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Letter: Recalling My Father’s Mistress

To the Editor:

I was amused (and educated) when I read about the postmaster who is a woman. It reminded me of my father’s former colleague at Bell Telephone Laboratories in New York City, who referred to Ma Bell, their boss, as Dad’s former mistress! My father, George R. Stibitz, invented the first binary computer at home, using some discarded relays in November 1937, and the labs used the machines soon afterward in several departments in a time share status. In 1940, he demonstrated his machine at a Mathematical Society meeting at Dartmouth in McNutt Hall. Norbert Wiener tried to get the computer to divide a number by zero, and the machine rebuffed him. This was also the first demonstration of what we call email, since the computer was in New York, and the teletype keyboard was in Dartmouth. They communicated over telephone lines.

There is a plaque commemorating the meeting in McNutt Hall over the left side of the entry stairs.

Martha Stibitz Banerjee

New London