Happy 75th birthday ENIAC!

75 years ago today, the ENIAC, the first electronic computer was revealed to the public

It was designed by John Mauchly, a physicist and J. Presper Eckert, a mechanical engineer. The programs it ran were coded & implemented by a team of six mathematicians, Kathleen Antonelli, Jean Jennings, Betty Snyder, Marlyn Wescoff, Frances Bilas and Ruth Lichterman

During its initial reveal, the team worried that no one would know what the hell they were looking at (reasonably, considering that up until now a ‘computer’ was a person who specialized in mathematical calculations) so they stuck a whole bunch of flashing lights on the front

John’s original dream for the ENIAC was weather prediction, but it being the middle of WWII, the only way he and Presper could get funding was through a military contract—the computer was primarily used to calculate ballistic firing tables

The six programmers were all pulled from a pool of “calculators,” women who were calculating firing tables by hand. These calculations were tremendously complex, accounting for windspeed (in two directions), drag, the curvature of the earth, etc.

The ENIAC’s main design flaw was its lack of memory — it could store about 20 10 digit numbers *total* in its initial design

The ENIAC’s main operational flaw was the radio tubes, which couldn’t be built to the specifications the ENIAC required so they burned out constantly. The longest continuous run without a failure in the ENIAC’s entire operational span was just under 5 days

Still despite these flaws, the ENIAC was still completely revolutionary, proving the viability of general purpose computers & computer programming

"""in 1949 the ENIAC, the first electronic computer, was used to compute π to over 2000 digits. The end result was a paper “The ENIAC’s 1949 Determination of π,”

#retrocomputing #eniac


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