History of Computing Information

ENIAC           50 Years of Army Computing           ARL

Information about the history of computing, assembled by Mike Muuss for your information and edification. Documents from the home of the ENIAC -- The U. S. Army Research Lab .

Online Documents

Printed References of Interest

The Purpose of This Archive

  1. To help the public remember that it was the U. S. Army which initiated the computer revolution. Few inventions have had as big an impact on our civilization as the computer, and all modern computers are descended from ENIAC, EDVAC, ORDVAC, and BRLESC -- all of which were conceived of and built to address pressing Army needs.
  2. To give credit to the highly skilled and dedicated military and civilian scientists and other workers through whose efforts, together with their counterparts in the private sector, met and solved a great national defense challenge while at the same time giving birth to a technology which would change the world.
  3. To ensure that detailed information about and photographs of these early machines not vanish with the passage of time. Because of the ENIAC's vital role in the design of the hydrogen bomb and in gunnery calculations, much of the design information was originally classified, and few copies of the (now de-classified) reports still exist.

When the collection of documents has grown further, a CD-ROM release of this information is planned. Target date is summer of 1998.

"Where a computer like the ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and weigh only 1 1/2 tons."
Popular Mechanics, March 1949

U.S. Postal Service Celebration -- First Day of Issue: 50 Years of Computer Technology -- 8 October 1996

(Medium GIF 186k), (Large JPEG 769k)

At 0930 hours on Tuesday 8-October, at Aberdeen Proving Ground Maryland (home of the ENIAC) the U.S. Postal Service issued a new stamp commemorating the 50th birthday of ENIAC and the 50 years of Computer Technology that have followed.

This was the first US Stamp dedication to be broadcast live over the InterNet's MBONE. Stamp collectors in 6 countries were able to watch and listen in real time.

Army ENIAC Celebration -- 13&14 November 1996

Celebrating 50 Years of Army Computing

Agenda

On November 13 and 14 at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD, the U. S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) and the Ordnance Center and School (OC&S) sponsored a two-day anniversary celebration of 50 years of Army computing. The program included presentations by Herman Goldstine and Harry Huskey and reminiscences by other people involved, as well as recognition of other "pioneers." On the 14th, the Army and the Department of Defense (DoD) dedicated the ARL High-Performance Computing Major Shared-Resource Center (MSRC), part of the DoD High Performance Computing modernization (HPCM) program.

ENIAC, completed in the fall of 1945 and publicly unveiled in February 1946 at the University of Pennsylvania, was the first operational, general-purpose, electronic digital computer. Pursued by the Army as a means to speed up calculations required to produce firing tables, ENIAC was first used to solve an important problem for the Manhattan Project. In construction and use, ENIAC provided a platform for testing major component concepts, and its success stimulated the development of other machines, leading to the buildup of the modern computer industry and the pervasive presence of computers in everyday life.

The ENIAC team developed plans for the next generation machine even before completing ENIAC. In fact, engineers and scientists at the Army's Ballistic Research Laboratory (BRL) helped develop a series of machines -- the EDVAC, ORDVAC, BRLESC I, and BRLESC II. BRL personnel continued to experiment with computer hardware, software, and operations, for example, working with ARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) to expand the ARPANET, now the InterNet. In the late 1980s, the lab dedicated two of the Army's first supercomputers, a procurement managed by a man who first worked on ENIAC.

ARL, which includes elements of the former BRL, has been designated an MSRC, one of four such centers in the DoD's HPCM program. These tools will greatly enhance already extensive research capabilities in such areas as simulation, virtual reality, and scientific visualization.

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