A Computer Was Born

CNET News.com is running a terrific story on the sixtieth anniversary of ENIAC—the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, one of the world’s first computers. Finished this month in 1946, the ENIAC could solve no less than five thousand addition problems in one second. It utilized a novel 10-digit decimal system, ran on 170,000 watts, had 17,870 vacuum tubes, and weighed twenty-eight tons. From the article:

The scientists knew that they had created something that would change history, but they weren’t sure how to convey their breakthrough to the public. So they painted numbers on some light bulbs and screwed the resulting “translucent spheres” into ENIAC’s panels. Dynamic, flashy lights would thereafter be associated with the computer in the public mind.

In addition to the ENIAC article and photo gallery, CNET has a series running on first computers with brief recollections from various individuals.

The computer that I regard as my first was the company computer at Mt. Shasta Printing Co., which was being managed by my dad. It was an IBM clone with an Intel 8088 chip. It ran MS-DOS and accepted 5¼-inch floppy disks—both of which required their own sort of art to render functional.