Picture of the Day: 'The Machine Compared With a Human Brain'

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More from the wonderful cigarette-card collection at the New York Public Library: Today's pick is a card from Max Cigarettes from the mid 1930s called "The Machine Compared With a Human Brain" showing in one half a man surrounded by books and, in the other, a man operating a "differential analyser," an early-20th-century analog computing machine. An accompanying description explains:

Only the human brain is capable of originating a line of mathematical, analytical or synthetical though, but where the solution of an original problem requires the building up of a long series of figures, for example, the raising of a complex decimal to a higher power, this astounding machine is more efficient, for it can do in a few hours work requiring perhaps years of a man's time. But the machine has to be much larger, and here you see contrasted the human brain against a single section of the "Differential Analyser".

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Image: NYPL.

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Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

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