We pretty much teach the modern history of computers as something that happened in the United States and the United Kingdom. We talk about men like Turing and von Neumann working in the 1940’s and 1950’s on the first real computers. Oh sure we talk about older calculating devices a little big – Babbage, Leibnetz, and others. We make occasional reference to the abacus but other than that we tend to talk about modern computing being done in the US and Western Europe. So I was pleased get a reminder of other places where early research was going on. This time Israel in the Middle East.
The IEEE recently honored the building of the WEIZAC at the Weizmann Institute of Science, a research facility in Rehovot, Israel, by naming it a historical milestone. Built in 1954 & 19955 this was the first computer in the Middle East. Israel was not the technical leader that it is today which makes this event even more significant. In fact the work that this computer enabled was probably a large contributor in bringing Israel into the science and technology position it has today.
There is an important message here I think. What this says to me is that computing (computational thinking, the ability to process large amounts of data, calculate difficult and complicated results, etc) has been an important part of scientific advancement for over 50 years. I see no slowing down of this either. In fact if anything computers and people who understand how to use them are becoming even more important as time goes on. So if you want to be a scientist or an engineer computer science is something you are going to have to know something about.
[By the way I am actually on vacation so response to comments and email will be slow. This post was written earlier for display later.]