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The Math Tables Project of the work projects administration: the reluctant start of the computing era

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1 Author(s)
Grier, D.A. ; George Washington Univ., Washington, DC, USA

The Mathematical Tables Project, one of the last large human computing groups, began operation in 1938 as a WPA project in New York City. Unlike preceding computing organizations, the Math Tables Project mass produced calculations using unskilled labor. Prior to 1938, most hand computing organizations used well educated computing assistants who could operate independently. Over its 10-year history, the Math Tables Project completed 28 published volumes of tables and calculations for dozens of scientific and war projects. During World War II, it acted as a general computing contractor for the Office for Scientific Research and Development and prepared LORAN Navigation Tables for the Navy. After the war, it was absorbed by the National Bureau of Standards. It proved to be a transitional institution in the history of computing, promoting mass scientific computation and developing the numeric methods that would eventually be used on electronic computers

Published in:

Annals of the History of Computing, IEEE  (Volume:20 ,  Issue: 3 )