The Eckert Tapes: Computer Pioneer Says ENIAC Team Couldn't Afford to Fail -- and Didn't
The all-electronic system made its debut 60 years ago. In interviews taped in 1989, co-inventor J. Presper Eckert discusses the technology behind ENIAC and debunks some myths.
Computerworld - There are two epochs in computer history: before ENIAC and after ENIAC. While there are controversies about who invented what, there's universal agreement that the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer was the watershed project that showed all-electronic digital computing was practical. ENIAC was unveiled Feb. 14, 1946, after nearly three years of development at the University of Pennsylvania's Moore School of Electronics. The two men most responsible for its success were J. Presper Eckert and John W. Mauchly, who together went on to build commercial systems such as Univac and also founded one of the companies that merged to form Unisys Corp.
Eckert died in 1995. I recorded two days of interviews with "Pres" in 1989, when he was 70 years old. My father was Eckert's best friend -- as a child, I played with his children, and I visited him regularly as an adult. I sat on the interview tapes for many years but decided to transcribe them for ENIAC's 60th anniversary and release the text publicly. Excerpts from the interviews follow:
Eckert was chief engineer on the ENIAC project.
So it's a myth that ENIAC could only add, subtract, multiply and divide. That's a calculator. ENIAC could do three-dimensional, second-order differential equations. We were calculating [artillery] trajectory tables for the war effort. The trajectory tables were calculated by hundreds of people operating desk calculators -- people who were called "computers." So the machine that does that work was called a computer.
There's a story that ENIAC dimmed the lights in Philadelphia when it was in use. That story is total fiction, dreamed up by some journalist.
Did the military guys working on ENIAC salute the machine? Another ENIAC myth.
How many tubes did ENIAC use? ENIAC had 18,000 vacuum tubes. The tubes were off-the-shelf; we got whatever the distributor could supply in lots of 1,000. We used 10 tube types but could have done it with four; we just
- Gartner Magic Quadrant for Client Management Tools The client management tool market is maturing and evolving to adapt to consumerization, desktop virtualization, and an ongoing need to improve efficiency.
- Audit Ready and Asset Optimized: The Solid Promise of an Intelligent Software Asset Management Solution In this paper Frost & Sullivan examines the benefits of enterprise-grade Software Asset Management solutions, and how these solutions serve as the convergence...
- Pragmatic Endpoint Management: Empowering an SMB Workforce in the Age of Mobility Lacking the time for proper training and education, SMB administrators often resort to taking shortcuts to keep their environment running.This paper discusses the...
- Gartner Magic Quadrant for Application Security The market for application security testing is changing rapidly. Technology trends, such as mobile applications, advanced Web applications and dynamic languages, are forcing...
- Redefine Your IT Operations: Remote Office IT Has Never Been Simpler Join us to see why PC Pro named Dell PowerEdge VRTX the "2013 Server of the Year." PowerEdge VRTX may be just what...
- LIVE EVENT: 5/7, The End of Data Protection As We Know It. Introducing a Next Generation Data Protection Architecture. Traditional backup is going away, but where does this leave end-users? All Hardware White Papers | Webcasts