February 15, 2017

February 15 is ENIAC Day in Philadelphia commemorating the 1946 dedication of the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer.  It was designed and primarily used to calculate artillery firing table for the US Army’s Ballistic Research Laboratory and its first programs included a study of the feasibility of a thermonuclear weapon.

ENIAC was formally dedicated at the University of Pennsylvania and was heralded as a “Giant Brain” by the press. As ground breaking as ENIAC was, it was not the first computational machine. Professor John Atanasoff and graduate student Clifford Berry of Iowa State College had developed electronic digital computing device in 1942. Apparently ENIAC designers had examined it and were subsequently denied a patent.

The long and controversial Honeywell vs. Sperry Rand case invalidated the 1964 patent for the ENIAC putting the electronic digital computer into public domain.


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