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The Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer
John William Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert are the scientists
credited with the invention of the Electronic Numerical Integrator
And Computer (ENIAC), the first general-purpose electronic
digital computer, completed in 1946.
Mauchly was born August 30, 1907 in Cincinnati, Ohio. His
father was a physicist at the Carnegie Institute of Washington,
D.C., and perhaps influenced by him, young Mauchly became
adept in the sciences. This earned him the Engineering Scholarship
of the State of Maryland, which enabled him to enroll at Johns
Hopkins University in the fall of 1925 as an undergraduate
in the Electrical Engineering program. In 1927 he enrolled
directly in a Ph.D. program there and transferred to the graduate
physics program of the university. He completed his Ph.D.
in 1932 and became a professor of physics at Ursinus College
J. Presper Eckert Jr. was born April 9, 1919 in Philadelphia.
In 1937 he entered the Moore School of Electrical Engineering
at the University of Pennsylvania and graduated in 1941. Afterwards
he was given a post as an instructor at the Moore School.
Meanwhile, in 1941, Mauchly had become a student there in
a new program designed to educate students on defense technology.
Eckert was one of his teachers.
Mauchly had in recent years become interested in electronic
calculating machines. At the Moore School he gained a better
understanding of electronic engineering and the mathematics
of ballistics computations. He and Eckert discussed the possibility
of building a large electronic computer. In 1942 Mauchly drafted
a memo outlining the first large-scale digital electronic
computer designed for general numerical computations. An official
proposal was submitted in April of 1943, and the U.S. Army
provided a grant for "Project PX," which Mauchly and Eckert
The ENIAC was borne out of a combination of many different
design ideas. Mauchly, who was responsible for much of the
overall design, is said to have been influenced by the work
of Iowa State College professor John V. Atanasoff, who had
designed and built an electronic computing device between
1937 and 1942 with a graduate student, Clifford Berry. Eckert
was the main project engineer for ENIAC. He overcame many
difficult technical challenges in getting it to work.
The ENIAC was unveiled to the public on February 14, 1946.
Though it had been funded as a technology that might help
the war effort, the war was, of course, over by that time.
ENIAC was nevertheless employed the military to do calculations
for the design of a hydrogen bomb, weather prediction, cosmic-ray
studies, thermal ignition, random-number studies and wind-tunnel
design. It was built of 17,468 electronic vacuum tubes and
weighed more than 60,000 lbs.-at the time it was the largest
single electronic apparatus in the world. The system could
perform 5,000 additions and 300 multiplications per second-slow
by today's standards (microprocessors now perform 100 million
additions per second) but 1,000 times faster than any existing
machines. It was also highly reliable. It marked the beginning
of a long road of computer technology development.
Mauchly and Eckert resigned from the Moore School shortly
after the public announcement of the ENIAC and formed the
Electronic Controls Company. Eckert assumed the task of designing
a new computer system, while Mauchly conducted research into
the possible uses for electronic computers. They began designing
an electronic computing system for their first client-the
U.S. Census Bureau-and became the Eckert-Mauchly Computer
Corporation in December, 1948. In 1949, their company launched
the BINAC (BINary Automatic) computer, which used magnetic
tape to store data. They sold their company to Remington Rand
in February of 1950, and it became the Univac Division of
Remington Rand. Their research resulted in the UNIVAC (UNIVersal
Automatic Computer). The first UNIVAC computer was delivered
to the Census Bureau in June 1951.
In 1955, Remington Rand merged with the Sperry Corporation
and formed Sperry-Rand. Eckert remained with the company as
an executive and continued with the company as it later merged
with the Burroughs Corporation to become Unisys. He retired
in 1989. Mauchly, meanwhile, left Rand Computing in 1959 to
set up his own consulting firm, Mauchly Associates, and later,
in the 1960s, Dynatrend.
Eckert and Mauchly were recognized with numerous honors and
awards for their work, having both received the U.S. National
Medal of Science in 1969 and the IEEE Computer Society Pioneer
Award in 1980. Mauchly died in 1980. Eckert passed away in