Images: Birth of the first computer

Images: Birth of the first computer

Summary: J. Presper Eckert and John Mauch designed ENIAC to calculate the trajectory of artillery shells. Fortunately, we've found other uses for their invention.

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TOPICS: Patents
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  • trajectory exam

    Frances Blias and Elizabeth Jennings with ENIAC. Women performed many of the mathematical calculations and developed the programming techniques. Although they didn't get credit at the time, their role has recently become better acknowledged.

    "The audience was absolutely astounded. ENIAC ran the trajectory faster than it took the bullet to trace it. People got, as a souvenir, a printout of the trajectory we ran," said Jean Bartik, one of the surviving programmers, about the first demonstration of ENIAC to the military and other scientists.

  • who deserved credit?

    Herman Goldstine, a mathematician from the U.S. Army, at right and Eckert. Although the two collaborated on ENIAC, many of the original participants argued later over who deserved credit. Goldstine was responsible for bringing John Von Neumann into the ENIAC project. Eckert later asserted that Von Neumann tried to take credit for ideas that emerged with Eckert and Mauchly.

  • John Atanasoff

    Iowa State professor John Atanasoff liked fast cars and scotch, according to interviews he gave. After driving to a bar in Illinois, he had a few drinks and sketched out on a napkin a concept out for an electronic device that could perform math functions with signals from vacuum tubes. The ABC Computer was built in 1941. It could perform multiplication, but worked stopped on the project after the attack on Pearl Harbor and Atanasoff never returned to it.

Topic: Patents

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