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I've just seen that the article

Dimond, T. L. "Devices for Reading Handwritten Characters". Papers and Discussions. Presented at the December 9-13, 1957, Eastern Joint Computer Conference: Computers with Deadlines to Meet, ACM, 1958, 232-237

DOI: http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1457720.1457765

describes the first device that could capture handwriting while it was written.

What computer did Dimond use at that time?

What I found out

  • AN/FSQ-7 Combat Direction Central:
    • completed in 1955
    • 60,000 vacuum tubes
    • weighed 250 tons
    • 0.2 ha
    • cost $10 billion (in 1954; $87.82 billion in today's dollars)
  • IBM 650 and eventually IBM 700/7000 series was available at that time
  • IBM 704 was used by Bell labs in 1962
    • 12,000 floating-point additions per second
    • The 737 Magnetic Core Storage Unit had 4,096 36-bit words, the equivalent of 18,432 bytes and served as RAM.

So I guess the IBM 704 could be a good guess. Does anybody know more?

4

Dimond did not use any computer, he was a researcher/theorist. His paper simply describes a technique that could be applicable for dedicated circuits typical of the time. He was not anticipating the use of general computers to solve the problem. He was expecting the logic to be implemented in a hardwired device, specifically built to recognize standardized handwriting.

His concept was possibly inspired by the MICR research at Stanford University which had already be active for several years before this paper was written. The MICR System uses magnetic ink and a standard font which allows specialized machines to read check routing numbers.

  • Ah, I thought something like this. Eventually you want to add the following, which seems to support your claim: pastebin.com/Lzh1e3YC – Martin Thoma Aug 25 '14 at 21:03

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