Digital pioneer, inventor of computer memory, co-founder of Wang Laboratories, Dr. An Wang

1 09 2008

an-wangEver wonder how your computer is able to remember what you type? Well, the underlying technology was developed by Dr. An Wang, who co-invented the pulse transfer controlling device with Harvard classmate Way-Dong Woo. His company, Wang Laboratories, helped a clumsy new technology evolve into useful calculating machines and word processors, creating impetus for the personal computing revolution.

For this and other inventions, An was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame which only recognizes an elite group including Edison, Pasteur and Bell.

In the beginning

An founded Wang Laboratories in June 1951 as a sole proprietorship with $600. He created the first desktop calculator capable of computing logarithms, quite an achievement for a machine without any integrated circuits.

Wang calculators were at first sold to scientists and engineers, but the company later won a solid niche in financial-services industries, which had previously relied on complicated printed tables for mortgages and annuities. One perhaps apocryphal story tells of a banker who spot-checked a Wang calculator against a mortgage table and found a discrepancy. The calculator was right, the printed tables were wrong, and the company’s reputation was made. In addition to calculators and word processors, An’s company diversified into minicomputers in the early 1970s. He said,

“I founded Wang Laboratories to show that Chinese could excel at things other than running laundries and restaurants.”

An also founded the Wang Institute of Graduate Studies in Tyngsborough, Massachusetts which offered a graduate program in Software Engineering, wrote an autobiography entitled, Lessons, and restored a Boston landmark, the Metropolitan Theatre.

An was known for his pithy aphorisms such as, “Success is more a function of consistent common sense than it is of genius.”





2 responses

3 09 2008
pinosa pudex

Grate article this site is best knowledge about on internet.

3 09 2008

Thanks Pinosa! How did you come across Dr. Wang? Where there other folks we could research together?

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