York Town Square

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Few know it, but digital computing’s first pioneer George Stibitz was born in York, Pa.

Scott Stevens, a relative newcomer to York, e-mailed about whether a historical monument marked the birthplace of George Robert Stibitz, widely called the father of modern computing.
The short answer is that no marker is in place anywhere in York County feting Stibitz. In fact, a quick check at the usual local sources brought scant information of Stibitz, a Dartmouth mathematician born in York on April 30, 1904.
But he is all over the Web… .

His New York Times obituary headline in 1995 stated: “Dr. George Stibitz, 90, Inventor of the First Digital Computer in ’40.”
According to this obituary, Stibitz, working as a research mathematician at the Bell Telephone Laboratories in the 1930s, built a primitive electric calculator. That adding machine was rigged using dry-cell batteries, metal strips and flashlight bulbs soldered to wires from telephone relays.
He and an associate later made a closet-size calculator that solved problems faster than 100 operators with mechanical desk calculators.
Sitting in New Hampshire in 1940, he queried via teletype a primitive computer at Bell Labs in New York City. He received his answers within seconds.
Here’s the longer answer about Stibitz’s home:
York County Heritage Trust files indicate Stibitz was the son of George and Mildred Stibitz. His father was pastor of York’s Zion Reformed Church from 1898 to 1907, after which he took a professorship at a seminary in Dayton, Ohio.
When George was born in 1904, the family lived at 419 W. Philadelphia St. Houses in that block near the former Borg-Warner complex, now the York County Industrial Plaza, have given way to parking and landscaping.
So, the Stibitz address apparently no longer exists.
Another e-mailer recently suggested a historical marker be placed to mark the Loganville house where Dr. George Holtzapple was an early user of oxygen to treat pneumonia.
Other structures that might similarly be honored: Gen. John B. Gordon’s headquarters near Farmers, the house in western York County where York’s fathers surrendered the town in the Civil War; the old York County Academy gym, USO headquarters in World War II; New York Wire, major York Plan player in World War II and home of the Christmas-carol playing factory whistle.
Other suggestions? Comment below.