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Clair Lake

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.

Sources:

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.

Patent Number
Year
Name

2,616,626
1952
Calculator
Co-Inventors
Howard Aiken
Francis Hamilton
Benjamin Durfee
*Listed for principal patent(s)
1,307,740
1919
Tabulating Machine
1,342,819
1920
Connector Plug
1,372,964
1921
Attachment for Card Sorting Machines
1,372,965
1921
Electric Transfer Device
1,379,268
1921
Printing Tabulator
1,389,951
1921
Attachment for Card Sorting Machines
1,447,871
1923
Friction Drive Control for Tabulating Machines
1,447,872
1923
Friction Drive for Tabulating Machine Counters
1,486,149
1924
Single Brush Automatic Control for Tabulating Machines
1,501,004
1924
Hammer Control for Tabulating Machines
1,517,843
1924
Printer Ribbon Control Mechanism
1,534,531
1925
Relayless Counter
1,534,532
1925
Relayless Counter
1,570,264
1926
Automatically Controlled Tabulating Machine
1,595,202
1926
Card Controlled Counting Machine
1,600,413
1926
Automatically Controlled Printing Tabulator
1,600,414
1926
Resetting Device for Counters, Accumulators and the Like
1,608,888
1926
Time Recorder
D69,950
1926
Casing for Time Recorders
1,680,740
1928
Printing Tabulator
1,757,123
1930
Tabulating Machine
1,760,417
1930
Detachable Record Card
1,772,492
1930
Record Sheet for Tabulating Machines
1,775,132
1930
Tabulating Machine
1,800,392
1931
Control Device for Tabulating Machines
1,817,631
1931
Duplicating Gang Punch
1,856,418
1932
Accounting Machine
1,878,930
1932
Electric Key Punch
1,902,035
1933
Transfer Mechanism
1,914,263
1933
Card Reproducing Machine
1,933,331
1933
Record Controlled Machine
1,946,910
1934
Card Handling Machine
1,965,979
1934
Tabulating Machine
1,965,980
1934
Printing Mechanism
1,965,981
1934
Printing Control Mechanism
1,976,617
1934
Tabulating Machine
1,987,343
1935
Automatic Control System for Tabulators
1,994,524
1935
Printing Device
2,000,236
1935
Card Feeding and Handling Device
2,000,237
1935
Sorting Machine
2,003,787
1935
Time Stamp
2,007,375
1935
Printing Mechanism for Accounting Machines
2,032,805
1936
Perforating Machine
2,056,403
1936
Accumulating Device
2,057,686
1936
Relay
2,066,784
1937
Printing Mechanism
2,084,560
1937
Accumulating Device
2,087,324
1937
Printing Device
2,089,272
1937
Gauging Apparatus
2,093,566
1937
Perforated Record Controlled Machine
2,104,542
1938
Automatic Punching Machine
2,111,117
1938
Perforated Record Controlled Machine
2,111,118
1938
Plugboard
2,126,644
1938
Paper Spacing Device
2,129,775
1938
Tabulating Machine
2,138,636
1938
Commutator
2,150,227
1939
Tabulating Machine
2,168,414
1939
Rate Extension Punch
2,174,702
1939
Indicator for Perforating Machines
2,232,006
1941
Accounting Machine
2,234,262
1941
Sheet Feeding Means
2,234,263
1941
Data Checking Means
2,240,562
1941
Card Controlled Typewriter
2,240,563
1941
Zero Eliminating Means
2,247,914
1941
Machine for Interpreting and Printing Perforated Records
2,247,915
1941
Transcribing Apparatus
2,247,916
1941
Machine for Interpreting and Printing Perforated Records
2,255,010
1941
Time Recorder
2,255,011
1941
Recording Machine
2,255,012
1941
Circuit Breaker
2,282,066
1942
Relay
2,282,140
1942
Time Recorder
2,285,289
1942
Card Punching Machine
2,297,785
1942
Terminal for Electrical Conductors
2,325,959
1943
Printing Control Device
2,325,960
1943
Digit Transmitting System
2,328,653
1943
Clutch Means for Accumulating Units
2,328,654
1943
Punching Machine
2,348,073
1944
Sheet Stacking Mechanism
2,350,511
1944
Sheet Feeding Machine
2,350,561
1944
Typewriting Machine
2,353,046
1944
Card Punching Machine
2,366,861
1945
Card Punching Machine
2,375,307
1945
Record Controlled Machine
2,377,791
1945
Serial Punching and Card Counting Apparatus for Use with Perforating Machines
2,398,014
1946
Record Punching Machine
2,401,430
1946
Plugboard Contactors
2,403,005
1946
Typewriting Calculating Machine
2,403,006
1946
Recorder Mechanism
2,421,628
1947
Odograph
2,447,806
1948
Cam Operated Circuit Breaker
2,451,752
1948
Record Punching Machine
2,480,744
1949
Accumulator of the Step by Step Operated Type
2,490,362
1949
Record Controlled Calculating Machine
2,573,581
1951
Storage Unit
2,577,083
1951
Reading Unit for Small Holes
2,615,569
1952
Record Controlled Machine
2,616,624
1952
Calculator
2,631,037
1953
Sheet Feeding Machine
2,658,682
1953
Record Controlled Machine
2,833,387
1958
Serial Printer
2,838,175
1958
Distributing Machine
2,845,122
1958
High Speed Punch
2,860,707
1958
Rotary Die Punch

Occupation: Engineer

Born: 1888

Died: 1958

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