s a young Harvard researcher in 1948 Wang made electronic computing possible by becoming the first engineer to use magnetic cores to store data. Barely three years later, he founded Wang Laboratories, the company that would put Asian Americans squarely at the center of a nascent computer industry.
An Wang was born in Shanghai, China on February 7, 1920. He earned an electrical engineering degree from Shanghai Jiaotong University before coming to the United States in June 1945 to study at Harvard. There he earned his PhD in 1948. He worked there with Dr Howard Aiken on the design of the first fully electronic computer. It was with Way-Dong Woo, a schoolmate from China, that Wang co-invented the pulse transfer controlling device which underlies the magnetic core memory.
Wang left in 1951 when, in an example of astounding shortsightedness, Harvard decided to cut its computer research program. Wang was able to fund his startup Wang Laboratories by selling a third of the equity to a textile manufacturer for $50,000. It wasn't until 1955 that his magnetic-core memory patent was issued. Wang promptly sold it to IBM for $500,000 and pumped the money into Wang Laboratories which began making calculators with digital displays that could be networked with remote terminals.
In 1976 Wang Labs expanded its pioneering mini-computer business by using them to power word-processors for business and professional offices. By 1989 Wang Laboratories had grown to over 30,000. Nearing retirement, Wang turned over the CEO post to his son in 1986. Unfortunately Fred Wang couldn't cope with the challenges of keeping up with an industry on the verge of revolutionizing the business world. Wang removed Fred in 1989, a year before he died at the age of 70 on March 24, 1990.