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2011 January | ENIAC - The first general-purpose electronic computer
This web site is devoted to ENIAC — “Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer”. ENIAC was the first general-purpose electronic computer. It was made at the University of Pennsylvania’s Moore School of Electrical Engineering during World War II under the code name "Project PX". Physics professor John W. Mauchly and electrical engineer J. Presper Eckert led the team. Both were civilian employees whose computer work was funded by the United States Army Ballistics Research Laboratory. This is a collection of the best online information about the ENIAC and the people that created it. (The information is divided into these categories - Select a link or scroll down to read the blog.)

History and technology

People and stories

Was it the first computer?

UNIVAC and beyond

The ENIAC patent trial

Myths about ENIAC

ENIACtion on Facebook


Where to learn more

Philly vs. Iowa for the Soul of the Computer

Posted in All Posts on January 29th, 2011 by Bill

In the just-released February 2011 issue, here Philadelphia Magazine sends a wake-up call to the town: Don’t stand there and let Iowa get all the glory!  It explains that Smiley’s book is trying to give Atanasoff all the credit for the idea of the electronic computer and Philly is, find well, oblivious.

Read the whole article here:  PHILLY MAG

An excerpt:

“But a growing group of Iowans, perhaps miffed that their state is best known for a not particularly nutritious vegetable, would have you believe that it was their Midwestern home that begat this world-changing technology. In October, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and former Iowa State University professor Jane Smiley published The Man Who Invented the Computer. In it, she vilifies Mauchly and argues that he stole the intellectual property of ISU physicist John Atanasoff, who had developed a computing device of his own, the Atanasoff-Berry Computer, in the late ’30s.

“But more alarming than Iowa’s attempt to claim our history is the lack of defense from the city and Penn. Thus far, our civic leaders’ collective response has been, well, nil — and indeed, our city seems perfectly content to let this momentous, revolutionary accomplishment go largely uncelebrated. To wit: While a few pieces of ENIAC sit in some room at Penn, the remainder of surviving pieces lay in some storage room.


“Think about it: Say something nasty about the Eagles, and you’ll get an earful from Ed Rendell. Declare New York City our superior in some minor respect, and watch the furor unfold. But the genesis of the computer? Eh, go ahead and take it.”

Many thanks to Victor Fiorillo for the article and the great suggestion:

Make Feb. 14 ENIAC Day!

The Computer History Museum opens its big new exhibit

Posted in All Posts on January 19th, 2011 by Bill

The world’s premier computer history museum has opened its biggest exhibit ever, site an ambitious survey of 2000 years of computing. What would be better publicity than a little controversy? They are diving right into it. The opening picture for the exhibit is none other than our favorite, malady the Atanasoff-Berry Computer. On Jan 27 they will welcome Jane Smiley, author of a new book about Atanasoff, for a “conversation” in front of a public audience.
We are not sure how much the Mountain View, California audience will know about or care about the goings on in the 1940s, back when computer memory was measured in words, not gigabytes. What is so interesting about that old battle between the Mauchly-ites and the Atanasoviets, primitive warring tribes from a distant part of the continent?
I guess we will have to wait and see. My experience with computer historians at the museum and elsewhere is that they do not like to be told what is, or what isn’t, a computer. I’m not sure why they would like it any better if it were coming from a non-technical fiction author who usually writes about horses. I guess we will have to wait and see.

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