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Thursday, November 19, 2015

The father of digital logic

by Mark Ollig

Its first introduction was in his 1847 book: “The Mathematical Analysis of Logic.”

George Boole is the person we are to thank for Boolean algebra.

The zeros and ones used in binary coding are part of the Boolean sphere recognized as the false value known as “0,” and the true value known as “1.”

Working with digital electronics while attending school (more years ago than I care to remember), I learned to associate the “0” as an absence of voltage, and the “1” as a presence of voltage.

Logic gates are used to control input/output combination possibilities for performing logical operations using digital circuitry, and to act as electronic switches.

Inputs of either a 0 or a 1 are used on electronic digital logic gates, such as: NOR, AND, OR, NAND, and ENOR.

For example, when using an OR gate with two inputs (A and B) a 0/A 0/B input would result in an output of: 0.

Having a 0/A 1/B input would result in an output of: 1.

A 1/A 0/B input would equal a 1 output.

The last input combination possible for an OR gate is a 1/A 1/B input; would produce a 1 output.

Sounds logical, doesn’t it?

Binary logic was, and still is used in our digital computing systems.

Yours truly has written prior columns about some of the earlier 20th-century electronic digital computing systems.

The “Giant Brain” or Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer (ENIAC), was unveiled in 1946. It was constructed at the University of Pennsylvania.

Our British friends across the pond began building the Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator (EDSAC), in 1946. It was running computing programs in 1949.

The US Army also had need for computing power. Their binary computer was called the Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer (EDVAC), and was in operation in 1949.

My favorite is the 1951 Universal Automatic Computer, commonly known as the UNIVAC I.

It was a large electronic digital mainframe computer, manufactured by the Remington Rand company.

This computer became famous for its appearance on CBS television, where it predicted the winner of the 1952 presidential election.

Yours truly watched an archived video showing CBS newscaster Walter Cronkite reporting from his anchor desk, on the evening of the presidential election, Nov. 4, 1952.

A teletype machine was set up nearby to send information back and forth from the UNIVAC.

At around 7:30 p.m. CST, the UNIVAC determined the presidential winner would be Dwight Eisenhower – even though only a small percentage of the votes had been counted.

The UNIVAC had calculated 100-1 odds in favor of Eisenhower winning the election over Adlai Stevenson.

The accuracy of the UNIVAC’s prediction was less than 1 percent – which stunned the news folks at CBS.

In fact, they delayed in disclosing this prediction until later, because at the time, public opinion showed Stevenson was leading.

CBS had feared the UNIVAC was wrong, and thus CBS, too, would be wrong.

However, the UNIVAC’s prediction was indeed correct.

“We saw it as an added feature to our coverage that could be very interesting in the future, and there was a great deal of pride that we had this exclusively. But I don’t think that we felt the computer would become predominant in our coverage in any way,” Cronkite said about the UNIVAC.

I now digress back to the subject of this column.

So, we have the Boolean sphere, looked at the OR gate, and some vintage computers.

Let’s talk a little about George Boole.

It has been said Boole is the person responsible for the logical processes used in modern computing calculations.

He was born Nov. 2, 1815, in Lincoln, England.

Boole specialized in differential mathematical equations and algebraic logic.

He was an English mathematician, and Professor of Mathematics at the University College Cork, Ireland.

In his 1854 book: “The Laws of Thought,” he wrote about algebraic logic, probabilities, and explained logical equations in great detail.

The basic principles in this book became the foundation of what would become the modern “information age.”

In chapter 22, on page 318 of his book, the following thoughts by Boole gave me reason to pause and consider.

“The distinction between true and false, between correct and incorrect, exists in the processes of the intellect, but not in the region of a physical necessity. As we advance from the lower stages of organic being to the higher grade of conscious intelligence, this contrast gradually dawns upon us,” he wrote.

Boole was only 49 years old when he passed away Dec. 8, 1864.

He is buried in the village of Blackrock, within Cork City, Ireland.

The Project Gutenberg organization was kind enough to archive Boole’s book, “Laws of Thought” here:

Boole’s “The Mathematical Analysis of Logic” can be read at:

A diagram of the OR gate, with its logical input/output combinations, is here:

I encourage you to watch a short video about George Boole, uploaded by the University College Cork, at: