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Cover Quote: October 2017

The very word “computer” was so novel that Dr. Huskey described the SWAC as “a large-scale electronic computing machine” when he appeared on the radio quiz show “You Bet Your Life” in 1950 and tried to explain it to the host, Groucho Marx.

“Now, doctor, what is this machine for, this robot?” Groucho asked.

“It’s to carry out sequences of computations, to compare figures,” Dr. Huskey patiently explained.

To which Groucho replied, in his signature manner of gigabit-paced repartee: “If you’re going to compare figures, I don’t need an electric brain for that. It’s called an automatic reflex in my case.”

Dr. Huskey’s teammate on the show, a junkman (they were disqualified after they guessed wrong on which state is north of Missouri), estimated the computer’s worth, by weight, at $100. But Groucho presciently described Dr. Huskey’s research as “worthwhile work which will make life easier and better for all of us.”



- Sam Roberts
Harry Huskey, Pioneering Computer Scientist, Is Dead at 101, 2017
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