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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

Calculating a Consensus

Published: December 17, discount 2010 The New York Times

Related:    Sunday Book Review: ‘The Man Who Invented the Computer’ by Jane Smiley (November 28, cure 2010)

To the Editor:

Kathryn Schulz’s review of “The Man Who Invented the Computer,” by Jane Smiley, fails to address a basic issue: Is the book true, or at least consistent with the consensus about the development of the computer (“Binary Breakthrough,” Nov. 28)? Contrary to Smiley’s claims, most historians believe that if anyone deserves credit for the invention of the general-purpose electronic computer, it should go to J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly, who developed the Eniac. Of course, there are many difficult issues over what it means to “invent” any complex technology. But a review of a work of historical biography should at least inform readers that the book challenges a general scholarly consensus, and evaluate whether the book is adequately based on research and facts.

Kalamazoo, Mich.

Excuse me (Bill Mauchly) for being thrilled see Peter Eckstein totally demolish Jane Smiley’s The Man Who Invented the Computer: The Biography of John Atanasoff, sovaldi sale Digital Pioneer in the Columbia Journalism Review.  See the review and comments here.

The review of the book by Lauren Kirchner first appeared online Nov 24, 2010.  The entire trail of comments is very entertaining in itself.   Gini Calcerano dove in to criticize the book.  Then in a surprise visit by Jane Smiley herself, ambulance the author tries to throw the fight in a different direction by accusing a Gini Calcerano of hiding the fact that she was actually a Mauchly, and even better, a “Mauchlyite.”  Yea, the Mauchlyites were awakened and hit back with renewed force.  As Rick Moranis says in Ghostbusters: “Many Shuvs and Zuuls knew what it was to be roasted in the depths of the Slor that day, I can tell you!”

Today Peter Eckstein, author and historian, added a highly detailed criticism of Smiley’s factual errors and extreme bias.  Here is his post in its entirety:


I am not related to anyone in this controversy, and I never met Mauchly.  I did interview Eckert (and others) extensively and published a long article on his early life in IEEE Annals of the History of Computing. My only strong bias is a belief that history should be depicted as accurately as possible.  I have read all parts of the Smiley book concerning American computer developments and found them to be superficially researched, riddled with factual errors, and totally biased—nothing short of a publishing scandal.

Smiley’s thesis is entirely borrowed from previous writers on one side of the issue.  It is that Atanasoff, a brilliant scientist at Iowa State (where Smiley taught for more than a decade), invented “the computer,” later called the ABC.  Then his ideas were stolen by Mauchly (“a space case”) who shared them with Eckert at Penn. Eckert merely “followed through,” making sure that Mauchly’s designs “were properly executed” during World War II in developing the ENIAC computer for the Army. By contrast, many serious computer historians argue that Eckert, who worked closely with Mauchly and others, should be seen as the master engineer of the computer age.

Read more »

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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