Item #28672 THROBAC I [typescript]. Claude E. Shannon, Elwood.
THROBAC I [typescript]
The only copy in Shannon's Files

THROBAC I [typescript]

[no place of publication stated]: [no publisher stated] [no date stated]. [1]-5 pages. 10 7/8 x 8 3/8 inches. Typescript on thin typewriter paper typed on recto only. Stapled upper left. Stained. Two penciled corrections in an unknown hand (one typo, one number correction). The typewriter paper is watermarked "75% Cotton Fibre | Old Badger Bond | by Fox River” on several sheets. Good. Wraps. [28672]

Apparently published only in the Sloane and Wyner bibliography, this paper describes at a high level what THROBAC I is (THROBAC stands for THrifty ROman-numeral BAckward looking Computer) and what it can do.

" a relay desk calculator operating entirely in the Roman numeral system. It performs the four operations addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. The controls and method of operation are very similar to the Marchant desk calculator." (first paragraph)

THROBAC I was constructed and currently resides in the MIT Museum collection. (item 2007.030.011).

"Over the years, Shannon's thinking and nonthinking machines took on a range of shapes and styles. Some served as an oblique social commentary: the 'Ultimate Machine,' when its single switch was flipped, would reach out a mechanical hand and turn itself off. THROBAC ... was a calculator whose keys, processing, and output all worked in Roman numerals, useless except to those who could decipher the difference between, say, CLXII and CXLII. These gadgets had the character of sly, practical jokes. But Shannon also placed a high value on his tinkering. 'The design of game-playing machines may seem at first an entertaining pastime rather than a serious scientific study,' he allowed, ‘but there was a serious side and significant purpose to such work, and at least four or five universities and research laboratories have instituted projects along this line.’" (Soni and Goodman, p. 207)

PROVENANCE: The personal files of Claude E. Shannon (unmarked). The only copy in Shannon's files.

Sloane and Wyner, "Claude Elwood Shannon Collected Papers," #76
Soni, Jimmy, and Goodman, Rob, "A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age," Simon & Schuster: NY, 2017

Price: $2,750.00