Skip to comments.After Words: Jane Smiley, "The Man Who Invented the Computer"
Posted on 12/28/2010 1:41:27 PM PST by iowamark
The acclaimed fiction author tells the tale of the man who changed the world, though few have heard of him. John Atanasoff got an idea one night in the late 1930s and developed it into the first computer. Ms. Smiley discusses the man, his invention and his obscurity with Washington Post technology writer Cecilia Kang.
Jane Smiley has written 15 works of fiction, including the Pulitzer Prize winning A Thousand Acres. She's also written four works of non-fiction and been inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2006, she received the PEN USA Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature.
Watch the interview at the link:
(Excerpt) Read more at booktv.org ...
I don’t see the idea of claiming that any one person invented the computer itself. The man who invented modern computing more or less was Herman Goldstyne.
That book got trashed big time in the Amazon.com reviews. I’ll pass.
I thought AlGore invented the computer.
I thought AlGore invented the computer.
I saw that. Part of this story is a famous 1973 court case “Honeywell v. Sperry Rand,” involving ENIAC’s patent. The ENIAC people are still very angry about it.
As a hardware type I hate to admit that it is software that is the driving force in computer development.
Now high level compiling languages are getting so simple that regular schmoes like me can write with them.
Labview is such an example.
The above is a pretty good synopsis of the early history of computing.
The earliest comparable use of vacuum tubes in the U.S. seems to have been by John Atanasoff at what was then Iowa State College (now University). During the period 19371942 Atanasoff developed techniques for using vacuum tubes to perform numerical calculations digitally. In 1939, with the assistance of his student Clifford Berry, Atanasoff began building what is sometimes called the Atanasoff-Berry Computer, or ABC, a small-scale special-purpose electronic digital machine for the solution of systems of linear algebraic equations. The machine contained approximately 300 vacuum tubes. Although the electronic part of the machine functioned successfully, the computer as a whole never worked reliably, errors being introduced by the unsatisfactory binary card-reader. Work was discontinued in 1942 when Atanasoff left Iowa State.
The first fully functioning electronic digital computer was Colossus, used by the Bletchley Park cryptanalysts from February 1944.
The first electronic stored-program digital computer to be proposed in the U.S. was the EDVAC (see below). The First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC (May 1945), composed by von Neumann
I knew the owner/inventor of Labview...
I went to Iowa State back in the seventies.
It’s a pretty neat tool for hardware test types like me.
"Prior to his vist to Ames, Iowa, Mauchly had been broadly interested in electrical analog calculating devices, but had not conceived an automatic electronic digital computer.
"As a result of this visit, the discussions of Mauchly with Atanasoff and Berry, the demonstrations, and the review of the manuscript, Mauchly derived from the ABC 'the invention of the automatic electronic digital computer' claimed in the ENIAC patent."
I’ve known about John Atanasoff and the ABC since I was 12 years old. I think this means that the lamestream media is intellectually incurious, and don’t read the right books. /sarc
Goldstyne’s paper first described the possibility of programming digital computers to run different applications. Prior to that electronic computers were created one at a time to run specific applications, such as Turing’s code breaking app. The digital computer would never have gotten anywhere that way.
John Atanasoff deserve his place in history. I don’t question that, nor do I question the author’s interest in his particular contribution. Many before Atanasoff and after him in mathematics, physics, and engineering have contributed to where we are today.
The Lady Lovelace was arguably the worlds first programmer as she wrote programs for the AE. An analytical engine emulator written in Java script is available at http://www.fourmilab.ch/babbage/contents.html
Looks like Pascal was in the hunt as well (1600s). There is truly nothing new under the sun.
Kind of off topic but here is something from the old James Burke Connections I that sort of talks about an early aspect of computing, starting about 4:25 in.
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