|ENIAC has been listed as a level-4 vital article in Technology. If you can improve it, please do. This article has been rated as B-Class.|
|This article is of interest to the following WikiProjects:|
|A fact from this article was featured on Wikipedia's Main Page in the On this day... section on July 29, 2004, July 29, 2005, July 29, 2006, July 29, 2007, July 29, 2008, July 29, 2009, July 29, 2010, and July 29, 2012.|
- 1 Worlds First?
- 2 Contents-at-top
- 3 ENIAC designed and used to be Turing-complete?
- 4 The Women who Programmed ENIAC
- 5 First para rephrase
- 6 Tube failures
- 7 Added hidden suggestion
- 8 Comparison?
- 9 History
- 10 Intro again
- 11 false information?
- 12 Reference required
- 13 Image caption vandalsim?
- 14 When was ENIAC first shown to work?
- 15 Comparison table
- 16 Honeywell v. Sperry Rand Ruling summary
- 17 "Rewiring to reprogram" vs. Turing-completeness of ENIAC?
- 18 Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator?
- 19 Court case
- 20 Picture
- 21 Z3 part of war effort?
- 22 Speed
- 23 Architecture!
- 24 Turing completeness
- 25 Programmability and von Neumann
- 26 The Story Interview
- 27 First sentence claims
- 28 Coders or Programmers
- 29 Programming
- 30 Size and Reliability
- 31 Colossus computer a few months earlier than ENIAC
- 32 ...and Calculator, or ... and Computer
- 33 Tube failures again
- 34 Mention of hydrogen bomb belongs in lead?
- 35 Inexact information?
- 36 Lack of Information
- 37 Error in caption?
- 38 Programming (first 2 paragraphs)
- 39 Glen Beck in picture
- 40 Not A Computer
- The ten British Colossus computers (used for cryptanalysis starting in 1943) were designed by Tommy Flowers. The Colossus computers were digital, electronic, and were programmed by plugboard and switches, but they were dedicated to code breaking and not general purpose.Wa3frp (talk) 21:14, 28 October 2012 (UTC)
- I think it's probably the case that the dedication to code breaking wasn't so much a technical fact, as simply being the purpose for which they were built. They didn't do other things because that wasn't what the British government was paying that department to do.Brianetta Brian Ronald, UK. Talk here 10:53, 11 February 2013 (UTC)
Agreed. This article wants to describe ENIAC as the first electronic computer (which is how it was described when launched in 1946) but it was by no means the first and the technology was not invented or developed by the ENIAC builders, rather coped from the British colossus thanks to a deal done over atomic technology. I think the problem is that colossus was a secret for 40 years so the lie of ENIAC being the first was told so often that it has become the truth in some peoples minds. Colossus was kept secret because the Russians were re-using captured German encoding machines and the British continued to intercept and decipher Russian communications until the 60s. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 18.104.22.168 (talk) 23:57, 14 October 2013 (UTC)
- Even the Colossus was not the first electronic computer, as the Berry-Atanasoff computer had been built and tested over a year before the Colossus. It is true though that the Colossus was programmable, but only partially so, and was designed for a very specific task. The ENIAC was the first 'fully' programmable electronic computer. the article is accurate in describing as the first 'general use' computer.
I believe there is some controversy wether the ENIAC was a full-featured computer or just a powerful calculator. Who knows more about it ?
I believe the Atanasoff-Berry people sued in court and won for the title of first electronic computer Vera Cruz
- It was a full computer, but very primitive by our standards. It was even the machine that first implemented "branching" of the program based on tests performed on its data (as program and data were both coded as pulse streams all that was needed to implement this feature was to connect an output data pulse stream from one unit into a program input of another unit, this idea was much less obvious to implement on earlier calculators that represented program and data entirely differently). --- RTC 22:43 Jan 10, 2003 (UTC)
- Actually it was Honeywell that brought the lawsuit and it was not for title of first electronic computer, it was to break the Univac computer patent by proving it was derived from prior art and thus not a valid patent. --- RTC 22:43 Jan 10, 2003 (UTC)
I seem to remember an actual lawsuit over which was the first electronic computer, and ENIAC lost. Vera Cruz
- Yes, but it was a patent suit over deritive work from prior art not over the title of first of anything. The major difference however that ENIAC did have that the Atanasoff-Berry machine did not was that ENIAC was programable. --- RTC 22:50 Jan 10, 2003 (UTC)
So is ENIAC the first electronic computer or not? Cuz I remember a lawsuit that settled that question... Vera Cruz
- No. But it was the first programable electronic digital computer. --- RTC 22:53 Jan 10, 2003 (UTC)
- (at least in the US, I believe the British Colossus actually beat in on that title, but that was a special purpose machine and remaind classified until about 1970. Lets call ENIAC the first general purpose programmable electronic digital computer. --- RTC 22:56 Jan 10, 2003 (UTC)
- "first general purpose programmable electronic digital computer" --- man that is a long title :-) RTC 22:58 Jan 10, 2003 (UTC)
- So? You can have "biggest little town in the state:. :) Tannin
The we also have "first general purpose freely programmable electronic digital computer" ;-) // ~~¨
The Colossus was programmable and general... "Colossus was the world's first electronic digital programmable computer. It used a large number of valves (vacuum tubes). It had paper-tape input and was capable of being configured to perform a variety of boolean logical operations on its data, but it was not Turing-complete."Chrisp7 22:58 May 30, 2014 (UTC)
- It was not 'general' in that its programmable capabilities were very limited, and was designed for specific task, whereas the ENIAC was not.
ENIAC designed and used to be Turing-complete?
Someone wrote: "ENIAC also differed from earlier calculating devices in that it was designed and used to be Turing-complete — that is, a truly universal computing device". What is the evidence for this claim? ENIAC was meant to solve differential equations etc., and to my knowledge its builders were not interested in Turing-completeness, although maybe they got it as a by-product. Are there any documents supporting this statement? Z3 16:33, 22 Mar 2004 (UTC)
- The issue is not documenting the statement, but tuning it to say what it surely intends. The point of the Turing-machine model is that it takes almost nothing to be Turing complete, but that near-nothing is the important distinction between a calculator and a fully programmable device. Yes, they cared about it: they were responsible engineers who knew of Turing's work, and they would not consider a programmable device short of T-C one, unless they already knew exactly what program they were going to use.
- Numerical approximation, including diff-equ, was a well-researched subject, and they knew they would do a lot of optimizing of algorithms. T-C is not all that they would have considered bcz efficiency of computation is also crucial, but they absolutely wanted to know they weren't going to get bitten from behind when they tried to tune the thing up, by the one thing they knew how to guarantee: every flow of control is possible, even if not efficient. If this is not clear, it's a sign of the need for an article on something like Foundations of engineering design. --Jerzy(t) 20:14, 2004 Mar 22 (UTC)
- Well, the reason why I am bringing this up: Konrad Zuse's earlier Z3 also was Turing-equivalent, but back then Zuse and others didn't care and didn't even know; they just wanted to be able to program their machines for the typical engineering applications of that era. None of these old machines had enough storage to exploit Turing completeness, as suggested by the current version of the ENIAC article. As far as I know, none of them was used to implement compilers translating one language into another (language independence is the central aspect of Turing completeness). I guess one should delete this. Z3 09:31, 23 Mar 2004 (UTC)
The sign at the Eniac museum at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering states that Eniac was the world's first "Electronic Large-Scale, General-Purpose Digital Computer", and I believe that all the qualifiers are necessary to make the statement true. Colossus was an electronic, large-scale digital computer, but not general-purpose. The Z3 was a large-scale general-purpose digital computer, but not electronic. The Atanasoff-Berry device was an electronic digital computer, but was not general-purpose, and perhaps not large-scale. I cannot think offhand of an electronic large-scale general-purpose non-digital computer. -- Dominus 14:44, 4 Jun 2004 (UTC)
- ENIAC was general-purpose, but not [Turing complete]. This is because no finite computational device meets that standard. Lawdroid (talk) 10:16, 1 February 2009 (UTC)
- The above statement limits the term "Turing complete" in a way that (a) is not in line with the term's typical use and (b) renders the term meaningless as applied to practical devices. When the term "Turing complete" is applied to a computing device, it means that a computer would have all the capabilities of a universal Turing machine given infinite memory store. The Turing completeness article covers this. Robert K S (talk) 08:21, 3 February 2009 (UTC).
The Women who Programmed ENIAC
"Two women operating ENIAC" is all we have to say about the women who programmed ENIAC? The source site for the image (http://ftp.arl.mil/ftp/historic-computers/) captions it as follows:
Two women operating the ENIAC's main control panel while the machine was still located at the Moore School. "U.S. Army Photo" from the archives of the ARL Technical Library. Left: Betty Jennings (Mrs. Bryant) Right: Frances Bilas (Mrs. Spence)
We should at least mention the two best-known ENIAC programmers, Betty (Snyder) Holberton and Jean (Jennings) Bartik.
Betty Holberton http://www.livewirecom.com/columns/97.05.html
The front lines: History of software begins with the work of some brainy women Petzinger, Thomas Jr; The Wall Street Journal; Nov 15, 1996; B1; http://www.haven.org/~dkap/writings/History_of_computers (wsj.com confirms that an article with this title and author was published, but they don't post archive full-text online)
--Rob* 06:05, 20 July 2005 (UTC)
Check out "The Women of ENIAC" in IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, 18:13-28 (1996), and also http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,3711,00.html and http://www.witi.com/center/witimuseum/halloffame/1997/eniac.php.
The six women who did most of the actual programming of ENIAC were inducted in 1997 into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame. They were Kathleen McNulty Mauchly Antonelli, Jean Jennings Bartik, Frances Snyder Holberton, Marlyn Wescoff Meltzer, Frances Bilas Spence and Ruth Lichterman Teitelbaum. (These are their married names, from the 1997 induction.)
-- B.Kell, 1 Dec 2005
- I think the most helpful thing to do would be to refer to the ENIAC programmers by their contemporary names, and leave their married names to be elaborated in their individual articles. Otherwise we put ourselves in the position of referring to Kay McNulty as "Kathleen Rita McNulty Mauchly Antonelli," which is a mouthful, or Betty Jean Jennings (who now calls herself Jean Bartik) as something like "Elizabeth Jean Jennings Bartik," which is, in addition to being overlong, also incorrect, as Jean Bartik's birth name was "Betty Jean," not "Elizabeth Jean," contrary to what is printed in one popular source (McCartney). Robert K S 14:55, 2 August 2006 (UTC)
I wonder if the order of the people in the photo is correct. In the New York Times Obituary, Jean Bartik is identified as the person on the right, and Kay McNulty Antonelli as the woman on the left. Which is correct? Alpine Joy (talk) 16:00, 9 April 2011 (UTC)
- The pictures in this article are captioned correctly. Your confusion may stem from an error in the NYT article that was subsequently corrected.  Robert K S (talk) 02:39, 10 April 2011 (UTC)
First para rephrase
First para is currently confusing: was ENIAC actually the first to fulfill all the qualities in this sentence, or was it first thought to fulfill one set of criteria, and is now known to fulfill a different set? I've had a bash at clarifying, using the article and above discussions. Please correct if I've introduced errors.
ENIAC, short for Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, was long thought to have been the first Turing-complete electronic computer. It is now known to be the first large-scale, electronic, digital computer capable of being reprogrammed to solve a full range of computing problems. Earlier computers included the German Z3, designed in 1941 by Konrad Zuse, and the British Colossus computer of 1944, designed by Tommy Flowers. The Z3 was the world's first general purpose, electro-mechanical computer. It was Turing-complete, fully programmable by tape and used relays for all functions, so was not electronic; Colossus was all-electronic and could be reprogrammed by rewiring, but was not fully general purpose. Until 1948, ENIAC also required rewiring to reprogram. Both ENIAC and Colossus used thermionic valves, that is, vacuum tubes. The confusion as to priority arose because the machines were developed independently as part of each country's war effort in WWII. The Z3 was destroyed by Allied bombing of Berlin in 1944, and although selected US teams were introduced to the Colossus, its existence remained classified until the 1970s.
- Looks good. -- RTC 21:36, 12 February 2006 (UTC)
- I agree that the other stuff should be moved. -- Dominus 22:14, 12 February 2006 (UTC)
The University of Pennsylvania (where it was built and still resides) bills it as the first "large-scale general-purpose electronic digital computer", which I believe is correct, although all the qualifiers are needed there. For example, Colossus was a large-scale electronic digital computer, but was not general-purpose; Z3 was a general-purpose digital computer, but was not electronic; an so forth. -- Dominus
- OK, I've done the changes in two steps. The first drops the above § in for the intro, the second rearranges the material to make the intro more about ENIAC, less about other machines. If the result isn't satisfactory, pls feel free to revert to step 1. Thanks for watching over these changes :-) JackyR 01:02, 13 February 2006 (UTC)
The article states:
- Some electronics experts predicted that tube failures would occur so frequently that the machine would never be useful. This prediction turned out to be partially correct: several tubes burned out almost every day, leaving it nonfunctional about half the time. (According to a 1989 interview with Eckert the continuously failing tubes story was a myth: "We had a tube fail about every two days and we could locate the problem within 15 minutes.") Special high-reliability tubes were not available until 1948. Most of these failures, however, occurred during the warm-up and cool-down periods, when the tube heaters and cathodes were under the most thermal stress. By the simple (if expensive) expedient of never turning the machine off, the engineers reduced ENIAC's tube failures to the more acceptable rate of one tube every two days. In 1954, the longest continuous period of operation without a failure was 116 hours (close to five days). Given the technology available at the time, this failure rate was remarkably low, and stands as a tribute to the precise engineering of ENIAC.
I have highlighted both Eckert's recalled failure rate and the rate previously in the article (before the addition of the Eckert comment) and they look identical to me. Perhaps Eckert was recalling only the later rate of failure instead of initial problems before the solution of leaving the machine on was discovered... -- RTC 01:10, 15 February 2006 (UTC)
In a television interview, I remember either Eckert or Mauchly admitting they knew about the possibility of poor reliability. To deal with it, they adjusted the design to improve reliability. Most notably, they were very conservative and chose to operate tube filaments considerably lower than their ratings. Can anyone confirm this? Madhu 23:14, 21 March 2006 (UTC)
I have read several times the book Colossus, and think it's interesting to mention that in the use of valves, Tommy Flowers is credited with recognising that the way to keep them running reliably is never to turn them off. I think the book states that it was the warm up and cool down of valves that degraded the metals inside them until they eventually failed; isn't this a bit like light bulbs by the way? Anyhow I don't think this needs mentioning in the main article but just thought I'd slip it in for information that Colossus had addressed the reliability of valves before ENIAC came to the same solution. I also am tickled by the debates over the definition debate to keep ENIAC as a first... I can't actually spot what defines a machine as general purpose, but as far as I can see ENIAC did the ballistic calculations it was created for, then was headhunted to perform atomic calculations; is that what makes it general purpose? I'll re-read the book as I am pretty sure Colossus was reprogrammed to take on different tasks. Hmm. Mungo Shuntbox (talk) 07:31, 29 July 2012 (UTC)
I've added a concealed comment to the sections that mention other computers, because these seem to attract edits that might be more appropriate for those machines' specialist articles. Comment is: "THIS ARTICLE IS ABOUT ENIAC. If you wish to add very detailed material about other computers, please consider adding it to that computer's own article or History of computing hardware. Happy editing!" Hope this doesn't ruffle any feathers - pls remove if it does. Cheers, JackyR 00:18, 17 February 2006 (UTC)
- The idea of the stored-program computer with combined memory for program and data was conceived during the development of the ENIAC, but it was not implemented at that time because World War II priorities required the machine to be completed quickly, and it was realized that 20 storage locations for memory and programs would be much too small.
- Currently, this is under Comparison, but it doesn't do much comparing. I'd be more comfortable if either (a) context were added to compare to the other machines (I can't do ths bit), or (b) the sentence went back into Description. Opinions? JackyR 01:08, 17 February 2006 (UTC)
- Come on guys, the thing about Konrad Zuse's Z3 not being electronic because it used relays is a joke! The only difference between a vaccuum tube and a relay is that one is mechanical and one is solid state. The Z3 is what we would call the first modern day computer, bar none. The Z3 needs to be featured more prominently and explicitly stated in this article that is was the first. JettaMann 16:45, 10 July 2006 (UTC)
- No, this article is about ENIAC. The main material about the Z3 should be under Z3, and the main comparison of the different machines should be under History of computing hardware, as a daughter page if necessary. That article currently needs a little structural work, and a feature-by-feature comparison job of the early machines would be a plus, so if you felt like wading in that would be wonderful. JackyR | Talk 17:49, 10 July 2006 (UTC)
- I agree actually. The comparison section seems fine as it does in fact mention the Z3, which is all that is required. JettaMann 17:25, 27 July 2006 (UTC)
Do we know if ENIAC still exists? What happened to it after the 1950s? Are its pieces in a museum? Pictureuploader 22:11, 7 March 2006 (UTC)
- Several portions still exist. The University of Pennsylvania where it was built has four units operational (the Cycling Unit, the Master Programmer Unit, an accumulator, and one Function Table), the Smithsonian has some of it, the Computer History Museum has one Function Table Panel (on loan from the Smithsonian). -- RTC 07:20, 16 March 2006 (UTC)
- Much of the ENIAC still exists; not all of it has been restored for display, and of the pieces that have been, the Smithsonian is not aware of the locations of all of them. An exhaustive worldwide search for ENIAC components would be a worthwhile endeavor, one which I attempted at one point but proved to be overwhelming. Robert K S 14:39, 2 August 2006 (UTC)
I'm not enthusiastic about having a 1976 work cited in the first § to show ENIAC's form of priority. Gnetwerker, can you tell us exactly what the source claims? Is it pre- or post- the revelations about Colossus? Do the authors know anything about the Z3? As stated further down, a lot of histories of computing were factually wrong because of the secrecy surrounding these projects. Unless this book's authors display accurate knowledge of the other machines, I wouldn't use it for backing up priority claims. Blainster has edited the § so that WP records the priorities correctly: does this now make the book citation false? Please to check, everyone... Cheers, JackyR 00:25, 15 March 2006 (UTC)
- I grabbed that off the bookshelf because it was handy. Of course, 1976 seems recent to me! I can't type in the whole text, but it references the Z3 (noting it was built from telephone relays), talks about the Harvard Mark I and other "electro-mechanical" machines, then says that the ABC was "the earliest known electronic digital computing device", but notes that it was special-purpose, then mentioned ENIAC and EDVAC, noting (pg. 491) "the concept of the large-scale electronic computer is due to ...Eckert and Mauchly". On pg. 540 it says "It (ENIAC) was the first electronic automatic computer". Finally, Engines of the Mind (Shurkin) devotes an entire chapter to the ABC vs. ENIAC controversy, and finally says (pg. 298) "Who invented the modern computer? Eckert and Mauchly."
- This has been discussed at least half to death on the ABC and Computer pages, and I have provided complete references there as well. Shurkin's book is from 1996. The comprehensive sources all say:
- Harvard Mark I and pre-war Zuse machines were "program-controlled calculators"
- Mark I and Z3 were "electro-mechanical";
- ABC was special-purpose, but the first digital electronic computer;
- ENIAC was the first electronic, general-purpose, reprogrammable digital computer.
- The Encyclopedia of Computer Science goes to some trouble to define digital, general-purpose, electronic and automatic in the process of making its definitions. I don't think much has changed since 1976. The ridiculous "first computer" battle (here and elsewhere) is over definitions, not facts. -- Gnetwerker 01:09, 15 March 2006 (UTC)
- P.s. -- The aforementioned Encyclopedia of CS has a full (two column) page and a large photo devoted to Zuse, and mentions the Z1, Z2, Z3, Z4, Z11, Z22, Z23, and Z64 (plotter). -- Gnetwerker 01:13, 15 March 2006 (UTC)
- Many thanks for that. Yes, I'm in no way impugning ENIAC's credentials - but from what you say I'm now pretty sure the ref is not good: could we use Shurkin's 1996 book (or one of the other"comprehensive sources" you mention) as the intro ref instead? The reason being that the Enc of CS clearly has not heard of Colossus and the statement "the concept of the large-scale electronic computer is due to ...Eckert and Mauchly", is now known to be false (unless it adds "in the US": it's manifestly untrue for Britain). Do we really want to refer readers to a book which contains (through no fault of its own) inaccuracies?
- (I didn't pick up on 1976 because of not being recent, but because the first person to break the secrecy about Bletchley Park published in 74, and didn't write much about Colussus anyway. Details of that, and the public realisation that the Manchester and Cambridge teams knew where they were going, came later).
- Sorry to be nit-picky, but given, as you say, the ridiculous squabbling about so-called "first computers", I'm trying to make this article bomb-proof. Cheers for your patience! JackyR 16:09, 15 March 2006 (UTC)
- I should have just removed the Encyclopedia citation when I took out the sentence it was attached to. I did not write the first sentence in the article— it was already there— I just moved it to the front of the paragraph where it originally was. The present description in the article explains the overlapping nature of the various computing inventions better than a lot of outside references do. Each of the above machines could probably be labeled as "first" with the right qualifiers. I will add another new book to the "further reading" list. Electronic Brains not only discusses these machines, but the first Russian computer, an early Australian computer, the British LEO, and an interesting hydraulic computer built at Cambridge. The last chapter of the book tells the tale: "It's not about being first". --Blainster 22:36, 15 March 2006 (UTC)
(De-Indent) You are correct, Enc CS doesn't mention Collosus (didn't know that was in play), but Engines of the Mind (1996) and Computer: A history of the Information Machine both do. I am not an ENIAC zealot, and the latter (Computer) comments that the 1948 Machester computer "established incontrovertibly the feasibility of the stored-program computer" and talks about it leading to EDSAC (1949). Engines gives a little more coverage to COLOSSUS (spelled there in all caps). It says: "By any standards, COLOSSUS was a working electronic computer, perhaps the world's first. The machine was limited because it was designed for a particular function and was virtually useless for anything else." (pg. 143). This is in the same chapter as the Z3 discussion. I would not in any way object to changing or removing the reference, but the important point is that, with deference to the many other "firsts", the ENIAC is the (for lack of a better term) grand-daddy of modern computing, notwithstanding earlier efforts.
Part of the problem is that we have had an ABC activist over on the ABC page, saying things like "binary is the same as digital" and throwing up lots of smoke from the 1973 Mauchly vs. Atanasoff proxy fight (Sperry v. IBM I think). I think all of this is making the collection of early computer pages inconsistent and of lower quality. Perhaps we need a page First Computers that goes into it all in detail. -- Gnetwerker 00:17, 16 March 2006 (UTC)
- Ref changed - I pasted in the Shurkin from ABC (hope OK). Re First computers, actually History of computing hardware ain't bad - and is the natural home for such. But it's not great, either. You're quite right about the inconsistency: a lot of these articles seem to be from different planets - which I guess reflects very accurately the original circumstances of the machines, and their historiographies! What was Wiki born for, if not to make all clear? JackyR 01:00, 16 March 2006 (UTC)
- PS I didn't mention Colossus?! RTQ! ;-) JackyR 01:00, 16 March 2006 (UTC)
- I meant that Colossus wasn't really in the running as "first computer". Was it? -- Gnetwerker 02:00, 16 March 2006 (UTC)
- Isn't that the "historiography" thing again? Colossus wasn't in the running for anything - cos no-one writing the history had heard of it. In technical terms, it seems to be in the same grouping: was reprogrammable but not general purpose, seems to be an earlier use than ENIAC of valves, etc. And I've just checked: someone has made a "first" claim at Tommy Flowers (looks OK). And History of computing hardware#1940s: first electrical digital computers describes it as one of the "first-generation computers", along with the Z3 and ABC.
- Btw: there's also a bit that seems to be missing from all the WP accounts: Tommy Flowers built the Colossus against the wishes of his bosses, who didn't believe a worth-while machine could be made using valves, because of their unreliability when switched on and off. Flowers took out personal loans and built the thing in secret (from early 1943), to present as a fait-accompli. I know this from first big documentary on Bletchley but don't have books so can't add it - if someone has the refs, some work is needed here. But this has nowt to do with ENIAC.
- Why am I a Colossus cheerleader (other than being British)? Because I'm a Tommy Flowers fan: he spent his own money (never fully recompensed) and personal loans to build a machine that had been rubbished by his superiors; shortened the war by, they say, 2 years; dismantled his creation and burnt the plans with his own hands; swore never to speak of the machine's existence; and spent the remainder of his life as an obscure Post Office technician hearing other people credited for "inventing" computers. During the interview for "Station X" (doc), this 90-year-old man was almost in tears describing how he destroyed his machine. Again, I'm on the wrong page for this, but you can see why I bang the drum when histories ask: Was it the ABC or ENIAC?! JackyR 17:33, 16 March 2006 (UTC)
the article says "ENIAC was developed and built by the >U.S. Army< for their Ballistics Research Laboratory,." this is not entirely true, John Mauchly and J Presper Eckert developed the ENIAC. The U.S. military only sponsored their research. look it up.
"As of 2004, a chip of silicon measuring 0.02 inches (0.5 mm) square holds the same capacity as the ENIAC, which occupied a large room." Can this be supported? Colin99 21:59, 26 March 2006 (UTC)
- The "ENIAC-on-a-chip" built by the Moore school in 1997 was 7x5 mm with 175,000 transistors . So the statement can be changed to reflect this unless someone can update it to reflect additional "shrinkage" in the last nine years. --Blainster 19:17, 11 April 2006 (UTC)
"Mauchly had borrowed some ideas from the Atanasoff-Berry Computer." This statement has been challenged in enough places that it demands support. Unless someone can really state, in a simple sentence, one definite "idea" that was borrowed, I suggest we delete this. (hint: "computing with tubes" is not a specific or a stealable idea.)--Zebbie 16:39, 11 April 2006 (UTC)
- The ABC proponents will start quoting to you from the court case that found in favor of Atanasoff. There are a lot of problems with that court case, and with the judge's conclusions, but on its face it does support that statement, despite Mauchly's later denials. -- Gnetwerker 18:54, 11 April 2006 (UTC)
- Here is the relevant section from the judgement, which was never challenged by Univac/Sperry: "3.1.3: Honewell has proved that the claimed subject matter of the ENIAC patent relied on in support of the counterclaim herein is not patentable over the subject matter derived by Mauchly from Atanasoff. As a representative example, Honeywell has shown that the subject matter of detailed claims 88 and 89 of the ENIAC patent corresponds to the work of Atanasoff which was known to Mauchly before any effort pertinent to the ENIAC machine began." – Honeywell Inc. v. Sperry Rand Corp. et al. October 19, 1973. (emphasis added)
- The main idea that Mauchly "borrowed" is the idea of a digital computer. The court showed that Mauchly had no concept of a digital computer prior to seeing the ABC. He had only worked on analog devices up till then, and throughout the years leading up to and through the trial, he was never able to find a witness or provide a document showing that he had broached the concept of digital computing prior to his visit to Iowa in June of 1941. This does not denigrate Mauchly and Eckert's fine work on the ENIAC, which used many concepts distinct from the ABC due to their engineering prowess. --Blainster 19:17, 11 April 2006 (UTC)
- Thanks for the answers, but I can't get behind them. I know what the court said, and it is the judge's inability to articulate a definition of computer that has caused much of the controversy. No doubt you are aware of the lengthy debate at [Computer | Talk] about the definition of computer. In brief, if the judge meant "a digital computing device" then the category includes Babbage, Stibitz, and every IBM tabulator. If the judge meant "a machine designed for manipulating data according to a list of instructions known as a program" (Wikipedia's definition) then Atanasoff's machine does not qualify as a computer.
- I'm looking for the specific definition of a computer feature that originated in the ABC and is found in the ENIAC. For example, "Mauchly had borrowed the idea of using tubes to perform binary addition" or "Mauchly had borrowed the idea of using a series of digital pulses to represent a number" or "manipulating data according to a list of instructions." Something concrete.
- In other words, ignore the judge. With 60 years of hindsight, what important idea was borrowed from the ABC and included in the ENIAC? Is it claim 88? --Zebbie 16:45, 20 April 2006 (UTC)
- I think your question was answered. Without meeting Atanasoff, examining the ABC, and discussing Atanasoff and Berry's invention with them, Mauchly wouldn't have invented ENIAC, at least not as early as he did. Mauchly's own words in a letter to Atanasoff after his June 1941 examination of the ABC: "A number of different ideas have come to me recently anent (regarding) computing circuits, some of which are more or less hybrids, combining your methods with other things, and some of which are nothing like your machine." Ken Estabrook 05:27, 1 July 2007 (UTC)
I was always under the impression that the two had met after Atanasoff approached Mauchly. Why would he locate Mauchly after a lecture and ask him to come look at his machine if Mauchly had not already proposed similar ideas? Why would he suppose Mauchly would have insights into this type of computing if it was not something Mauchly was known to be an authority on, or at the very least interested in? It would be strange to travel to visit another professor, listen to his lecture, and then ask his advice on a topic that you have no reason to believe he could help with. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Lusid42 (talk • contribs) 20:11, 23 October 2007 (UTC)
The image caption reads "Two women about to get boned by the ENIAC" - is this some term I am not aware of, or is it somebody trying to be funny?? - User:Dawidl
I thought that, but checking the history shows it was vandalism, I've reverted the page. 22.214.171.124 15:10, 9 May 2006 (UTC)
When was ENIAC first shown to work?
I came to this article hoping to find out when ENIAC was first working but I'm confused by the intro. Can someone help clarify this?
First it says ENIAC was built by the Army in 1942. (Does that mean it was working then?) Then it says it was commissioned in 1943. (There's a link from "commissioned" to the explanation of the meaning of "putting a ship into service". But does this mean it was put into service; or is it the other meaning of "commissioned", that an order was placed?) Then it says it was constructed by Penn's Moore School of Electrical Engineering from mid-1944. (Does this mean it was working in 1944?) Then the intro says it was "unveiled" in 1946. (Does this mean it was working for the first time in 1946?)
- Some errors recently crept into the article. ENIAC was built for the Army by engineers at the Moore School of the University of Pennsylvania. The 1942 date was incorrect. The article should have said that the project was approved for construction in mid-1943. Design work took about a year, and the computer was built over 18 months from mid-1944 to the end of 1945. Final assembly was undertaken in the fall of 1945. For example, the divider and square root modules were installed in October 1945. Parts of it were working prior to that, but you could say the full machine was not functional until the last couple of months of 1945, with formal acceptance at the February 1946 public event. --Blainster 10:46, 7 June 2006 (UTC)
Incidentally, the "February 1946 public event" Blainster references above took place on February 15, not 14 as cited by McCartney and possibly several other secondary sources. Primary sources, such as the event invitation, show that nothing was scheduled for the 14th.Robert K S 15:48, 2 August 2006 (UTC) I've revised my thinking on this since my remark (stricken, above). The formal dedication was certainly the 15th but there may have been a demonstration event on the 14th, since that is the date remembered by the women computers, according to Kathy Kleiman, who extensively researched and compiled their stories. To my knowledge, no written evidence of an event scheduled for the 14th has surfaced, but I would be interested in it should someone come across a written schedule of dedication events. Robert K S 20:29, 23 October 2007 (UTC)
The issue of when ENIAC was first shown to work was an important one in Honeywell v. Sperry Rand, and Judge Larson made findings on this matter (see especially 1.1.3). At this point I cannot find any contemporary or primary source which supports a Feb. 14th unveiling date. Rather, Feb. 14, 1946 was the date on which ENIAC's programmers worked frantically to get all of the bugs out of the system for the public dedication the following day. The program for the unveiling, which was entered into evidence in the patent case and is therefore available in the microfilm record, shows that the date was February 15. The judge found no disclosure activity took place on February 14th. Robert K S (talk) 16:04, 31 January 2011 (UTC)
- Here is a New York Times article indicating that the machine was "announced" on the evening of February 14, 1946, even though the formal dedication and public demonstration was not until the following day. Robert K S (talk) 16:29, 31 January 2011 (UTC)
Table is great: it should also be at History of computing hardware, where this subject should be expanded on (any volunteers?). But please don't try to simplify ENIAC's particular "first" claim - you end up with a statement that is untrue. (It's not true, for example, that ENIAC "combined for the first time both high-speed and rudimentary programmability", as the Colossus was both of these and was fully functional earlier.) JackyR | Talk 22:36, 30 July 2006 (UTC)
- The simplest claim of priority would be "first general-purpose electronic digital computer," a designation agreed upon by Arthur and Alice Burks. Robert K S 15:50, 2 August 2006 (UTC)
- Nice to see the table to make comparison easier. As I mentioned on Talk:Computer#Comparable_dates I think the dates need to be made as comparable as possible. In particular, the ABC date of 1937-42 makes it look much earlier than the detailed information suggests it actually was. Making the date column heading more specific as "Shown working" would, I think, put the ABC date at around 1941. Including 1937, when it was only at the concept stage, doesn't look comparable to the other dates - concept dates for the other computers are earlier.
- I think it would also be nice to have a column saying what each of these machines was first to do. They are all tremendous achievements and it would be good to say in two or three words what "first" each one achieved. Adrian Robson 10:14, 3 August 2006 (UTC)
- Currently we're using the "first" designation used at the Moore School (#ENIAC designed and used to be Turing-complete? above). I'd be inclined to stick with that, as it's very specific. I believe "general purpose" is actually shorthand for "theoretically Turing-complete", rather than "could in practice be used for any purpose" (pls correct me if I've got that wrong): so let's use the technical designation rather than the potentially misleading shorthand.
- I'd also not be keen on a "first in what" column, as it gives the impression of single track progress, whereas early computers experimented with a range of solutions, some of which were later abandoned (eg ENIAC's use of decimal rather than binary puts it). And to put ENIAC's "first" in context, one would have to include EDVAC, EDSAC and LEO - really beyond the scope of the ENIAC page but very proper for the History of computing hardware.
- Overall, the purpose of these pages on Wikipedia is to give a thorough, neutral-as-possible view of the different machines in the history of computing, and any inter-relations, whereas the purpose of some of the source material may be to champion a particular machine and prove it was somehow the "best". JackyR | Talk 14:08, 3 August 2006 (UTC)
- Jacky, thanks for this clarification on your interpretation of "general-purpose." I can see how it may be more ambiguous than the terms currently being used. Robert K S 15:19, 3 August 2006 (UTC)
Honeywell v. Sperry Rand Ruling summary
"...voided the 1964 ENIAC patent as derivative of John Atanasoff's ABC Computer."
Other than the (double!) redundancy at the end of this remark, it is misleading as it is a simplification of the ruling, omitting what were actually numerous reasons cited for the invalidation of the ENIAC patent (among several other Eckert-Mauchly patents). If Blainster does not object, I will reword. Robert K S 14:34, 2 August 2006 (UTC)
- The phrase could be improved. I'm OK with "John Atanasoff's computer" or the "Atanasoff Berry Computer" instead of the the "ABC Computer". Just saying "Atanasoff's ABC" leaves the reader in a quandry. But the intro paragragh should be kept very simple. The details are present in the articles on Mauchly and Atanasoff, where they are more appropriate. We should just mention the patent problem and link to details in other articles. --Blainster 18:20, 3 August 2006 (UTC)
- I agree. As-is, the wording is not controversy-neutral, which the article should try to be. Ultimately, perhaps, there should be a Honeywell v. Sperry Rand page and any article will just be able to link to it with a minimum of explication and be done with it. Any further duking out over the interpretations of the ruling can be done there. Robert K S 18:59, 3 August 2006 (UTC)
Your recent wording is fine on its own, except that it eliminated the WP internal links to existing discussion of the court case (eliminating the external link from an introductory par. is a good move, though). That prevents a reader from learning more about it. We should either redirect the redlink to an existing article, create the caselaw article, or otherwise link to the WP info about it. --Blainster 22:19, 3 August 2006 (UTC)
- Caselaw article created. Please feel free to improve it. I hope additions and corrections will make the article more neutral rather than less neutral. It is not my intention to have created a place for controversy to blossom into vandalism, reverts, airing of unsubstantiated claims, etc. Robert K S 08:51, 5 August 2006 (UTC)
"Rewiring to reprogram" vs. Turing-completeness of ENIAC?
Until 1948, ENIAC required rewiring to reprogram, like the Colossus.
How does this "rewiring to reprogram" relate to the Turing-completeness of ENIAC? Unfortunately, I can't find any information about this in the article, except that the comparison table says "yes". - Was this proven by anyone, like the Turing-completeness of the Z3? Without Turing-completeness you can hardly speak of a true general purpose computer. MikeZ 08:41, 13 August 2006 (UTC)
- This thought occurred to me too when I read the article, so I was happy to find the question already raised here. However I don't believe it is problematic if understood as follows. A Turing machine U is universal when there exists a convention for encoding any Turing machine T as a word e(T) such that for any Turing machine T, when U is started on a tape containing e(T) followed by w, U halts if and only if T halts when started on a tape containing w, and if U halts it leaves the tape in the same configuration T would have left it in when it halted. (So U's task ostensibly is to decode e(T), run T on w, and if T halts clean up all the tape except for T's output.) Universal Turing machines exist, however most Turing machines are not universal in that sense: their finite state control is typically "prewired" to perform some more particular task. Now if it is possible to rewire the ENIAC with a program for reading a list of tuples describing a Turing machine and then emulating that machine, the ENIAC with that rewiring would be as universal as a universal Turing machine. Thus if we understand the ENIAC as a class of computers, and a particular wiring of the ENIAC as making it a particular computer, it is fair to say that the ENIAC is as universal as a Turing machine. From that perspective one can no more say that all rewirings of the ENIAC are universal than that all Turing machines are universal. The crucial distinction from the Colossus is that while the ENIAC was designed to be rewired by its users as a normal part of its operation, the corresponding rewiring of the Colossus would have to be done "at the factory" with a soldering iron and additional vacuum tubes. If you could claim that the Colossus was programmable in that sense, you could equally well call a sedan a convertible because one can saw off the roof. If the user of the ENIAC can program it to read Turing machine tuples, the ENIAC is as universal as the Turing machine. --Vaughan Pratt (talk) 20:29, 26 March 2008 (UTC)
Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator?
There have been several attempts today to alter the acronym expansion in the first paragraph of the article, replacing "..and Computer" with "...and Calculator." I'm not sure if this is out of a desire to denigrate the ENIAC, placing it in a lower status than later stored-program machines, or if the editor came across this expansion in bona fide contemporary sources (of which I'm sure several examples exist); in either case, it is assuredly incorrect. The earliest documents refer to the machine as "...and Computer," or in some cases, "...and Computor," which seems to be a misspelling preferred by Mauchly, and the one that made it onto the plaque affixed to the ENIAC, a fact that I don't think bears mentioning in the article proper. In hopes of remedying the vandalism I have added a footnote reference to the Goldstine book. While Goldstine was wrong about several things, on this matter he should be considered authoritative, as he was present at the BRL meeting that proposed the machine and had a clear memory of the device's name (whether or not it originated with Col. Gillon). Robert K S 02:23, 16 August 2006 (UTC)
- Someone tried this again today. I checked the cited reference (Goldstine, Herman H. (1972). The Computer: from Pascal to von Neumann. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-02367-0.), which unvaryingly uses "computer". For example, "At this meeting, Gillon named the proposed machine the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer and gave it the acronym ENIAC." (Page 150). Goldstine also cites many earlier documents that all use "computer". For example, Goldstine, H.H; Goldstine, Adele (1946). "The Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC)". Mathematical Tables and Other Aids to Computation II. pp. 97–110.. —Mark Dominus (talk) 14:23, 1 July 2010 (UTC)
I believe a section should be added highlighting the court case and the fact that for a significant period of history, it was believed to be the first modern computer. The related section on the Atanasoff–Berry Computer#Controversy page would do for a simple copy and paste job! Would a Controversy section do the trick? 126.96.36.199 05:01, 2 September 2006 (UTC)
- An entire article discusses this (linked in the third paragraph of this article). Please see Honeywell v. Sperry Rand. --Blainster 22:25, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
Not my turf, guys, but maybe you could be interested in this picture:
Randroide 17:44, 2 December 2006 (UTC)
- Yep, fun picture, more relevant to a discussion of the evolution of computer hardware than the ENIAC itself. Robert K S 00:14, 3 December 2006 (UTC)
Z3 part of war effort?
The article says: "The Z3, Colossus and ENIAC were developed independently and in secret as part of each country's war effort in World War II. The Z3 was destroyed by Allied bombing of Berlin in 1944.... For these reasons, histories of computing formerly mentioned only ENIAC and the Harvard Mark I from this period."
Certainly Colossus was part of the war effort but is this true for the Z3? The Z3 article is rather sparse and doesn't mention it. But the Konrad Zuse article says: "Zuse never received the official support that computer pioneers in Allied countries, such as Alan Turing, managed to get. The telephone relays used in his machines were largely collected from discarded stock. A request by his co-worker Helmut Schreyer to the war-time government for federal funding for an electronic successor to the Z3 was denied as 'strategically unimportant'."
Does anyone know which article is correct? Was the Z3 part of the war effort or not? As for "histories of computing (mentioning) only ENIAC and the Harvard Mark I", maybe this statement is just based on English language histories. Is it certain that German language histories of computing mentioned only ENIAC and the Harvard Mark I? Adrian Robson 09:46, 4 December 2006 (UTC)
- That information is in the third paragraph of the description. The ENIAC machine cycle speed cannot be compared directly to modern CPU clock cycles because (for the problems it was designed to run) it was so much more parallel than today's typical architectures. Possibly the closest comparison would be to the Cell microprocessor found in the PlayStation 3, which uses a master Power Processor Element to control, in parallel, its eight Synergistic Processor Elements, which is broadly analogous to the way the ENIAC's master control panel could control its many accumulators, high-speed multiplier, divider/square-rooter, etc. Robert K S 21:00, 14 January 2007 (UTC)
The one thing this article lacks is a description of how ENIAC actually worked. A fetishistic listing of its size, weight, number of valves and panoply of functional units does not tell you this. Rather, you need to know about how the bits fitted together, and how they were configured and controlled. This is difficult, because ENIAC is so different from modern post- Baby computers, but it has to be done. This is absolutely crucial to understanding ENIAC's place as a transitional form between things like differential analysers and the modern concept of a computer, and deciding whether you think it was truly a programmable machine: before von Neumann's 1948 modifications, there was no stored program, but rather an implicit program embodied in the way the largely autonomous functional units were cabled together.
The only good account of ENIAC's architecture written for modern readers that i've found is in a paper by Atsushi Akera:
Exploring the architecture of an early machine: the historical relevance of the Eniac machine architecture - A. Akera, M. Marcus (1996); IEEE Annals of the History of Computing 18(1):17
Which is sadly behind a subscription wall. I've read it, but still don't understand it well enough to be able to write a good description of the architecture. Does anyone fancy doing this? Pleeeeeease?
-- Tom Anderson 2007-07-17 21:50 +0100
- Re: "But it has to be done"--such a functional description of the ENIAC, any more than one or two paragraphs (which I think would be insufficient for the type of description you seek), is quite beyond the scope of this article. The 1981 Burks & Burks article for the Annals is well over a hundred pages and barely scratches the surface in this regard. Those looking for information about how the ENIAC worked would be advised to seek more complete, more authoritative sources than a Wikipedia article. It is enough for this article to say what the computer was, what function it served, who built it, and some of the particulars of its technological and political history. In other words, its significance to the history of computing as a whole. (In the details of its implementation, it lends little to that history, as virtually everything about its logical and electronic design was quickly superseded.) Robert K S 03:39, 11 November 2007 (UTC)
An uncommon perspective on origins of the ENIAC's architecture
From reading in past years, I rather vividly recall how lots of Friden four-function desktop calculators (Perhaps model STWs, or possibly STs) were operated by women. Despite their best efforts (and I do believe they were quite conscientious), the whole operation went awfully slowly. Apparently there were many stages of computation, and the results read from the calculator carriage dials had to be transcribed and manually entered into other calculators designated to handle a later stage of the problem. Earlier in my life, I learned about details of the Friden mechanical line, and have had a sustained (but waning!) interest in mechanical calculators. As well, I have been relatively well informed about electronics, having once seen schematics of the ENIAC decimal accumulators (probably in the IEEE Annals / Hist. / Computing). Most of my lifetime work was as an electronic technician.
What seems quite evident, although I have never read this idea explicitly, was that a major bottleneck in the slowness of the bank-of-calculators effort was the time required to transfer the contents of one calculator's result dials to another calculator's keyboard to be used for a calculation.
I strongly suspect that the basic concept of ENIAC was to "simulate" ten places of the Friden 20-place result (accumulator) dials, or the 10-place quotient dials. This was done by the 10-digit decimal accumulators. Cables interconnected the ENIAC accumulators, tremendously speeding up transfer of intermediate results. As well, Fridens were limited to 10 operations per second; even the wondrously ingenious and sophisticated Marchants operated at only 1300 cycles per minute. As well, entering numbers manually took seconds per calculation.
It seems to me that the ENIAC designers wanted to interconnect the decimal accumulators via pluggable cables, with the specific arrangement depending upon the problem to be solved. As well, calculation speed was hardly a trivial enhancement, in particular for mult., division, and square root. (Was the Friden SRW, which did square root, developed to assist in ballistics calculations? Would be interesting to know!) (The SRW used the division mechanism, with a quite-modest increase in complexity of the total machine, perhaps 10% or so. Think of it as a division operation, but with a constantly-increasing number in the keyboard.)
After WW II, (almost certain), Friden sold Computypers, business/accounting machines with Flexowriter input and output. Those were via paper tape or edge-punched cards, the latter using paper tape standards, as well as keyboard and typed documents. Inside the machine was an STW mechanism with solenoids operating the keystems and rotary switches on the shafts of the result dials -- it had electrical input, output, and commands. It's just possible that the electrical I/O had its origins in trying to speed up the earlier partly-human effort. (Of course, the actual computations were no faster in the Computyper than in a desktop calculator.)
Regards, Nikevich 10:08, 6 December 2012 (UTC)
- What a fascinting speculation. But are there any souces that can be cited to provide evidence?--TedColes (talk) 10:25, 6 December 2012 (UTC)
I have a few questions (please give references when answering):
- Was the ENIAC designed to be Turing complete?
- If not, which was the first machine designed to be Turing complete?
- When was it first shown that the ENIAC was Turing complete?
Thanks, --Phrood 13:08, 14 September 2007 (UTC)
Programmability and von Neumann
The third paragraph in this section is largely wrong. Von Neumann never intended to take credit for himself, and it was well known by Eckert and Mauchly that he was writing a report. They gave him the go ahead. It was a draft and was released prematurely by the Moore school (Goldstine specifically) because of the large amount of doubt in other academics that the project would succeed. Having such an influential man behind it added a lot of credibilty. This section cites no sources, and needs to be edited drastically. Sadly I have no time at the moment.
See Mauchly, "Amending the EDVAC story" for verification of the above. Stuk 20:08, 10 November 2007 (UTC)
- Well, I've tried to pare down some of the unsourced "POV"-y material. Feel free to take another stab at it/provide sourcing. Robert K S 01:52, 11 November 2007 (UTC)
The Story recently interviewed Mrs. Bartik, and may provide some additional information or references for this article. Jouster (whisper) 18:43, 16 January 2008 (UTC) This post restored after vandalism Cuddlyable3 (talk) 19:34, 29 November 2008 (UTC)
First sentence claims
The article states that "[Eniac] was the first Turing-complete, digital computer capable of being reprogrammed to solve a full range of computing problems". This is not the case however. The German Z3 computer, built in 1941, was Turing complete. I present this source: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/search/wrapper.jsp?arnumber=707574
As many commentators have noted, this article is somewhat misleading regarding the claims of first this or that. A modern computer has 3 attributes: 1) digital, 2) electronic, ie, operating without moving parts, and 3) programmable, which means running off of an electronically stored program. Neither the ENIAC (as first designed) nor the Colossus were programmable. The first machine that satisfied all 3 criteria is generally presumed to have been the Manchester Baby. Jfgrcar (talk) —Preceding undated comment was added on 22:31, 24 February 2009 (UTC).
- In the LEO article I added, I thought fairly reaonably, "contender as the" to the bald assertion that ENIAC was the "first general-purpose electronic computer". This has now been reverted twice. Opinions? Really this talk is more suitable to be discussed in the LEO talk pages but since have been told by the editor making the reverts to discuss it here, that is what I shall do. I see less harm in this article making the bald statemenet (though I disagree with it) but I can't see why it should spread out into other articles. It was marked as "weasel words" but I don't think indicating, OUTSIDE OF THE ENIAC ARTICLE ITSELF, that it is not a bald fact. SimonTrew (talk) 15:16, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
- It is indeed "the first general-purpose electronic computer". Regarding "a" vs "the": If the ENIAC was "a" general-purpose electronic computer then it had to be "the first." There are no claims that the ABC, the Colossus, or the Z3 were "other" general-purpose electronic computers. The ABC and the Colossus were clearly not general-purpose, without multipliers, branching or even a sequence of instructions. The Z3 was clearly not electronic, running at 5 Hz. Programmability is essential; however the significance of the stored-program is greatly misunderstood. Its importance was speed. Paper tape was the conventional method of sequencing machines at the time. It could never, ever keep up with electronics. The breakthrough was a sequencing method that was NOT mechanical, allowing machines to run at Megahertz speeds. The ENIAC managed to do this without using precious RAM; only plugboards and switches. That did not make it a less capable machine; in fact it was much faster than the first few EDVAC-type machines like the Baby. I think it is proper to demand that a computer must be programmable and general-purpose, and both the ENIAC and Z3 qualify. Of those, one was electronic and 1000 times faster. Zebbie (talk) 20:46, 16 March 2009 (UTC)
- [Regarding ENIAC being "the first general-purpose electronic computer"] I and many others regard that as an opinion rather than a fact, hence our discussion. [Regarding the "a" vs. "the first" distinction] That makes no sense. Either it was the first general purpose electronic computer or it was just another computer. [Regarding the "no claims" that previous computers were both electronic and general-purpose] There are many such claims. My digital watch runs at not much more than 5Hz, are you claiming that is not electronic? [Regarding the assertion that the ENIAC's important advance was its speed] No. Its importance is the Von Neumann architecture, and particularly, the ability to write self-modifying code-- something we still all rely on (a program loader is, after all, self-modifying code, although the technique outside of that particular function is now generally frowned upon). [Regarding paper tape sequencing being the conventional method of sequencing] Some Bletchley peripherals used photoelectic cells to read tape quicker than could be done mechanically. So, no prior claim there. [Regarding the ENIAC being faster than the Z3] Being faster doesn't make it the first— in fact almost by definition you have accepted there were earlier computers. The claim that Z3 was not electronic, I think that's indisputably correct. I think others here have well expressed their terms of definition more succinctly than I could. I don't really mind the claim of being "first" on the ENIAC page (well I am not too happy about it, but it will just be a constant edit war); I dislike that other pages for Colossus, LEO, etc get changed when I put down that they "have a claim to be the first" or language like that. Others might see that as weasel words, but they are not: the claim may, in some eyes, not stand up to scrutiny, but the fact is many have claimed it. SimonTrew (talk) 21:08, 16 March 2009 (UTC)
- Regarding Zebbie's remark about the "electronic" primacy claim and SimonTrew's follow-up, "My digital watch runs at not much more than 5Hz, are you claiming that is not electronic?": What Zebbie is saying is that, in order for a computer's priority claim of being electronic to have any substantial meaning, it must be able to operate so as to take advantage of electronic speeds. The mere presence of electronic components does not render a device "electronic"; if it did, then the differential analyzer in the basement of the Moore School was an electronic computer, because Eckert modified it to use electronic torque amplifiers. The ABC computed electronically but operated at ~60 Hz electrical speeds because of the way its memory rotation was timed. I wouldn't argue that that disqualifies calling it an "electronic computer", but even so, it was not a general-purpose electronic computer, and nor were the Z3 or the Colossi. Robert K S (talk) 20:15, 17 March 2009 (UTC)
- I see now my discussion of articles (a and the) was, well, too wordy. I was trying to convey a logic, and that is:
- 0) Given that the ABC, the Z3, the Colossus, the Mark I and the ENIAC were computers,
- 1) The ABC was not general-purpose;
- 2) The Colossus was not general-purpose;
- 3) The Z3 was not electronic;
- 4) The Harvard Mark I was not electronic;
- 5) The ENIAC was both general-purpose and electronic.
- 6) Therefore it is safe to say that the ENIAC is the ONLY general-purpose electronic computer in this group.
- I see now my discussion of articles (a and the) was, well, too wordy. I was trying to convey a logic, and that is:
- Since it is "the only", it is indeed "the first", and not simply "a."
- Of the above statements, Items 1 through 5 are "bald facts;" I don't know of a challenge to that. There have certainly been many arguments over statement zero (0). Perhaps they are not all "computers." (Most of the arguments spring from a lack of precision in the definition of the word "computer.") Zebbie (talk) 22:32, 20 March 2009 (UTC)
- Everything in the above comment is true - but irrelevant because it omits one of the contenders. The SSEM ("Manchester Baby") was digital, electronic, and programmable, the three criteria for a computer listed at the top of this thread. At the time the SSEM was built, ENIAC was not yet programmable (the source in the article for the addition of "a primitive read-only stored programming mechanism" comes from September 1948, and talks of the new facilities being available "by December"; the Manchester Baby had already run its first program in June). 188.8.131.52 (talk) 20:50, 29 July 2012 (UTC)
Coders or Programmers
I actually met two of these ladies who worked on Eniac. I was studying computers, and they were introduced in a lecture. They said they were Coders and that there was no such thing as Programmers at the time. They said jokingly that Programnming was invented in the 50s so that men could do computing as well. They explained that women were far more intelligent and it was they who did coding. The coding consisted of series of 0s and 1s, whereas programming was issuing instructions which were translated into 0s and 1s. Wallie (talk) 11:50, 14 April 2009 (UTC)
Given that it was 6 women who were writing code for quite some time for ENIAC, there is very little about them in the article. How can the 6 people who used it day-to-day be so marginalized? Wtf people? Seems sexism is alive and well after all...
- Cite it and write it. If you know this to be a problem with the article, then you can fix the article. --Wtshymanski (talk) 14:06, 24 January 2011 (UTC)
- It was the hydrogen bomb, and von Neumann wasn't involved. The program was run by Frankel and Metropolis. Robert K S (talk) 12:45, 8 July 2009 (UTC)
Sirs: I was reading a book about the H-bomb and saw references to ENIAC. I looked at the wiki article and other articles about ENIAC and was amazed that there was no mention of the H-bomb. I read Goldstine and came to the conclusion that when the Los Alamos people became aware of ENIAC they kind of took over the project - not in terms of design or construction - they simply wanted to use the machine. Indeed, in Goldstine there is no mention of any use of the computer during construction except to run the H-bomb problem. Even after completion most of the production time was spent on H-bomb calculations. Ballistic calculations just got the leftover time slots. When ENIAC was completed its secret classification was removed. But the H-bomb was still ultra secrect. I believe that is why the literature on ENIAC doesn't mention the H-bomb. So, the sentences I added to the ENIAC article were to explain the relationship of ENIAC to the H-bomb project. GroveGuy (talk) 22:03, 8 July 2009 (UTC)
- I moved GroveGuy's addition on the H-bomb calculations from the lede paragraph because the intro is already too long. He objected so I added a brief mention back in. The info in this external link on the article page attributed to the Computer History Museum says that the program run at the public unveiling in Feb 46 was a ballistics trajectory program. But of course how would anyone have known? --Blainster (talk) 05:08, 9 July 2009 (UTC)
- Bainster - I am sorry you characterize my words as "complaining". I was trying to use rigorous logic to support having my contribution remain in the lead paragraph. It really doesn't belong in the programming section. As for what was running on the computer on the day it was unveiled, I think they were telling a white lie. This article says they postponed moving ENIAC to Aberdeen (until November 1946) in order to complete the test of the H-bomb calculations. A million punch cards - it boggles the mind. GroveGuy (talk) 08:41, 9 July 2009 (UTC)
Metropolis and Frankel ran the hydrogen bomb problem from December 1945 to February 1946. AFAIK the whole ENIAC construction staff and programming team was involved with the problem inasmuch as the problem represented a shakedown cruise of the ENIAC architecture, though no one outside of Los Alamos was apprised of the calculations' significance or the meaning of the result. With hostilities concluded, the firing tables were less of a priority than the Los Alamos work, so it was only natural that the ENIAC would be put to this use as a shakedown problem. It was assuredly not the first test problem run on the ENIAC hardware (e.g., Lehmer ran one of his number sieves over the previous Thanksgiving weekend) but it was probably the first major problem of military importance. Little is known about the calculations since they remain unreleased, but several sources, including McCartney (page 104), indicate that the results of the problem run on the ENIAC showed that Teller's proposed formulation was flawed and prompted a revised theory. Judge Larson's decision invalidating the ENIAC patent was justified in part on this H-bomb shakedown cruise, calling it a "non-experimental public use" that occurred prior to the patent filing's critical date. Hope this clarifies. Robert K S (talk) 14:07, 9 July 2009 (UTC)
Size and Reliability
The article says ENIAC occupied about 680 sq. feet. However, the dimensions provided would put it at around 2000 sq feet, and the specifications in a cited article indicate that it is 1800 sq feet. Could someone resolve this significant discrepancy? I have read claims that someone patrolled with a shopping cart of vacuum tubes, but current reports of tube failure make that seem unlikely, if anyone has a definitive statement I would be interested. Jgrudin (talk) 11:22, 15 November 2009 (UTC)jgrudin
Colossus computer a few months earlier than ENIAC
If you read and compare the Colossus computer and ENIAC articles in detail, it appears that the Colossus computer was earlier. Thus the claim of ENIAC being the first computer is debatable. But I suppose you could add lots of qualifications to your definition of computer to make ENIAC earlier. 184.108.40.206 (talk) 22:37, 15 December 2009 (UTC)
- There is no doubt that Colossus was working and serving its end users in February 1944, at least two years before the same could be said to be true of ENIAC. The problem lies in defining 'computer'. ENIAC had more of the characteristics of today's computers than Colossus did, but did not have its program stored in volatile memory as was the case with the SSEM.
ColossusENIAC was, however a general-purpose machine whereas Colossus was designed and implemented for a narrow range of special purposes. The phrase 'the first computer' is not very helpful, and the apparent suggestion that the definition of 'computer' should be qualified to ensure that ENIAC comes out as the first, does not do justice to the various parallel developments in different places that happened in the 1940s.--TedColes (talk) 23:11, 15 December 2009 (UTC)
- "Colossus was, however a general-purpose machine whereas Colossus was designed and implemented for a narrow range of special purposes." Which was it? General-purpose or special purpose? Jpaulm (talk) 15:44, 12 June 2010 (UTC)
- I'm sure this was a typo. Ted must have meant to say "ENIAC was, however a general-purpose machine whereas Colossus was designed and implemented for a narrow range of special purposes." GroveGuy (talk) 20:09, 12 June 2010 (UTC)
Both the Colossus and the Zuse Z3 were earlier computers under different definitions of computers. I think it's misleading to describe ENIAC as the first computer using a highly qualified definition. ~~Andrew Keenan Richardson~~ 22:42, 29 July 2010 (UTC)
ENIAC should not be described as the first computer. Colossus most certainly came before it and it provided a significantly more remarkable service to humanity than ENIAC. Andrew Keenan Richardson is right, using a highly qualified definition to allow it to be called the first is misleading. JamesGeddes (talk) 20:21, 20 August 2014 (UTC)
...and Calculator, or ... and Computer
I am a Computer Science major from the 90's. I read many books on the history of computers and I dedicated their related acronyms to memory.
Memory serves that ENIAC was an acronym for "Electronic Numerical Integrator And Calculator"... not "and computer" as shown on Wiki. Perhaps an oversight? Perhaps I'm incorrect? —Preceding unsigned comment added by 220.127.116.11 (talk) 19:27, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
- This link is from the University of Pennsylvania Archives: http://www.archives.upenn.edu/faids/upd/eniactrial/upd8_10.htmlWa3frp (talk) 19:54, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
Tube failures again
"Most of these failures, however, occurred during the warm-up and cool-down periods, when the tube heaters and cathodes were under the most thermal stress"
Warmup failures are usually addressed with slow-start circuitry. Today, silicon regulators and timing relays for tube gear are cheap, and back in the fourties they could use variacs for slow-starting. Fairly big variacs indeed but was still practical.
I'm sure that they had to consider variacs - but what happened then? Did they actually try it, and if yes - did it improve anything?
Cheers, East of Borschov 08:42, 19 November 2010 (UTC)
- (1) I've never heard of them doing this, but I can't answer definitely. (2) How do/did Variacs work? "Tube gear" today tends to mean amplification, wherein the amplifiers have one or a few tubes. Here we are talking about counting and switching circuits with many tubes. Would implementation of Variacs still be practical? Are Variacs devices that are likewise susceptible to breakage and would thus introduce just yet another point of failure? Robert K S (talk) 22:53, 19 November 2010 (UTC)
- If you haven't already, try searching for Variac. We're speculating here, we'd need a reference that variable autotransformers were used, or not used, with early computers. I've seen a variac as big as 30 kva, which would run a large number of 6SN7 heaters. --Wtshymanski (talk) 01:29, 20 November 2010 (UTC)
Mention of hydrogen bomb belongs in lead?
Re: this edit, GroveGuy believes it is important to include in the lead that ENIAC's first problem was for the hydrogen bomb. I see this as more of a parenthetical that would be more appropriate to mention and fully discuss later in the article. Any other thoughts on this? WP:LEAD, and especially the section on "Relative emphasis", is relevant here. Robert K S (talk) 12:59, 4 February 2011 (UTC)
- If true, then it would seem absolutely correct to mention that in the intro; the current intro gives a very different impression which is seriously misleading if in fact ENIAC was first used for something quite different than is stated now. quota (talk) 13:52, 4 February 2011 (UTC)
- But be careful! "First used" is ambiguous phraseology. It could mean "initial purpose", but here, it does not. That a hydrogen bomb-related problem happened to be the first task to which the ENIAC was put to work was an accidental or coincidental sort of thing. It wasn't "essential" to the ENIAC in that it doesn't explain any of the major who-what-when-where-why-how questions that a well-written lead is supposed to address. In that sense, it's sort of interesting trivia, a fun aside, but not proper material for the lead. Yes, it's fascinating information in an "oh-by-the-way" sense. Good to have in the article? Surely. But the lead? Does it address one of those major questions? Given that it was a one-time thing, and the ENIAC wasn't built specifically for it, why is it appropriate content for the lead? In my opinion, if included there, it is more misleading than helpful. Robert K S (talk) 22:02, 4 February 2011 (UTC)
- I believe that the change in sponsorship of ENIAC belongs in the lead paragraph. Today ENIAC is on the front page of CNN and they again promulgate the myth of the artillery firing tables.One year into the ENIAC project it came to the attention of the atomic bomb people. From that point forward the lion's share of the computations done on the project were atomic bomb calculations. Other calculation got the leftover time on weekends and holidays. It went from a $61,000 to a $486,000 project over three years. Notice that the patent dispute says "The Los Alamos calculations which commenced December 10, 1945, were the first problem placed on the ENIAC machine. When the first problem was put on the machine, it was the first time that the machine as a whole was being used.". The atomic bomb was the largest and the most secret project of World War II. Let's do the right thing here and restore ENIAC's association with the bomb. GroveGuy (talk) 22:48, 8 February 2011 (UTC)
- We're debating *which* way the ENIAC was devoted to killing people? Does it really matter? Weaons all have the same ultimate purpose. Artillery tables must have paled in importance after the bomb came out. --Wtshymanski (talk) 22:58, 8 February 2011 (UTC)
- GroveGuy, sorry, but your response is only misinformation or confusion. There was never a "change in sponsorship" of the ENIAC. From beginning to end the project was financed by the Ballistics Research Laboratory based in Aberdeen, Maryland. It is not true that "the lion's share of the computations done on the project were atomic bomb calculations". I can't tell whether your response really confuses the atomic bomb and the hydrogen bomb or whether you're only mixing up terminology. In any case, the first problem to be run on the ENIAC which took advantage of the entire machine was a problem run by Stanley Frankel and Nicholas Metropolis for the hydrogen bomb. The gradual increase in the project's budget that you make reference to was by request of the Army as additional accumulator units and features were requested so that the machine would be capable of handling broader classes of problems, not specifically hydrodynamics problems or problems of interest to nuclear weapons scientists. Your statement "Other calculation got the leftover time on weekends and holidays" seems to be conflating into your own new theory other elements of the story: John Mauchly on a few occasions made use of the machine on weekends and holidays to run hobby problems of academic interest, such as Dick Lehmer's number sieves. The fact that "the atomic bomb was the largest and most secret project of World War II" is of no moment whatsoever since both atom bombs were dropped in August 1945 without the aid of ENIAC, which wasn't finished until months afterward in November. Also, I don't think there's any evidence that the hydrogen bomb people ever ran a problem on the ENIAC again after that first run; perhaps they did, but we're not here to speculate—we are bound with what is verifiable in the record. Robert K S (talk) 01:28, 9 February 2011 (UTC)
- We're debating *which* way the ENIAC was devoted to killing people? Does it really matter? Weaons all have the same ultimate purpose. Artillery tables must have paled in importance after the bomb came out. --Wtshymanski (talk) 22:58, 8 February 2011 (UTC)
- Robert - You are quite right. I read Goldstine's book and was struck by the fact that while the Ballistics Research Laboratory initiated this project Goldstine says on page 214 the problem being computed was hydrodynamics. Goldstine says on page 226 "that first run" was a million punch cards. That's a thousand boxes of cards. It boggles the mind. And to have a project's budget doubled and doubled and doubled again seems pretty extraordinary. So, reading between the lines, so to speak, it seemed to me the h-bomb people had taken over the project. I don't have a source to quote that exactly says this, but it seems to me that that's what happended. And if we're looking for consensus, note that both quota and Wtshymanski support me. GroveGuy (talk) 07:21, 9 February 2011 (UTC)
- Goldstine's book doesn't literally say what the calculations were for; he points out that he and other ENIAC personnel weren't cleared for weapons research and so no-one told them exactly what the calculations were used for, but Los Alamos wasn't working on improving watch dials. --Wtshymanski (talk) 14:41, 9 February 2011 (UTC)
- While we don't know exactly what the mathematical-physical nature of the Los Alamos problem, it is not true that we don't know its general nature as a simulation of a theory for the hydrogen bomb--Teller's theory, in fact. Edward Teller testified about the problem in Honeywell v. Sperry Rand, years before Goldstine wrote his book. See, e.g., McCartney page 104. As for GroveGuy's "reading between the lines", it is not accurate. It is true that Los Alamos heard about the ENIAC's successful completion and was eager to run a problem on it, and was granted priority to get the first major problem as soon as the machine was finished being tested out. It is not true that this problem was responsible for the expansion of the ENIAC contract and the increase in its budget. Actually, the budget increase and expansion of the project to enhance the computer's capabilities was anticipated from the very beginning of the contract by Colonel Gillon, among others, as Goldstine, Mauchly, Eckert and others related on numerous occasions. Cheers, Robert K S (talk) 00:44, 10 February 2011 (UTC)
- Goldstine's book doesn't literally say what the calculations were for; he points out that he and other ENIAC personnel weren't cleared for weapons research and so no-one told them exactly what the calculations were used for, but Los Alamos wasn't working on improving watch dials. --Wtshymanski (talk) 14:41, 9 February 2011 (UTC)
The comparative table of the first computers contains some information that may be inexact.
1. ENIAC became operational in November 1945, when it ran a series of calculations for the hydrogen bomb. ENIAC was secretly operating a few months before it was introduced to the public in July 1946.
2. According to the book "Origins of Cyberspace: A Library on the History of Computing, Networking and Telecommunications" by Diana H. Hook and Jeremy M. Norman, Zuse Z4 did not have conditional branching in its original 1945 version. Z4 became Turing-complete only in its final version, which became operational in 1949-1950. Well, one may argue that the same odd hack that is described in Raul Rojas's paper on Z3's purely theoretical "Turing-completeness" could work also with Z4, but that's not the way how Konrad Zuse himself had implemented the branching later.
3. I am not sure that "Modified ENIAC" deserves a separate entry in the table. All those computers, including ENIAC, were modified significantly a number of times through their history, but there was no such machine called "Modified ENIAC". These modifications were just a part of ENIAC's development, followed by a series of other modifications.
- I agree that it would be appropriate for someone who is an expert on the history of computing to improve the table. It is, however, a free-standing entity within Wikipedia, a 'Template' under the titile of "Early computer characteristics" that is 'transcluded' into this article and a number of others. I am therefore going to copy this section into the talk page for it which is at Template talk:Early computer characteristics. --TedColes (talk) 12:07, 14 February 2012 (UTC)
- What is the source for (1) above? As regards (2)I am concerned that Turing compatability is given undue prominence in the table. Perhaps it would be better replaced with the number of machines constructed, but that would, I think, be one for all except Colossus Mark 2. Alternatively 'Memory size' might be useful, if an agreed definition of memory in these machines could be agreed. Re. (3), I agree that the 'Modified ENIAC' row of the table could well be deleted similarly the Mark 1 and Mark 2 Colossus could be merged into a single row. --TedColes (talk) 09:20, 6 April 2012 (UTC)
- No comment on (1) or (2) (no quibbles from me) but as to (3): while it may be true that a number of computing machines were modified throughout their lifetime, the ENIAC modification was a striking one that significantly changed the way the machine was used forever. In one sense, it hobbled the machine by preventing the full range of use for which it was designed. On the other hand, it permitted for faster set-up times. The machine no longer required more than a day's worth of re-cabling setup for a new problem. Essentially the only thing that needed to be changed was to enter the "program" by means of setting the dials on the function tables. This modification fundamentally changed the way the machine was used, and the machine was never used the old way again. Robert K S (talk) 16:51, 30 November 2012 (UTC)
Lack of Information
It seems that the close-up photos of the "tubes" is not actually of vacuum tubes at all . . . But rather they are metal-can electrolytic capacitors. The mounting clamp is clearly a common VR style that's been traditionally used for this purpose, and the gooey paper stuff between them and the capacitor is most likely an insulation material to keep the negative side of the capacitors insulated from the chassis (i.e. for a negative supply rail). — Preceding unsigned comment added by 18.104.22.168 (talk) 06:52, 29 July 2012 (UTC)
- I'm really puzzled by this comment; it must refer to a photo that has been replaced by the current one, which shows the orange glow from the heaters and cathodes of the tubes. I'm 76, and when I was young, octal-based tubes (such as 6L6s in some of today's guitar amplifiers) were the most common. The non-circular details in the orange glows are created by the mica supports inside the tubes.
- It's likely that not all tubes look alike, because several types were used, and perhaps because those of a given type were made by several companies.
- My first impression when I saw the photo was that the tubes are so closely spaced that cooling must have been of real concern. Then, I thought of total heater power...
Regards, Nikevich 09:31, 6 December 2012 (UTC)
Programming (first 2 paragraphs)
Hello GroveGuy, If you feel that my edits are changing the meaning of a sentence or are not constructive, please explain why. I've carefully made these edits to make the meaning of the paragraphs more clear by improving the flow of the sentences. I'm guessing you wrote these paragraphs and that's why you have such an interest in maintaining them, but this is a public encyclopedia, not a personal project, so all work is subject to revision and change. If anyone else has opinions, here is the C0h3n (talk) 13:31, 1 February 2014 (UTC), and please do share.
- C0h3n - the common belief is that they were running programs on ENIAC for artillery tables. I believe Goldstein says that the project got taken over early on by the Atomic Bomb people. Your change takes away from the conflict of the table people vs the bomb people. In the second change single stepping the machine is not the same as executing the program step by step. It is a level lower. I, too, invite others to give their opinions. Don't forget to sign your comments on talk pages. GroveGuy (talk) 03:48, 1 February 2014 (UTC)
Glen Beck in picture
On the first image, the caption reads "Glen Beck (background) and Betty Snyder (foreground) program ENIAC in BRL building 328. (U.S. Army photo)" Who is this Glen Beck? (not to be confused with Glenn Beck the US conservative commentator) There is no re-direct page at Glenn Beck's page towards Glen Beck; let alone a page, even a stub in Wikipedia that depicts his life. Even a quick Google search is befuddled with results from the contemporary Beck. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 22.214.171.124 (talk • contribs) 2013-01-26T15:17:29
- I just noticed this as well. I'm pretty computer literate, although don't know that much about the very earliest days and I've never heard of a computer scientist named Glen Beck. My guess is someone vandalized the page. I'm going to be wp:bold and change it and just leave Betty's name. --MadScientistX11 (talk) 18:45, 24 January 2014 (UTC)
Not A Computer
ENIAC was an electronic calculating machine, in no way was it a 'computer', the first actual computers were designed by Kilburn, Blackett and Newman at Manchester, on the Manchester SSEM. Why MUST American's try and grab every first irrespective of the facts??? Twobells (talk) 09:36, 31 August 2014 (UTC)