John Mauchly and ENIAC
January 23, 2006 No Comments
Sixty years ago, a device was developed that greatly simplified the calculation of ballistics tables. The device itself was far from simple. It used 17468 vacuum tubes, over 1500 relays, and hundreds of thousands of resistors, capacitors, and inductors. It also consumed almost 200 kilowatts of electrical power.
However, it did its job. It calculated in minutes the complex formulas needed for firing and bombing tables. It used to take days to do the same thing by geeks with slide rules.
The computer, as the device was called, was named ENIAC. It stood for electronic numerical integrator and computer. It was the first large-scale thinking machine ever produced, and to say it spawned a revolution would be a monumental understatement.
Today’s FamilyFirst site is called John W. Mauchly and the Development of the ENIAC Computer. Mauchly, a student of Penn University, was one of the foremost minds behind the computer’s design and implementation. Penn, justifiably proud of its alumnus, has created today’s site, a tribute to the man and the machine.
Mauchly, already a PhD when he signed up for Penn’s Moore School of Electrical Engineering, possessed one of the keenest scientific minds of the twentieth century. That mind went to work solving the huge problems involved in creating a massive calculation machine.
The rest, as they say, was history.
The site has lots of old photos of ENIAC, its blueprints, hand-drawn notes, and other fun nerdy stuff. Perhaps the next time you power up your fast, cheap PC, you’ll give a little thought to Mauchly and company and their amazing accomplishment.
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