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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.
A panel from ABC
Did Mauchly steal ideas from the Atanasoff? He visited Atanasoff and the two discussed computers before ENIAC was built. Mauchly defenders, however, say ABC just confirmed his own ideas and ENIAC used a far different architecture. A court, however, invalidated the ENIAC patents. Still, ABC was never used on any real computing projects.