Slice of Life

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 October, 2007, 12:00am

From the South China Morning Post this week in: 1947

British science had come up with a new two-ton mechanical 'brain', hailed as 25 times smarter than its smartest American counterpart.

Dr M.V. Wilkes, director of the Cambridge University Mathematical Laboratory, said the university-built memory-monster was nearly finished.

'It may make discoveries in engineering, astronomy and atomic physics,' he told a reporter. 'It may even solve economic and philosophical problems too difficult for us. There are many vital questions we wish to put to it.'

The machine, he said, could handle 500 numbers of 10 decimal points. The best American brain, built in Philadelphia for the American Army, handled only 20 such numbers, he said.

The Cambridge brain has been nicknamed 'Edsac' because its full name, the scientist explained, is 'electronic delay storage calculator'.

It remembers by storing up electric and supersonic waves, each one representing a number, in a circuit of metal tubes filled with mercury.

As Dr Wilkes explained it: 'The mercury causes the waves to travel very slowly. We hang on to them indefinitely in this way and switch them into circuits where they add, subtract or do whatever you want them to do.' The mechanical brain, in the doctor's words, could complete 100,000 calculations a minute.

So many cheques were bouncing in Shanghai that the ministry of finance decided on drastic action, including fines and prosecution on charges of breach of contract. The clearing house reported weekly bouncing cheques on average totalled CN$2,000,000,000,000 (Chinese dollars). Due to massive inflation, HK$1 equalled about CN$15,000.

The world's largest plane flew for the first time as Howard Hughes took his US$23,000,000 plywood flying boat, the centre of a congressional investigation, into the air for a one-mile flight. The 200-ton plane, on which the multimillionaire staked his reputation as an aeroplane designer, lifted 700 feet into the air on the third and final taxi run and flew at 100 miles an hour for a mile. The crowd of 1,000 lining the breakwater at Los Angeles harbour burst into cheers as Hughes returned from the flight.

A new charge was hurled by the official (Kuomintang) Central News Agency that the Communists captured one municipal official on the outskirts of Kirin and butchered him like a pig. It said wealthy families on Kirin's outskirts were forced to buy pounds of human flesh and forced to cook and eat the meat. It alleged the Communists charged CN$5,000 a lb.

Colonel Kanazawa Asao, 47, chief of the Japanese Gendarmerie and concurrently chief of police in Hongkong in 1945, was sentenced to death by hanging by the No7 War Crimes Court.

Kanazawa was charged on two counts of being concerned in the ill-treatment of prisoners held in the custody of the Gendarmerie and civilian residents, causing the death of many and the physical suffering of others including deportation of people from the Colony between February and August 1945. He was found guilty of both charges after the court deliberated for 27 minutes. The death sentence was pronounced after a retirement of one hour and 22 minutes.

Staid and reserved Cambridge caused a cinematographic ripple by certifying the American film 'Birth of a Baby' for showing to children as well as adults. Under British cinema regulations, the Board of Review classified films as A (for adults only), B (for universal showing, including children).

Birth of a Baby, showing for several weeks in London, was classified as an A picture in the capital. It depicted the actual birth of a baby.

The Cambridge Board of Review, including three married men, three married women and the town's chief constable, 'saw no reason' why the picture should not be exhibited to children.