The First Programming Textbook

During its first two years of operation, crew members learned how to use and maintain Mark I with improvised primers and apprenticeship. After the war, Grace Hopper was given the task of gathering all the dispersed knowledge related to the machine and publishing an instruction manual—a task so monumental that she referred to her project as a computer “bible.” It was a detailed treatment of Mark I’s physical components, operation, and maintenance. Most importantly, the manual described with elaborate care how to program Mark I, thus becoming the first ever computer programming textbook.

A Manual of Operation for the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator (1946)

Selected passages

p5:        Calculating machines and legacy of Charles Babbage.
p11:      Overview of how Mark I works.
p14:      How Mark I adds.
p48:      Depiction of the programming tape.
p50:      How a problem is formulated.
p59:      How the electromechanical counters work.
p99:      How to program Mark I -- table of operations.
p105:    How long it takes to finish a command.
p109:    Storage counters and "starting tapes".
p185:    Interpolators with value tapes.
p195:    Interpolators with functional tapes (mathematical functions).
p247:    Plugboards for multiplication.
p290:    Checklist of how to run a program and a good example on the following page.
p337:    Types of mathematical work done by Mark I, ca.1946.
p338:    Bibliography.
p405:    Appendices -- Table of Contents.
p557:    Index.

Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments   © President and Fellows of Harvard College