Just as there are von Neumann machines and von Neumann algebras, there are von Neumann anecdotes. Here’s a well-worn favorite. Late in the 1940s, years after he left Hungary for the United States and became a lionized mathematician, John von Neumann met a group of Rand Corporation scientists who wanted to use a computer he’d helped design. They had a particular problem to solve, and it was—as they explained using blackboards and graphs—beyond the capacity of von Neumann’s computer at the moment. But perhaps the computer might be modified to address it?