First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC

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The First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC (commonly shortened to First Draft) was an incomplete 101-page document written by John von Neumann and distributed on June 30, 1945 by Herman Goldstine, security officer on the classified ENIAC project. It contains the first published description of the logical design of a computer using the stored-program concept, which has controversially come to be known as the von Neumann architecture.


The title page of the report[1] reads:

First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC

by John von Neumann,
Contract No. W-670-ORD-4926,
Between the United States Army Ordinance Department
and the University of Pennsylvania Moore School of Electrical Engineering
University of Pennsylvania
June 30, 1945

Von Neumann wrote the report by hand while commuting by train to Los Alamos, New Mexico and mailed the handwritten notes back to Philadelphia. Goldstine had the report typed and duplicated. While the date on the typed report is June 30, 24 copies of the First Draft were distributed to persons closely connected with the EDVAC project five days earlier on June 25. Interest in the report caused it to be sent all over the world; Maurice Wilkes of Cambridge University cited his excitement over the report's content as the impetus for his decision to travel to the United States for the Moore School Lectures in Summer 1946.


The treatment of the preliminary report as a publication (in the legal sense) was the source of bitter acrimony between factions of the EDVAC design team for two reasons.[2] First, publication amounted to a public disclosure that prevented the EDVAC from being patented; second, some on the EDVAC design team contended that the stored-program concept had evolved out of meetings at the University of Pennsylvania's Moore School of Electrical Engineering predating von Neumann's activity as a consultant there, and that much of the work represented in the First Draft was no more than a translation of the discussed concepts into the language of formal logic in which von Neumann was fluent. Hence, failure of von Neumann and Goldstine to list others as authors on the First Draft led credit to be attributed to von Neumann alone. (See Matthew effect.)


  1. ^ von Neumann, John (1945), First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC, retrieved August 24, 2011 
  2. ^ Moye, William T. (January 1996), ENIAC: The Army-Sponsored Revolution, United States Army Research Laboratory, retrieved 2012-11-26 


  • Stern, Nancy (1981). From ENIAC to UNIVAC, An appraisal of the Eckert-Mauchly Computers. Bedford, Massachusetts: Digital Press. ISBN 0-932376-14-2. 

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