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Eckert and Mauchly: Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer (ENIAC), 1949

From Calculators to Computers

The desk calculator he initially used for his weather forecasting calculations was a key source of inspiration for Mauchly. He wanted to make the desk calculator electronic, and theorized that if he strung ten or twenty desk calculators together, they could handle complicated, multi-step problems. The design of ENIAC was based on this notion, and ENIAC's final design was decentralized, meaning that its computing power was spread throughout many units. These units had the capacity both to store numbers and to combine them. The notion of a central processing unit (commonly known today as a "CPU") existed at the time of the ENIAC's development, though Mauchly and Eckert did not know of it while working on ENIAC. Most of the engineers assembled to work on ENIAC were, ironically, outside the mainstream of computing research.

February of 1946 found Presper Eckert standing at the console of the ENIAC. The photograph at right was taken prior to the public announcement of the ENIAC's development on Valentine's Day of the same year.