The ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) was a revolutionary machine for its time. It was one of the early computers to have been designed. It was state-of-the-art for that era. Dubbed “Giant Brain” by the press, it was the most advanced technology available to mankind at that time. ENIAC was also the harbinger of the computer era and spawned an entire industry, which will have a profound influence on the future of humans.
How do you classify an electronic digital computing device that is neither programmable nor Turing-complete (Turing-complete means a general or universal computing machine which does not perform only specialized functions)? The sad answer is you don’t. The invention remains obscure and falls by the wayside. Only to be redeemed by the fame of a later computer which used the very same principles to create a whole new industry. This folks, is the story of the Atanasoff-Berry computer (also called the ABC computer) conceived by a mathematics and physics professor, one John Vincent Atanasoff, at the Iowa State College, way back in 1937. (more…)
History is a fickle judge. In spite of colossal achievements, some are consigned to the dustbin of history due to circumstances which are not under their control. Tommy Flowers and his creation, the Colossus was one of them. He built the world’s first ‘programmable digital computer’ and helped save millions of lives and reduce the World War II by 2 years. Considerable achievement by any standards. Worthy of fame, recognition and riches. Only, in Flowers case his achievements were not even acknowledged for the better part of 30 years because it was classified information and worse still was attributed to others. Recognition came almost as an afterthought at the beginning of a new century, when his invention was re-built in 2004. Some recognition after all, is better than nothing. Let us look at the extra-ordinary story of Colussus and its creator. (more…)