of modern computing, starting in the 1930s when folks such as von Neumann and Godel moved to the United States. Lots of old images and anecdotes, but this was one of those “you had to be there” presentations. The story of the struggles Godel faced when trying to re-enter the US, and his subsequent dealings with the draft board showed that government immigration hassles are nothing new. The 1947 circuit used to implement the now software based Monte Carlo simulation was interesting. The look at a 1945 budget was also revealing, compared to today’s numbers. Too, lab notebooks were as filled with sarcastic remarks as today’s; what a revealing glimpse into the minds of these computing giants!
It’s important sometimes to take a look back to help us understand where we are today. I wonder what these luminaries would have thought of a conference like eTech?