As its economy transformed in World War II, the United States, one by one, developed secret military projects. Dollars cushioned any initiative that helped topple Nazism and bring down Japan. One of the main problems the military faced was slow calculation of ballistic and artillery trajectories. This can only be done manually. Known as ComputersIt’s a kind of human calculator that runs thousands of calculations day and night, for weeks and months. Until 1943, the government launched a competition – apparently reserved – with the idea of replacing these people with machines. The creation of ENIAC began, the first purely electronic computer in history, as well as the first computer that society saw.
This Sunday marks 75 years since this original computer was introduced to the general public. On February 14, 1946, the ambiguity of military accounts was left to open a gap between the civilian world. And not precisely by will, but necessarily. With the end of World War II, the free financing bar has decreased to nearly zero. The creators of ENIAC, John Presper Eckert and John William Mauchly, saw the future of their devices nearing an end. The possible solution was in public relations.
As Javier García, Academic Director for the Engineering and Science District at U-tad University Center, explains, the ENIAC innovators produced and screened a film about its operations and the families of those who watched it. To further shine their invention, they incorporated panels with illuminated lights and numbers as the process went through. “It was useless. Just aesthetics. But it remained in the popular imagination as the image of the first computers. Just look at science fiction movies. In fact, to reach more people, these lamps are being defined as an electronic brain. An absolute marketing success.”
If we stop at the technical part, the ENIAC revolutionized computing in the 1940’s. Eckert and Mowgli, engineers at the University of Pennsylvania, developed the first fully electronic machine. The entire computing process, which ran about 500 additions and 300 multipliers per second – in 20 minutes it achieved the same results as humans in three days – originated in the nearly 18,000 electronic valves they created. Compared to electromechanical calculators of the time, the calculation speed was doubled by a thousand. The electricity consumption was industrial. It was like running 18,000 incandescent bulbs simultaneously. It looked like a giant stove, ”Garcia adds.
It required so much the electrical system that ENIAC was blamed for the power outages that had plagued Philadelphia in those years, the city in which this 170-square-meter, 27-ton monster was installed. Consumption skyrocketed every time they switched it on. The project has been in progress for nearly a decade. On October 2, 1955, at 11:45 pm, its creators decided to permanently turn it off, putting an end to one of the pioneering devices in the development of computing.
The history of ENIAC is also a history of masculinity. Even though three quarters of a century has passed, gender discrimination still exists in this sector. Until the end of the 1980s, all the credit went to my names Eckert and Mowgli. That was not the least mention of the six programmers who ran the computer. Programming Nothing to do with writing lines of code. Every time they wanted to adjust processes, these six women – mathematician and physicist – would manually move a network of cables to reconfigure the device. They knew what to play and the correct order to do new calculations.
Betty Snyder Holberton, Jan Jennings Partick, Kathleen McConnellty Mosley Antonelli, Marilyn Wiscoff Meltzer, Ruth Lichterman Tetelbaum and Francis Bellas Spence all lived anonymously. They were told that they were mannequins photographed alongside ENIAC and that they were in charge of refrigeration. However, they laid the foundation for programming to be simple and accessible to everyone. They created the first set of actions, the first apps Software And the first grades in programming. His work radically changed the development of this part of computing between the 1940’s and 1950’s. To some extent, we are talking about the mothers of languages like Java or Python.
Without ENIAC, it is difficult to understand the look of the 1950s for the first commercial computers, UNIVAC – created by Eckert and Mauchly – and the Z3 and the Ferranti Mark 1, or the leap taken at the same time by John von Neumann in relation to the inspirational architecture of current devices . Garcia concludes that “its importance in modern computing is undeniable, whether in the technical aspect or in public relations campaigns.” In case someone asks you, the name does not respond to any commercial or historical indication. It is simply an acronym for Electronic Digital Integrator (Electronic and Computer Numerical Integrator).