An Wang – The Focused Inventor


An Wang’s success was marked by his invention of the Pulse Transfer Controlling Device in 1949, which provided a way to regulate flow of magnetic energy (Magnetic Core Memory). It was a device that allowed storage that enabled a write-after-read cycle. His invention contributed to the foundation of information technology and the computer that you are using right now.

Name: An Wang
Born: February 7, 1920, Shanghai, China
Died: March 24, 1990, Boston, USA
Occupation: Computer Engineer, Inventor

Success was not handed to him, he struggled for it. In 1945, Wang emigrated to America from China with a set goal in mind, attending Harvard University. In 1948 he fulfilled his dream and graduated from Harvard with a degree in Applied Physics.

Magnetic Core Memory

With only 15 dollars he co-founded Wang Laboratories with Dr. G.Y. Chu. By 1980 he had an increased revenue of 3 billion dollars a year, and provided work for 40,000 people.


Wang Laboratories eventually fell to its competition. The development of the personal computer with the word processor software proved more useful than Wang’s computers that were made just for word processing. Wang’s main product, the mini computers lost popularity with the creation of micro-computers by Macintosh. Even IBM and Hewlett-Packard servers were favored more than Wang’s creations.

When he made his son Fred Wang, president of Wang Labs, it led to his company’s demise. Many workers resigned out of jealousy. While Fred was head of research and development, Wang Labs announced 14 new products with release dates. When the release dates came, many of the products were unfinished.

Fred Wang was eventually replaced by Richard W. Miller. Imagine how hard it must have been for him to demote his son. It’s almost every man’s dream to pass on their company to their children. An Wang even insisted that Fred Wang be President of his company. But he was wrong about his son. Fred’s installment as president was a contributor to the company’s failure.


Wang had acquired several patents that garnered honor from the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Most of these patents provided the tools for modern computers such as document accessing and processing and a terminal with graphic and text data buffers.

In 1955 he sold the patent for core memory to IBM for $500,000. Wang Labs manufactured the first desktop computers with a CRT display, known as the Wang 2000. He attained a lot of success in such a short period of time. His creative mind allowed his company to attain much prosperity.

An Wang Computer

In Lowell Massachusetts, Dr. An Wang Middle School was named after him. Harvard University honors him in their An Wang’s Professorship of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering.

Why He Should Have Given Up::

Immigration law set limits and restrictions on those who were non-citizens. It took 9 years after his emigration to be considered a U.S. Citizen. Wang had to fight the prejudice of immigrants. Immigrants were not known for being highly educated, they weren’t wealthy, and they didn’t hold any political power or prestige. However, they were known for wanting to improve their current life and make it better. An Wang did just that. His company Wang Laboratories became a major manufacturer of desktop computers. Because of his focus, he showed us that anyone can make something of themselves and achieve “the American Dream.


Flickr from ttstam. “Magnetic core memory – 5x magnification.” [Online Image]

The History of Computing Project. “An Wang” [Online Image]

The History of Computing Project. “An Wang” [Online]

Inventor of the Week-Archive. “An Wang.” [Online]

Wikipedia. “An Wang.” [Online]

Wikipedia. “Wang Laboratories.” [Online]



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