Notes for John von Neumann The Computer and the Brain


Written by his wife posthumously; could be read beside Hayles, who highlights role of female writers in history of Macy conferences.

(1) Since I am neither a neurologist nor a psychiatrist, but a mathematician, the work that follows requires some explanation and justification.

Part 1. The Computer

Analog digital as fundamental ontological distinction can be considered alongside Saussure and other theorists of cognition and texuality.

(3) Existing computing machines fall into two broad classes: “analog” and “digital.” This subdivision arises according to the way in which the numbers, on which the machine operates, are represented in it.

The Analog Procedure


The Digital Procedure

The markers are eventually reduced to zeros and ones, voltages.

(6) In a decimal digital machine each number is represented in the same way as in conventional writing or printing, i.e. as a sequence of decimal digits. Each decimal digit, in turn, is represented by a system of “markers.”


Binary comes after decimal awkwardness inherited from base ten numbering systems employed by humans: note the wastefulness of using a four bit register to represent each decimal digit.

Having gone binary, so to speak, human thought still operates in decimal orders of magnitude rather than binary.

(7) stub

von Neumann, John. The Computer and the Brain. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1979. Print.