chapter  3
27 Pages

The Mother of all humanities computing demos

The First Public Demo of Busa's and Tasman's Punched-Card Method of “Literary Data Processing,” June 27, 1952

On June 27, 1952, at IBM World Headquarters at 590 Madison Avenue in New York, Rex Seeber, of the Department of Pure Science, gave one of his final presentations on the large-scale calculator, the Selective Sequence Electronic Calculator (SSEC), a machine he had helped to build. IBM had announced in April that it was in the process of building a new large-scale electronic machine, the "Defense Calculator," or IBM 701, which would be twenty-five times faster than the SSEC. In the chapter title, the author refers to the June 27 event as "the mother of all humanities computing demos," an allusion to Douglas Engelbart's famous live demo, December 9, 1968, at San Francisco's Civic Center for a meeting of the Joint Computer Conference. Father S. J. Roberto Busa status as a pioneer of computing in the humanities is tied up with his focus on natural language, literary, philosophical, and religious texts.