Chapter 4 Preliminary discussion of the logical design of an electronic computing instrument 93
machine. We proceed to discuss what quantities the memory should store for various types of computations.
2.2. In the solution of partial differential equations the storage requirements are likely to be quite extensive, In general, one must remember not only the initial and boundary conditions and any arbitrary functions that enter the problem but also an extensive number of intermediate results.
a For equations of parabolic or hyperbolic type in two independent variables the integration process is essentially a double induction. To find the values of the dependent variables at time t + D t one integrates with respect to x from one boundary to the other by utilizing the data at time t as if they were coefficients which contribute to defining the problem of this integration.
Not only must the memory have sufficient room to store these intermediate data but there must be provisions whereby these data can later be removed, i.e. at the end of the (t + D t) cycle, and replaced by the corresponding data for the (t + 2D t) cycle. This process of removing data from the memory and of replacing them with new information must, of course, be done quite automatically under the direction of the control.
b For total differential equations the memory requirements are clearly similar to, but smaller than, those discussed in (a) above.
c Problems that are solved by iterative procedures such as systems of linear equations or elliptic partial differential equations, treated by relaxation techniques, may be expected to require quite extensive memory capacity. The memory requirement for such problems is apparently much greater than for those problems in (a) above in which one needs only to store information corresponding to the instantaneous value of one variable [t in (a) above], while now entire solutions (covering all values of all variables) must be stored. This apparent discrepancy in magnitudes can, however, be somewhat overcome by the use of techniques which permit the use of much coarser integration meshes in this case, than in the cases under (a).
2.3. It is reasonable at this time to build a machine that can conveniently handle problems several orders of magnitude more complex than are now handled by existing machines, electronic or electro-mechanical. We consequently plan on a fully automatic electronic storage facility of about 4,000 numbers of 40 binary digits each. This corresponds to a precision of 2- 40 ~ 0.9 x 10- 12, i.e. of about 12 decimals. We believe that this memory capacity exceeds the capacities required for most problems that one deals with at present by a factor of about 10. The precision is also safely higher than what is required for the great majority of present day problems. In addition, we propose that we have a subsidiary memory of much larger capacity, which is also fully automatic, on some medium such as magnetic wire or tape.
3. First remarks on the control and code
3.1. It is easy to see by formal-logical methods that there exist codes that are in abstracto adequate to control and cause the execution of any sequence of operations which are individually available in the machine and which are, in their entirety, conceivable by the problem planner. The really decisive considerations from the present point of view, in selecting a code, are more of a practical nature: simplicity of the equipment demanded by the code, and the clarity of its application to the actually important problems together with the speed of its handling of those problems. It would take us much too far afield to discuss these questions at all generally or from first principles. We will therefore restrict ourselves to analyzing only the type of code which we now envisage for our machine.
3.2. There must certainly be instructions for performing the fundamental arithmetic operations. The specifications for these orders will not be completely given until the arithmetic unit is described in a little more detail.
3.3. It must be possible to transfer data from the memory to the arithmetic organ and back again. In transferring information from the arithmetic organ back into the memory there are two types we must distinguish: Transfers of numbers as such and transfers of numbers which are parts of orders. The first case is quite obvious and needs no further explication. The second case is more subtle and serves to illustrate the generality and simplicity of the system. Consider, by way of illustration, the problem of interpolation in the system. Let us suppose that we have formulated the necessary instructions for performing an interpolation of order n in a sequence of data. The exact location in the memory of the (n + 1) quantities that bracket the desired functional value is, of course, a function of the argument. This argument probably is found as the result of a computation in the machine. We thus need an order which can substitute a number into a given order-in the case of interpolation the location of the argument or the group of arguments that is nearest in our table to the desired value. By means of such an order the results of a computation can be introduced into the instructions governing that or a different computation. This makes it possible for a sequence of instructions to be used with different sets of numbers located in different parts of the memory.