Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator (Mark I)Patent No. 2,616,626
Already a prolific inventor at IBM in May 1939, Clair Lake was chosen to be chief engineer for the IBM Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator, also known as the Mark I. Aiken conceived and, with IBM engineers Lake, Frank Hamilton, and Benjamin Durfee, designed the Mark I calculator.
The Mark I could perform the arithmetic, table lookups, and logarithmic operations on numbers up to 23 digits in length. Used by the Navy during World War II, the Mark I ran calculations for the production of artillery tables. The computer continued to assist in the solution of complex problems at Harvard for 15 years. Sections of the machine are on display at Harvard, IBM, and the Smithsonian Institution.
After the Mark I, Lake continued at IBM, while Aiken remained at Harvard to develop the Mark II, III, and IV. Lake patented a number of additional inventions. His best-known innovation aside from the Mark I was the 80-column punched card. In addition, he invented numerous electro-mechanical components for IBM’s early business machines. He also developed the Type 1 Total Printing and Listing Tabulator, which became the prototype for many important subsequent improvements, and the Type 512 and 513 high-speed reproducers.
Lee, J. (1995). Clair D. Lake. Retrieved March 2014, from Computer Pioneers: http://computer.org/computer-pioneers/lake.html
Waywiser. (n.d.). Clair D. Lake. Retrieved March 2014, from Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments Harvard University: http://dssmhi1.fas.harvard.edu/emuseumdev/code/emuseum.asp?action=advsearch&newsearch=1&profile=people&rawsearch=constituentid/,/is/,/7673/,/false/,/true&style=single&searchdesc=Clair+D.+Lake
No formal education beyond manual training school to study automotive part design.
Early IBM computer inventor, Lake patented the rectangular hole in a punched card. He made significant contributions to the Mark I, along with Howard Aiken and IBM engineers Frank Hamilton and Benjamin Durfee, who designed calculators in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The first large-scale digital calculator, the Mark I provided the impetus for more advanced computer machines.
Lake was hired by Thomas J. Watson, CEO and president of IBM from 1924 to 1956, to build printing tabulators for IBM’s predecessor, Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR). Lake served as plant supervisor and senior engineer for IBM from 1925 to 1930. He was chosen as chief engineer of the Harvard Mark I project in 1939.
The Mark I was electromechanical with mechanical parts that were electrically controlled and used ordinary telephone relays that enabled electrical currents to be switched on or off. Unlike modern computers, the Mark I had no keyboard, but was operated with approximately 1,400 rotary switches that had to be adjusted to set up a run. Instructions and data input were entered into the computer on continuous strips of punch-card paper.
Mark I was a powerful improvement over its predecessors in terms of the speed at which it performed a host of complex mathematical calculations The Mark I could perform logarithmic and other functional table lookup and the four fundamental arithmetic operations, in any specified sequence, on numbers up to 23 decimal digits in length. Used by the Navy during World War II, the Mark I ran repetitive calculations for the production of mathematical tables that aided in aiming artillery bombs and shells. The computer also continued to assist in the solution of complex problems in various disciplines at Harvard for 15 years. Sections of the machine have been retained as artifacts at Harvard, IBM and the Smithsonian Institution.
Lake’s best-known innovation aside from the Mark I project was the 80-column punched card. In addition, he invented numerous electro-mechanical components for IBM’s early business machines. He also developed the Type 1 Total Printing and Listing Tabulator, which became the prototype for many important subsequent improvements, and the Type 512 and 513 high-speed reproducers. He also developed a telephone key punch used in telephone record keeping.