ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer) was the first electronic general-purpose computer. It was Turing-complete, digital, and capable of being reprogrammed to solve a full range of computing problems. ENIAC was initially designed to calculate artillery firing tables for the United States Army's Ballistic Research Laboratory. When ENIAC was announced in 1946 it was heralded in the press as a "Giant Brain". It had a speed of one thousand times that of electro-mechanical machines. This computational power, coupled with general-purpose programmability, excited scientists and industrialists. ENIAC's design and construction was financed by the United States Army, Ordnance Corps, Research and Development Command which was led by Major General Gladeon Marcus Barnes. He was Chief of Research and Engineering, the Chief of the Research and Development Service, Office of the Chief of Ordnance during World War II.
The construction contract was signed on June 5, 1943, and work on the computer began in secret by the University of Pennsylvania's Moore School of Electrical Engineering starting the following month under the code name "Project PX". The completed machine was announced to the public the evening of February 14, 1946 and formally dedicated the next day at the University of Pennsylvania, having cost almost $500,000 (approximately $6,000,000 today). It was formally accepted by the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps in July 1946. ENIAC was shut down on November 9, 1946 for a refurbishment and a memory upgrade, and was transferred to Aberdeen Proving Ground,Maryland in 1947. There, on July 29, 1947, it was turned on and was in continuous operation until 11:45 p.m. on October 2, 1955.
Finished shortly after the end of WWII, one of its first programs was a study of the feasibility of the hydrogen bomb. A few months after its unveiling, in the summer of 1946, as part of "an extraordinary effort to jump-start research in the field", the Pentagon invited "the top people in electronics and mathematics from the United States and Great Britain" to a series of forty-eight lectures altogether called The Theory and Techniques for Design of Digital Computers more often named the Moore School Lectures. Half of these lectures were given by the inventors of ENIAC.
ENIAC was conceived and designed by John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert of the University of Pennsylvania. The team of design engineers assisting the development included Robert F. Shaw (function tables), Jeffrey Chuan Chu (divider/square-rooter), Thomas Kite Sharpless (master programmer), Arthur Burks (multiplier), Harry Huskey (reader/printer) and Jack Davis (accumulators). ENIAC was named an IEEE Milestone in 1987.
ENIAC was a modular computer, composed of individual panels to perform different functions. Twenty of these modules were accumulators, which could not only add and subtract but hold a ten-digit decimal number in memory.Numbers were passed between these units across several general-purpose buses, or trays, as they were called. In order to achieve its high speed, the panels had to send and receive numbers, compute, save the answer, and trigger the next operation—all without any moving parts. Key to its versatility was the ability to branch; it could trigger different operations that depended on the sign of a computed result. ENIAC contained 17,468 vacuum tubes, 7,200 crystal diodes, 1,500 relays, 70,000 resistors, 10,000 capacitors and around 5 million hand-solderedjoints. It weighed more than 30 short tons (27 t), was roughly 8 by 3 by 100 feet (2.4 m × 0.9 m × 30 m), took up 1800 square feet (167 m2), and consumed 150 kW of power. This led to the rumor that whenever the computer was switched on, lights in Philadelphia dimmed.
ENIAC used ten-position ring counters to store digits; each digit used 36 vacuum tubes, 10 of which were the dual triodes making up the flip-flops of the ring counter. Arithmetic was performed by "counting" pulses with the ring counters and generating carry pulses if the counter "wrapped around", the idea being to emulate in electronics the operation of the digit wheels of a mechanical adding machine. ENIAC had twenty ten-digit signed accumulators which used ten's complement representation and could perform 5,000 simple addition or subtraction operations between any of them and a source (e.g., another accumulator, or a constant transmitter) every second. It was possible to connect several accumulators to run simultaneously, so the peak speed of operation was potentially much higher due to parallel operation.
ENIAC used four of the accumulators, controlled by a special Multiplier unit, to perform up to 385 multiplication operations per second. Five of the accumulators were controlled by a special Divider/Square-Rooter unit to perform up to forty division operations per second or three square root operations per second. The other nine units in ENIAC were the Initiating Unit (which started and stopped the machine), the Cycling Unit (used for synchronizing the other units), the Master Programmer (which controlled "loop" sequencing), the Reader (which controlled an IBM punched card reader), the Printer (which controlled an IBM punched card punch), the Constant Transmitter, and three Function Tables.
ENIAC was a one-of-a-kind design and was never repeated. The freeze on design in 1943 meant that the computer design would lack some innovations that soon became well-developed, notably the ability to store a program. A number of improvements were also made to ENIAC after 1948, including a primitive read-only stored programming mechanism using the Function Tables as program ROM, an idea included in the ENIAC patent and proposed independently by Dr. Richard Clippinger of BRL. It was first demonstrated as a stored-program computer on September 16, 1948, running a program by Adele Goldstine for John von Neumann. This modification reduced the speed of ENIAC by a factor of six and eliminated the ability of parallel computation, but as it also reduced the reprogramming time to hours instead of days, it was considered well worth the loss of performance.
Most computations would still be I/O bound, even after the speed reduction imposed by this modification. Early in 1952, a high-speed shifter was added, which improved the speed for shifting by a factor of five. In July 1953, a 100-word expansion core memory was added to the system, using binary coded decimal, excess-3 number representation. To support this expansion memory, ENIAC was equipped with a new Function Table selector, a memory address selector, pulse-shaping circuits, and three new orders were added to the programming mechanism.
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